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OK, so another newspaper called me and asked for a comment on today's ‘sexy' pop stars. I duly obliged. As usual certain people have become upset and angry because they feel that I have personally insulted them. It seems by questioning the motives and or talent of some of these artists, I am, by default, criticising those who worship them. That is not my intention. But why are they so angry? It's only an opinion. Is it because deep down they know what I say might be true? Those who defend the indefensible get very irate. There are no people more angry than those who know they are wrong. They resort to swearing at me on social media. I think all the power of swear words has been diluted over recent years. They don't offend anybody any more. All those tweets would work better if there were no waste of character space with meaningless expletives. What's needed is a proper discussion.
Actually, I thought Lady Gaga was talented. Her first few records, "Just Dance" or "Poker Face" for example, were very good. Quite interesting and melodic with good productions. After she left her original producers, in my opinion, her songs and records were not as good. At the same time as the record quality went down, her penchant for exotic clothes and dark references went up. Also Rihanna. I sometimes catch myself singing ‘we found love in a hopeless place...' You know, a good tune and fairly normal lyrics. Same as "Umbrella", that was a good tune and a fine record. Some of the other stuff is not great. She is a good vocalist, Rihanna, but that's really not what she's doing. Selling underwear in a merchandise deal seems to be her preferred way of earning a living. And good luck to her.
Sexuality and pop. Hasn't it always been the same?
This question gets repeated more often than I care to count. So, for those of you who have had the intellectual by-pass and keep asking ‘What about Elvis', here's the answer. Check out what I have actually said. Listen carefully. My point is this. When Elvis started, he was one star in amongst many. The others were not as sexy, if you like. But, back in the 1950s when Elvis started, he was considered risqué. There was plenty of other ‘safe' pop. So Elvis caused a stir. There were no videos and minimal coverage on TV. Most importantly, his audience were this new breed of people called teenagers. It just was not available in the visual media and could not easily have reached young impressionable kids. From personal first-hand experience I can say that as a 7 year old when Elvis was massive, I could not have been less interested. In fact, may God strike me down, I didn't (and still don't) like Elvis. I just didn't get it. I wasn't supposed to because I was not a teenager. There was plenty of other music I did like and easily available to listen to. In fact a whole Saturday morning radio show entirely devoted to music aimed at kids which, to our relief, was not just nursery rhymes.
Going through the 60s 70s and 80s, things did not change all that much. The Beatles were thought of as sexy, I suppose, but that wasn't the main attraction. By the way what's sexy for you is not necessarily sexy for me. They were great writers and performers, The Beatles. They have stood the test of time. What's more, sexuality and sexual references were mainly absent in their work. There are one or two examples through those decades of some outrageousness, but it was always the exception. Jane Birkin's "Je T'aime Moi Non Plus", Frankie Goes To Hollywood's "Relax" and a lot of Madonna's output are examples. But running alongside these was always the mainstream pop music. Songs of joy, laughter, fun, excitement and love. From Merseyside, to London, Disco , Reggae, Rock , Dance, Punk to Pop all there in glorious diversity. As a 7 year old in 1958, I really loved songs that I heard on the radio and on gramophone records, and that got me started on my career. The songs of Elvis were not the problem. The songs in themselves were nice little rock and roll ditties. Apparently the shock factor was his hip action which wiggled a bit suggestively. Kids were not likely to see this. It was only by attending one of his performances that you could, and that was open only for 16-25 year olds. In the UK of course, he never performed. So exposure to the Elvis hip was minimal. You could never say it was pornography. But it did enrage a few.
Through the succeeding decades it was still possible for new generations to enjoy pop music as broadcast or available in record shops. Parents had few concerns as to the subject matter or about the images on sleeves or in film clips. When videos started, it became a little more sensitive. But back then in the early 80s the BBC and ITV had strict guidelines as to what could be broadcast. Some of the sexier or provocative videos were shown in nightclubs and other such venues but these were strictly for club 18-30. The rest needed to be acceptable for any age group before they were allowed to be broadcast.
Since 2003 the control has gone. No rules and regulation. Freedom for ‘artists' to portray any image they want. Some call it Artistic freedom, but we all know they're just trying to make a few bucks. Where is the pop music that kids as young as 7 can safely enjoy? It's all gone. 16 to 25 year olds have hi-jacked it all. What I say is good luck to Kesha, Katy and Kylie. But broadcasters should concern themselves with shielding the eyes of the young from some of this stuff. A lot of it is simply pornography. And to all those who think I'm old, out of touch, or just plain wrong, I will ask one question.
At what age would you think it acceptable for a child to watch pornography? This is obviously a loaded question. But worth a debate.
Of course I remember at a very young age being shown some pictures in a magazine of naked females in sexual poses. A group of us boys found them very exciting. But we kept it quiet because we knew it was naughty. We would not want our parents finding out. I feel concern for the YouTube generation for whom there appear to be no boundaries. Nothing is naughty. How can it be? It is everywhere so it must be normal and OK. There is a daily diet of these images available 24/7. It is all so embracing these days, and there is nothing else on the music menu for young ones. That is the difference. There is no family friendly pop. All stolen and sexed up by the music industry. Not forgetting the new breed of female who appear determined to drag us all back into the Dickensian whorehouse where life was cheap and sex even cheaper. At what age should we allow our kids to watch Rihanna or Lady Gaga? Fans of these artists will say that it's not aimed at kids. That's my point, really. If it were deliberately targeted at young kids, the music industry bosses should be careful lest they stand accused of grooming, a particularly heinous crime. There's a lot of it about. The artist should, themselves, be mindful of the influence they have firstly over their young fans. But perhaps more tellingly, when Lady Gaga says she is empowering women with her performances, perhaps she could use some of that power to tell her record company bosses to clean up their act. Could Lady Gaga bring us out of the mire and lead us into a bright new dawn? Is Rihanna the future of pop? Try as I might, I am left with the idea that, far from being forward-looking, these acts are stuck in the murk of their own retarded sexuality. They are to me a female incarnation of those dinosaur misogynistic heavy rock bands of the 1970s. Very Spinal Tap. We're gonna look back and laugh, aren't we?
(c)2012 M Stock
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