Tribute albums are a dime a dozen these days. Whether it’s a string quartet homage to a metal band or a half-assed holiday collection, conjuring up an original concept is a challenge. Producer A.J. Confessore created an unusual one near and dear to his heart, Whole Lotta Love: An All-Star Salute To Fat Chicks, that is quite sincere. Confessore has been a lifelong aficionado of big and beautiful women. “I suppose it’s largely a matter of more,” he says of his extra curvy muses. “More hips. More curves. More softness. More of everything round and feminine. It’s all exaggerated and amplified. To put it in rock and roll terms, these girls go to 11.”
Whole Lotta Love features a cornucopia of catchy rock odes to large and lovely ladies reinvented in each artist’s style. Singer Stevie Rachelle, Twisted Sister guitarist JJ French and drummer Stet Howland offer their raunchy take on Ted Nugent’s “Thunder Thighs.” Newcomer Celisa Stratton gives “Whole Lotta Love” a slow, sensual twist. Rock comedian C.C. Banana and Banana 7 reinvent KISS’ “Spit” as “Split” with a male and female vocal interplay, Eddie Ojeda’s Band Of Steel add snarling guitars to Spinal Tap’s bass heavy “Big Bottom” and That Metal Show co-host Don Jamieson rocks up Sir Mix-A-Lot’s “Baby Got Back.” And there’s more. It’s an eclectic mix of songs and performers for sure. One imagines what doing the research for this collection entailed.
“In the days before the advent of the Internet—where you now can find practically any song at any time—I worked as a disc jockey at my college radio station,” recalls Confessore. “One of the perks was access to a massive music library, crammed to the rafters with all the songs my young self could ever want. As a budding admirer of the fuller female figure, I was inspired to compile a mix tape of all the songs I could find devoted to big girls. At the time, I knew of only four: ‘Fat Bottomed Girls,’ ‘Unskinny Bop,’ ‘All Lips N’ Hips’ and ‘Spit,’ and two of them technically weren’t even about fat women. But a seed had been planted and the idea stayed in my head.”
Having previously produced the Vinnie Vincent tribute album Kiss My Ankh, Confessore felt confident enough to take on this new project. He found contacting the musicians was not the tricky part, it was convincing them to contribute to the album. “As far as most folks are concerned, fat girls and rock and roll aren’t exactly a match made in Heaven,” he admits. “In order to sell others on this ungodly pairing, I had to overcome a lot of preconceptions and negative stereotypes. Thankfully, more than a few rockers saw the potential in what I was proposing, and I am extraordinarily grateful to have gotten as many of them as I did.”
One performer whom he was ecstatic to receive was famed blueswoman Candye Kane, who contributed her own song “You Need A Great Big Woman,” which originally came out on her 1997 album Diva La Grande. She says she’s honored to be included and has always extolled the virtues of being a big woman because “I never did see myself, or women like me, on the cover of Cosmo or Vanity Fair. I only saw myself on the cover of Plumpers & Big Women and Hefty Mamas. But my message to you is, you’ve got to love your body and love yourself.”
“Candye Kane is a national treasure, and I could not be more honored to feature one of her size-positive original recordings,” enthuses Confessore. “Like most heterosexual American males, I first discovered Candye through her adult modeling work, when she was one of but few plus-sized women confident enough to pose for the nudie mags. It was only after I’d managed to pull my eyes off her photos, and read the accompanying text, that I learned she was also a singer and songwriter. Hearing my first Candye Kane song made me an instant fan and seeing her perform live simply sealed the deal. Even though this woman has more curves than a roller coaster, her voice alone can make a man weak in the knees.”
The producer is not alone in his love for large ladies. L.A. Guns frontman Phil Lewis, who covers Queen’s “Fat Bottom Girls” for the album, shares Confessore’s passion for Rubenesque figures. “Skinny little spinners have never done it for me,” Lewis proclaims. “They were always too boney for my particular taste. So ignore those magazine mannequins with their celery and their treadmills. Let’s hear it for the plush princesses who are confident in their curves!”
While Confessore is excited about his compilation, his discussion about large women is something that runs deeper than just lustful desire, and he gets quite serious when discussing body image. (This is a man to whom Jennifer Lopez possesses “a traditionally sized derriere.”) He is certainly pleased with what he feels is an awareness of larger women in the media that has never been greater, even if they are still not the norm. He notes how “cute chubby girls are often included in ensemble television casts,” how plus-sized women have been featured on America’s Next Top Model, and that “the newly minted Full Figure Fashion Week was a rousing success. Even mainstream programs like Entertainment Tonight routinely cover plus-centric issues, with an obligatory celebrity slant.”
At the same time, Confessore’s complaint about this recent trend is that few of these “fuller femmes get to bask in the spotlight unless they’re losing weight; or worse yet, gaining it.” He stresses that is nearly impossible for women of a certain size to make a name for themselves in Hollywood. “Even those precious few big girls who break through via the side door of the music industry—I’m looking at you, American Idol contestants—tend to eventually give in to industry pressure and conform their bodies to a more acceptable standard. They can make a splash by celebrating their size, but rarely are they allowed to maintain their acceptance of it.”
“The message this sends out is that it’s okay to be fat… just so long as you’re not happy about it,” he continues. “Sure, they’ll put a fat woman on TV, but only if she’s getting smaller on The Biggest Loser. They’ll feature fat dancers on Dance Your Ass Off, but only because they’re all trying to slim down. The beautiful lead actress in Drop Dead Diva is allowed to be a big girl, but only because her character is being punished for being a vain skinny bitch in her previous life. Even sex goddess Kirstie Alley is permitted to be on TV again, but every one of her shows must be about her latest battle with the bulge.” He says such programs are not entirely without merit, but he feels that their need to justify the inclusion of heavier women “speaks volumes about how these women are still regarded by the world at large.”
“The Whole Lotta Love tribute album is here to acknowledge that fat women are fine, fat women are foxy and fat women are fabulous,” declares Confessore. “Who knows? With more projects like this, maybe one day the word ‘fat’ will no longer carry the negative connotation it invariably does today.”
Whole Lotta Love: An All-Star Salute To Fat Chicks is available now. Find more information at myspace.com/wholelottalovetribute.