Sex in mainstream music: a detailed critique


My rant today is about modern music and its stars, where sex becomes our culture and template for our behaviour, which ultimately makes our society more whorish and generally tacky.

The one thing we have all learnt from music is that it is an irreplaceable medium, the X Factor and American Idol still make up the lions share of the viewing figures for popular entertainment, with dancing programmes (Strictly Come Dancing and So You Think You Can Dance?) just about second. When the UK’s favourite virgin, Ann Widdecombe, appeared on Strictly Come Dancing, she was loved. Not for her rather naff, non-existent dancing but because she frequently said ‘no sexy stuff,’ strictly drawing the line between sex and classical dancing. Yet even sexless-Ann knows that the facts remain: sex sells. The recent onslaught of jiratin’, thrustin’ and simulatin’ in music, in my eyes is simply too obscene not to comment on. It’s pretty dire when the biggest commercial artists have to rely so heavily to sex the records, which in turn makes the young people feel they have to keep up with the Joneses. In England alone, stories of girls asking to be touched up in alleyways are as common as buying a pint of milk; our teenage pregnancy rate is soaring and the idea of a 12 year old having a baby is as common as university students getting the morning after pill, visiting the sexual health clinic (which gets booked up pretty quickly, or so I’ve heard) or having memberships to strip clubs and Ann Summers.

The other day I was shocked by the female singers who dominate popular music in particular. Had Britney Spears not had several breakdowns (and the fact that she is generally past it/can’t sing), and if Christina Aguilera could maintain commercial viability, then the list could have been extended. As it is, the top four are, in no particular order: Beyonce, Katy Perry, Rihanna and Lady Gaga. The article that made me question the utter filth that comes from these hugely popular figures has been a continuous pounding of their erotic gesturing. So, looking to Rihanna- if S & M was the starting point for her current wave of sleaze (not forgetting the entirely tawdry but admittedly catchy Bajan-inspired song, Rude Boy), it has only become stronger, more potent and more explosive with the recent images of her in her smalls playing with her chains and whips with a bit of straddling thrown in for good measure. Why does Rihanna have to go about straddling people to get attention? Isn’t her suggestive music with her nasal moaning into the microphone enough without her having to do a striptease on stage?

 Skanky.

Rihanna has in fact recently defended herself after a controversial video killing a rapist in one of her (many) music videos. She defends herself because, you know, she has been domestically abused after all, although you’d never know it because she loves chains, whips and the pleasure that comes from the way that her lovers frequently lie to her. So the reason she glorifies violence and sex is because she is a twenty-three rockstar, supposedly. Such a rockstar that she sports a necklace with the word ‘cunt’ emblazoned and has even sported the jewellery in a Brazilian church, very close to Christ the Redeemer. I can’t help but fail to be impressed with her irony in her using the term ‘rockstar,’ the mere idea that this pop tart is using such a ‘cool, edgy’ term can only give her a few brownie-points. The outfits, sleaze and sexualised singing doesn’t.

So let’s take another huge star of the moment and analyse how much sex is too much sex. After all; we are British. Recently I read Lady Gaga confessed that she was called a ‘slut’ at school. These emotional recalls young Stephanie seems to be having are coming thick and fast because we have finally ascertained that about 85% of her act is based on her supposedly ‘unique’ nonconformity as a recording artist; we actually know from relatively reliable sources that this simply isn’t the case. In fact she looked like a young Italian-American, i.e. a young Madonna in the noughties – with her flowing brunette locks and pleasingly plump face. So the ultimate juxtaposition must be to hide Stephanie and unleash Mother Monster in her emaciated, near-naked thong-wearing form known as Gaga. In Born This Way, her provocative dancing, naked flesh and the seemingly tacked on simulated sex at the end of that video really does appear so twee in comparison to her constant announcement that she is a serious artist. And don’t even get me started on her baring those buns for the Born This Way artwork, in what way does her ass represent the themes of the album? The ranter in me can’t believe she can’t see that it majorly detracts from her music and makes her a pretty appalling role model for a society drenched in hot, steamy sex. Oh sure, Gaga is the No.1 gay ambassador of Planet Earth (although she isn’t even gay) and has frequently talked about safe sex/abstinence (with such messages as only have sex if you want to etc) – although she contradictorily admits half the time that, actually, she loves sex and couldn’t be happier getting it. How then can we escape lyrics that wouldn’t sound out of place in a porno like “I wanna take a ride on your disco stick.” Perhaps my own mum said it best about Lady Gaga when she said that the women reminded her of Cher, then preceded to refer to her as an ‘little slapper.’

 Pornographic.

Take another huge juggernaut in mainstream music, one-half of the power-couple Jayonce. Beyonce has been in music since the tender age of nine and has grown up on the radio with Destiny’s Child. With some tongue-in-cheek ‘choones’ (Bootylicious, Survivor etc) and the more explicit song when they later reformed, Solider, Beyonce has curved out a hugely successful career based on her formulaic music about the power of women, which has proved very popular. Her Sasha Fierce creation has proved hugely successful and thoroughly entertaining. Beyonce has continued to plow on with her ‘enpowering women’ campaign, with the slightly derogatory song, If I Were a Boy. It’s her latest song that takes the biscuit in my eyes for the mixed messages it projects. It’s a power-song, about girls running the world. Unlike world leaders like Hilary Clinton and Margaret Thatcher with the power-suits, sex is there to be sold, with all the girls showing plenty of flesh and plenty of sexualised moves. The question here: If Beyonce really wants women to rule the world then why are they jirating around in virtually nothing? And from here, another question: Why is it that seeing 95% of people in music videos wither around in their music videos a totally desensitising experience? Maybe it’s simply the Gaga-in-thong effect? The main problem in this video (for the song is awful purely because it is a crazy mess), is that it isn’t really empowering to anyone. I doubt I could go into work vibrating onto people wearing just my Speedos and get away with it. Why should Beyonce as a ‘talented musician’.

 Cheap.

The fourth superstar: the oh-so-quirky Katy Perry. She loves to wear those tight-lycra dresses with those (natural) puppies on display, and, obviously she began her career with that titillating soft-porn ditty, I Kissed a Girl. So Katy knows that image and sex can make you noticed. Sex can also keep you getting noticed. It sounds like an urban legend that Katy Perry previously made a gospel album, but there you go. To give Katy some credit, her bubblegum pop and image is not necessarily led by sex. Her songs are deliberately ridiculous and to be taken very, very lightly. Or, to quote Linda Perry, ‘like microwavable popcorn.’ She is the totally opposite of our very Mother Monster in fact. However, why does Katy have to do interviews where she rates herself a 10 in bed and do photoshoots cupping only her breasts for Esquire? And, of course who can forgot her squirting whipped cream from her cupcakes in the California Girls number? Not even Katy is excluded from adding sex onto her CV, even if it’s only light enough to melt your Popsicle.

 Words fail me.

Obviously sex has always made a splash in music. From Elvis’s pelvis to Madonna withering around in a wedding dress whilst oooing and aahing the lyrics to her then-outrageous Like a Virgin. However where will the sex end? When Madonna entered a three-way with America’s original Disney princesses, the chastity-led, republican Britney Spears and ‘Genie in a Bottle’ sweetie Christina Aguilera, one wondered what the next shock tactic would be. Madonna, had of course released a sex album, book and film all at an earlier time, so we knew if it were up to her it would go right into her inner loins (and of course, we’ve seen her bikini line from her recent acquisitions of a leotard and a gym pass). However Christina Aguilera recently had some nude photos leaked and Britney Spears gave the world a close up of her caesarean scar when she stopped wearing panties. In fact Britney Spears, in a recent attempt to get more sales for her latest album (where the vocal technique demonstrated on the disc had as much range as a singing android; the lyrics had no bang to their buck and the music was louder than the vocals in the first place) got off with ‘rockstar’ Rihanna. We all know Britney is out of shape, whack, sync and reality as a mother and singer but how desperate is Rihanna for column images too? And, again how desperate is Britney to recreate her earlier shock tactic with a younger woman. It practically makes her a pseudo-cougar in music terms.

The problem I believe with the growing raunchiness of these female artists is that they know sex sells. And how! However they don’t think of their statuses as role models. Rihanna is sexy, young and has a great act, but is she demonstrating any class when she shows off that ass? I don’t think so.

Integrity with the music industry has been sinking like a stone for years because of this utter promiscuity however, who can forget Eamon singing that his ex-girlfriend’s sex was whack, only for her to come back and throw some more of the dirty laundry out of the hamper (even if she wasn’t the actual girlfriend, you get the point I’m making here), with both singles getting to #1. Why?

On top of this, it then becomes a vicious cycle for the young fans that go to clubs thinking that the only way to be popular is to pop it low, not wear panties, get off with random people for kicks etc. Adele is a positive example of how not taking off your clothes and focusing solely on the music can still result in big sales. One wouldn’t want to see Adele naked, obviously; however her music is so good that you don’t need to think of Adele, in her teddy, getting giddy around chains whilst humping some random fan of the audience to get the column images. Who knows what’s next for the industry? The only way that anyone will be shocked might just be if Rihanna and Co cover up and focus on professional progression, whilst still being able to gain column images, this time for their wit, intelligent, ‘quirkiness’ and class. Now that I’d pay to see…

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