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Staying cool during Spring Break with VH1 stars Wyclef and Bono

It was the middle of Spring Break, maybe a Tuesday night, and we were lounging in my common room at 2 a.m., surfing through channels, trying to find something to distract us from the chilly Jersey weather and the eerily quiet Princeton campus. Flip. Tarot card commercial — amusing but repetitive. Flip. MTV video — what band is this and why are they wearing circus clown faces? Flip. Oh look, Gore and Bush won their respective nominations! Flip. Star Trek. Flip. What's this? We stumbled, blindly, onto a VH1 Wyclef Jean special. "Don't change the channel!" someone roared in the background.

We watched as Wyclef lazily settled onto his stool, picked up his guitar and started strumming a tune. He said a few words into the mic, "Thanks for coming. Hope you enjoy the show." One song dripped into another. The whole time, Wyclef subtly directed the mesmerizing scene — a chord progression here, a solo jam there. From beginning to end we sat, transfixed.


And then the inevitable question came up: Just how cool is Wyclef? And what do we have to do to attain Wyclef status? There was widespread disagreement in the room. "He's not cool, he's from New Jersey," one person noted. True, but he's originally from Haiti. "But he chooses to live in New Jersey." But he lives in a gigantic mansion and hosts weekly parties filled with gorgeous plastic-enhanced supermodels and aspiring actresses.

Halfway through Wyclef's show, Bono made a guest appearance. "Bono's way cooler — that Irish accent, those sunglasses, The Edge." That's true, no one could dispute the extra amount of hipness that The Edge gave to Bono. It elevated him from mere Irish crooner to glam rocker. Nonetheless, our interpretation of cool was too subjective. We needed an objective standard. And then, all of a sudden, we found it: girls.

The benchmark question: Who has slept with more women, Wyclef or Bono? Of course, we soon realized that we didn't have an objective answer. We tried deducing an answer based on their ethnicities and genres — as in Bono has the Irish and European markets cornered, but Wyclef owns Latin America and the Caribbean. As for the United States — probably a draw. Hip-hop is huge now, and Bono is growing old, but rock will never die, and has Wyclef written anything comparable to "Sunday Bloody Sunday"?

Things remained inconclusive. What about attitude then? There was something about the way Bono half-peered at the audience through his opaque shades as he belted out the words to "New Day." He rocked back and forth on his heels, in time to the beat, loosely gripping the microphone in his right hand.

Wyclef, meanwhile, crouched on his seat, carefully cradling his guitar. He strummed away — oblivious to the crowd, the lights, the television cameras, lost in his music. After an hour of fiercely emotional debate we couldn't reach a decision so we called it a draw.

So how can I become as cool as Wyclef or Bono? Do I have to be a musician? (I once played the violin.) Probably. Should I start wearing wraparound sunglasses on campus, at night, at the 'Street' and in class? Could help.


What if I mimicked Bono or Wyclef's facial expressions? Maybe Monday could be "angst" day. I could walk around campus looking like I was bearing the weight of the world on my shoulders. Tuesday, I could showcase "pathos." I could put on a withering pained expression and shuffle my feet with my head down. Wednesday, I could be "otherworldly." I could put on a glazed expression, tack on a frozen sneer and float from place to place acknowledging nothing and everything. Nah, where's the fun in that?

Unless, I become instantly proficient at the guitar or saxophone, or am suddenly featured on the cover of Rolling Stone or Sports Illustrated, it looks like I'm doomed to semi-coolness. I'm certainly not going to become as cool as Bono or Wyclef writing columns for the 'Prince.' Steve Feldstein is a politics major from Bloomington, Ind. He can be reached at

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