Music: Sex Sells

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RihannaLast week Monique wrote an article on Role Models and it got me thinking. In the music industry, there are artists who I look up to, their music has helped shape who I am and has (at times) expressed my feelings more accurately than I ever could have. I realized that these days, popular female musicians that my students look up to have a few things in common that sadden me: they seem to play the ‘sex sells’ card with their music and the image they cultivate within the industry.

Be honest. Who gets the most airplay? Rihanna. Beyoncé. Gaga. Nicki Minaj.  Madonna. Britney. Christina. Katy Perry.

They are talented women in their own right and their music should stand-alone. But for whatever reason, they have chosen to flash too much flesh and turn their music videos into borderline soft porn.

The message this sends to young girls (and guys) is that to be a successful pop superstar, you need to shed your clothes and check your morals at the door. That in order to sell units of albums, you need to strip, then writhe around in videos playing the role of seductress, rather than letting your voice be the thing that people remember you for. This generation of women will leave a legacy of questionable tattoos, nude ‘selfies’, cheap looking videos, bras that shoot whipped cream and S&M styled album covers (yes, Rihanna. I’m talking bout you.)

The female musicians who I respect and listen to have managed to be highly successful without selling their bodies out from underneath them.

Fiona Apple, Tori Amos, Bjork, Tegan & Sara, Juliana Hatfield, Louise Post & Nina Gordon of ‘Veruca Salt’, The Donnas, Missy Higgins, Sia, Katie Noonan, Shirley Manson of ‘Garbage’: they have all kept their clothes on and made incredible music.

When you think over the last couple of years for emerging female artists that have had phenomenal success without sexualizing their images, only a couple come to mind: Adele and Florence Welsh of ‘Florence + the Machine’. The rest are former Disney/Nickelodeon starlets desperate to prove how ‘bad’ they can be and shed the squeaky clean image that was cultivated for them, as though a clean living image will make them look lame.

Ask them how well they’re doing with their lives: I think Britney is the most upsetting, I don’t believe for a second that it was her idea to become sexual jailbait at 15. Does she seem happy? Has she had a trouble free journey? No. And neither have many of her contemporaries. Just this week Amanda Bynes has been back in the news again.

At the end of the day, you can be an exceptional female singer and maintain your dignity at the same time. Adele is a perfect example of this. But they are the minority.

If I had children, daughters in particular, I’d be switching MTV off and taking them to piano lessons instead.

Do you agree that female artists kids are exposed to these days are too sexualised?

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  • Jessica Chapman

    I think about this nearly every time I see Beyonce perform ‘Run the world’ in front of a scantily clad group of female dancers. I always wonder whether those girls feel like they run the world amidst highly competitive auditions where they will be cast on how their body looks almost naked. That weather they’ll still feel like they run the world when they can’t get work because their body is starting age. The message I receive from that song is that girls can run the world but we have to look sexy doing it. Not exactly the message I’d want any young woman to receive.

    • maree Talidu

      Agree, agree and agree. I take particular issue with the fact the lyrics are then contradicted by the images and actions that accompany it.

  • Hayley Ashman

    If I ever have a children this is why I will be steering them away from Top 40 music.

    • maree Talidu

      Oh hell yeah! I’m glad I was into a whole different scene at that age.

  • maree Talidu

    I agree; hence me listing my ‘good shit’! 😉

  • maree Talidu

    p.s JJ, I LOVED anything to do with the Riot Grrl movement. As a teen I was into Hole, L7,
    Le Tigre, Bikini Kill and then to a broader extent, female artist/bands like The Breeders, Elastica, P.J Harvey etc.

  • maree Talidu

    MY hero.

  • Sex Sells

    Juliana Hatfield is not a female musician who has “kept their clothes on”. She appears nude on album covers, in album art and in promotional photos.

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