‘Popular culture’ and its associated pop music has long had an influence on trends in society – certainly amongst teenagers, youth and young adults. At a time in history when the human species seems to be more obsessed than ever with ‘image’ though, it is these very pop ‘icons’ that are using ‘image’ to profit from impressionable minds, getting away with metaphorical murder, seemingly hiding in plain sight.
Some of the most prominent ‘stars’ in pop music – Lady Gaga, Christina Aguilera, Beyonce, Kanye West to name just a few (and a whole raft of other names can be added to these without much effort at thought) – all overtly glamorise sex in their film clips, dressing scantily, moving provocatively, and using sex and sexual imagery to appeal to their, mostly impressionable, teenaged audiences.
While on one hand, Beyonce graces covers of fashion magazines in demure dress, it’s her lack of clothing that sees the stagelights more often shining her way. It’s hypocrisy at its finest. Today, we see content on television restricted at certain times, and it’s been a long-standing norm that minors cannot enter strip-clubs or bars, for example, with similar restrictions in place to prevent cinema goers from viewing inappropriate content.
Suppose I’m a child coming home from school though, turn on MTV, and there’s nothing wrong with gyrating, pole-dancing, PVC-wearing ‘artists’ thrusting their vaginas viewerwards.
Sex sells (to the tune of a collective billion dollars for Beyonce and partner Jay-Z, $80 million for the ruthless Lady Gaga), and while the pandering of sex across all media and all corners of society is quite strictly controlled at most times, when it comes to selling records, grotesque sexual imagery and any suggestion of it – of the visual and aural kind – is the norm.
Acutely aware of their sphere of influence (Forbes magazine calls Lady Gaga the second most influential celebrity in the world – Oprah Winfrey being first – and Time Magazine places Beyonce in the top 100 most influential people of all time), these artists will happily play along, dreaming of dollar signs, with the self-righteous ‘teen idol’ angle to bolster their cred with the media and perpetuate their image, all while happily grinding and convulsing in not uncertain, overt sexual mimicry in their video clips.
It’s a sad state of affairs that those with such a vast influence over our young all too easily dilute any morals they might have when the money carrot is dangled before them. – No-one really told them it was inappropriate.
The perfect portrayal of this explicit hypocrisy can be found in Lady Gaga’s antics: Late in 2012, it was reported that she was taking her ‘child counselling service’ on the road with her on her ‘born this way’ tour, which would be staffed with ‘mental health professionals’ offering various forms of therapy. – This, from someone who appears in a scene in one of her recent film clips in outlandish lingerie, bedded down with a decomposed corpse. Slightly confusing?
– Surely this is a contradiction. Surely ‘mental health professionals’ must wonder of the appropriateness of Lady Gaga’s ‘image’ as a pop star, versus her ‘image’ as a child mentor. Unless of course, they’re not paid to. You might even begin to ponder the question of who is paying them to be there ‘on tour’ (big pharma, anyone?)
Rather, puerile, sexist and even racist behaviour and language is something that is used in pop music with a frequency and manner that suggests to the impressionable, that it’s probably the done thing. We’ll happily slander Britney Spears for becoming addicted to drugs, but look upon it as entertainment if Christina Aguilera dons bondage gear and ‘performs’ a song for a video clip – extreme sexual moves and poses, and grotesque masks and gags included – to be viewed by the masses.
Probably the finest portrayal of how puerile pop has become is the song ‘sexy bitch’ by David Guetta, featuring ‘lyricist’ Akon. This wannabe gangster (who reportedly even embellished criminal convictions and an incarceration history to the media, certainly an act of questionable motivations) collaborated with the French millionaire Guetta, penning inane lyrics featuring lines like: She’s nothing like a girl you’ve ever seen before, nothing you can compare to your neighbourhood whore, I’m tryna find the words to describe this girl without being disrespectful – seemingly managing to utterly disrespect women while attempting to compliment one, somehow admitting simultaneously, that there’s no other way to talk about a woman of stature without being profane or indeed, showing disrespect. ..
Have we really become so thoughtless and disconnected that one of our finest artistic achievements as a species – music as a form of art – wields so much power in its profanity, and the achievements of its most popular proponents are lauded, despite this abject, frequent, all-too-common puerility?
Perhaps only the tip of the iceberg, today’s most easily and readily influenced walk a vast landscape of childlike, nonsensical and idiotic words and lyrics, tied in with lewd, raunchy and oversexed imagery, played on repeat across all media, in a saturation not dissimilar to mantra.
While pop’s women might be seen as empowering themselves the fact is, they’re selling themselves, while on the male side of the poposphere, aggressive, chauvinistic, sexist and passive-aggressive sexual innuendo and glamorization of ‘bling’ and guns and money and drugs and their apparent womanizing ways, is mentoring young men and boys to an almost certain immoral – at the very least skewed – adulthood.
A giant chasm is being opened up by this borderline deranged behaviour, where males are tacitly learning how to disrespect the opposite sex and females, how to manipulate them. Maybe we can get Lady Gaga’s counsellors on board for this one? – Or surely the question of what sort of ideas these icons are purveying should be unequivocally posed.
This gross influence on teens and youth, and this giant contradiction and denial of responsibility is sending a massively mixed message to and through society, via a media – obviously more influenced by bottom line than anything else – that is clearly and happily lying to itself, apparently immune to its own hypocrisy.
How did music come to this?