A Personal Analysis of the Current Musical and Cultural Landscape and Why I Hope It Dies with the “Slut” Stereotype

Hello to all.  Miss me?  Sorry I haven’t posted in a while, but I’m back with a vengeance.  In this post, I wish to analyse how the current ‘popular culture’ is maintaining the “drunk slut” objectification of women, as well as the popularisation of drinking, free sexuality, drug-taking and the general party stereotype.  I know this is a widely discussed issue, but I hope to shine a light on it, as my sister is going through this pubescent period and thus, I have a direct concern with how this may be affecting such a age group.

Firstly, I am not a lover of what is currently known as “pop”, bar a few songs here and there.  However, it seems that “pop” is selling itself primarily to the 11-18 age group.  However, this is only continuing to extend on both ends of the spectrum, with younger and older people consuming what is known as “pop” music.  On the other hand, I have music that I consumed when I was 13 that I am ashamed of (i.e. “Crazy Frog”, “My Humps”, “Smack That”, “Get Low”, “Gold Digger”) and I think that that is the point of “pop”.  It feeds off nostalgia, catchy hooks, peer pressure and the idea of the “disco” or “club”.  It is only timeless for those who lived through it.  However, it indelibly shapes who we are, not just in our musical tastes, but our values and views of the world.

Secondly, let’s define exactly what “pop” is.  “Pop” music is essentially any music that is popular (i.e. that is high in the “charts” and broadly listened by the majority of the population).  Therefore, it can embrace all genres of music, such as hip-hop, Roots and Bass (RnB), rock, country, house, electronic.  Therefore, “pop” music should be divided into two categories: a song created purely to sell copies and thus created to be popular or a song created purely as art, regardless of how much it will sell.  In conjunction with this, “pop” can also transform the genres themselves, as bands which were once unique try to insert elements of pop within (i.e Kanye West, Jessica Mauboy, 360, Black Eyed Peas).  It is inevitable that if an artist wants to remain competitive in the “dog eat dog” world of the music business, they are going to need to morph their musical style to fit with what is popular.  Therefore, it is imperative to see the genre itself as reciprocal and thus, potentially, the most important genre of all.

Today, we can probably draw two major influences to “pop”: hip-hop (urban music) and dance (electronic), with most songs commonly combining inherent elements of the two.  I know this is not always the case (i.e. Pink, Lady GaGa, etc.).  Now, the inspiration for this blog was noticing that my sister had bought the Janoskians’ single “Best Friends” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5rAC246I77I), which revolves around being best friends, drinking and forgetting the night before and being with someone as being a determinate of one’s life purpose.  This is pretty much a perfect example of “pop” music tonight, all perpetuating the constant popular dance or disco.  While I am not rejecting the idea of a club, with music based on collective experience as old as music itself, yet I am saying that it can be detrimental to how young people view the world.  Such popular culture, which emphasises the idea of partying one more time and beauty and love seen as some sort of definable and eternal notion, is lessening what should be a holistic and open view of the world.

For example, the seemingly innocent “What Makes You Beautiful” by One Direction, has subtle undertones of expectations for beauty for girls, such as being able to “turn heads” or the less subtle “Good Night” (“I just want to say to you, right now, shut your mouth and let the music speak out loud”).  Such examples objectify women or girls as only a result of music and drug abuse, as well as condoning physical and verbal abuse and for girls, instil the notion that a relationship or “being” with someone is all one needs to be happy.  Now, to reiterate, I am not saying that all “pop” music emphasises such elements, just the majority.

Consequently, we come of course to the ‘taboo’ (probably not as taboo now) word of ‘slut’ or even ‘whore’, commonly used by males and females in the teenager to young adult age group.  Thus, we must talk about sexualisation and to what extent it helps or hinders a child’s growth.  Firstly, we must acknowledge that sexualisation must be openly discussed as an inevitable and necessary part of child development.  Secondly, we must acknowledge that we can not completely hide the violent, sexual or dark sides of human nature, because they are just that: human nature.  Thirdly, we must acknowledge that there must be a gradual transition between innocence and complete awareness of the world.  Such lessons as “There are no Santa Claus”, “The fish is dead because you squashed it” and “You were created because Mummy and Daddy had sexual intercourse” are essential to a child’s awareness of consequences, harsh truths, recovery, life and death and overall, learning how to cope with new experiences and situations.  This is why “The Wiggles” are popular with kids, because they’re not singing about “fucking bitches” or “partying ’till the sun comes up” with chronic hangovers and vague memories about the night before.  You can’t really read a sexual subtext in something like “Hot Potato” or “Big Red Car”.  However, with those consuming alcohol or taking other illicit drugs starting younger and younger and those having sexual intercourse younger also, it is undeniable that popular culture, at least to some extent, has some influence on a child’s life, as well as a person’s musical taste.

“Pop” is also a restriction on musical taste, only restricting people to what is in the Top 40 at the moment.  While I acknowledge that what is popular is definitely a factor of what is being heard or consumed, it does not mean that it should dictate what should be heard or consumed.  Over the years, “pop” music has become such a massive part of popular culture that one can’t help but be pushed into the ‘crazes’ of the present (i.e. Psy’s “Gangnam Style” or even something like Cee-Lo Green’s “Fuck You”).  However, while our music tastes inevitably change, our views and values, which are dictated by the music, film, literature, television, games and popular culture we consume, are dependent on our childhood.  Therefore, the term “popular” or “pop” is only transient in terms of “art” or forms of entertainment, whereas the effect it has, both on the shape of that art form in the future and the development of a person’s concepts of the world we live in.

We must also acknowledge that sexualisation probably won’t stop growing and this is a highly debatable topic, mainly because there is such a fine line between being conservative and highly graphical.  While I am not suggesting a restriction on “art” (even though I barely that “Best Friends” or the like can be expressed as art) or, in turn, on the freedom of speech, but rather some sort of focus on a more helpful type of music, which will gradually introduce children – the main consumers of pop – to the darker elements of life.  The recent pervasion of the “pop” landscape with another debatable genre “indie”, such as Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used to Know” or Passenger’s “Let Her Go” which confront the darker side of relationships and life.  Life should not be evaluated and presented to children in terms of their sexual experiences or how much they can drink.  So, next time you hear Rihanna or Miley Cyrus, or Ke$ha (“Them boys, they want my coochie (*cringe* *gag*)), listen to the lyrics and make up your own mind. Yet, I hope that such ‘over-sexualisation’ will slowly die, not just so that I don’t get to see my sister become a product of this notion, but so that one day, potentially, my children could live free from sexual and violent abuse. The main lesson you should get from reading this is: Don’t let anything or anybody dictate who you are or who you will be.  Art should challenge trends, not support or maintain them.

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