Blog: The New Cool

Chris de Jong

What is the new cool? If pop culture is the driving force behind movies, books, and music, who sets the standard?

At the risk of sounding like an old Granny, I have a bit of an axe to grind. We have a culture now where the majority of female artists pretty much don their underwear and parade around on stage and in film; the bigger the ”booty” the better. I’m not sure when this ever became acceptable, but it is pretty much the norm these days.

When I was researching this, I discovered that someone had actually penned a name for this hyper-sexualisation in the music industry:

“Pornification”.

The idea of sexuality being so cheaply offered onstage is not only degrading to women but, in my opinion, it also demeans the art. To be a singer and to sing well is an art form, to perform the song and entertain a crowd is also an art form, but do we really need to stoop this low to attract an audience?

Do we just need to accept that this is pop culture and turn a blind eye?

Do we just excuse it as being acceptable because everyone is doing it? Or can we do actually something about it?

What happened to the voice and the song speaking for itself? We’re now facing the distraction of something that is definitely heading towards soft pornography. It’s in a different league altogether. How many times have you turned off the telly in front of the kids when a leotard-clad female is showing way more than is appropriate – all boobs, bums and a highly charged sexual display?

In my opinion, this kind of hyper-sexualisation belittles the craft.

It also gives a very disturbing message to younger girls.

It reinforces the stereotype that women have to sexualise themselves to have value.

It’s funny that we seldom see male performers manipulating their sexuality to this extent. Maybe the odd shirt off here and there, but when was the last time you saw a number one male musician reduced to their unmentionables on stage?

Gender inequality here folks.

I don’t want to get into naming names or judging anyone, but there are certain artists who are so heavily reliant on over-sexualised performances that concerned parents are now petitioning that these shows be cancelled. It’s not rocket science to see why.

Whether artists want to be role models or not is a moot point. By the very nature of being a celebrity, they are. Weighty stuff perhaps for some, but nonetheless, if you have any sort of public platform, you need to use it wisely.

Music has become a visual art as much an audio art – that’s all well and good, but in my opinion, the acid test of a good song should be whether it can reach its target without supporting visuals, standing alone on radio, or in your headphones. At its essence, a song should be about melody and lyrics, beat, mood and meaning, vocals, chords. Album art, packaging and videos are all supporting elements - and for me as a creative, there’s no doubt I love this stuff - but when the visual treads into territory that cheapens sexuality or uses it as a tacky gimmick, I think we have a problem.

Give it a few years - how much more revealing can it get?

It makes me wonder if the new cool is to sing your song with your clothes on.

It was interesting to read this in the news this week:

“Singer Jessie J is backing the British government's scheme to add age ratings to music videos ahead of its launch on Friday.

The plan is supported by three of the UK's biggest record labels, Sony, Universal, and Warner Bros., and aims to stop children from watching saucy promos online.

Jessie J admits some of her more risqué videos will be censored from her younger fans as they contain adult themes, but she agrees with the move.

She tells the BBC's Newsbeat show, ‘I think it's a wonderful idea... However much I enjoy being an inspiration, there are parts of my life that I live as a 26-year-old woman that some of my fans shouldn't hear and see and when everything is so obtainable on Twitter, Instagram and Youtube.

When I was young, I wouldn't have been allowed to listen to my music...like some of my fans are very, very young. I think 'Price Tag' was great but there are some songs I think are too raunchy and I think that... those sort of things (the age rating scheme) being put in place are what we need to establish what people should be able to listen too.

We worry about kids growing up too fast - there has to be parents that put rules in place [sic] and also us as a country... I definitely think it [the rating scheme] would be great to do... I think it's good to cater for everybody but it's really hard to cater for everybody.’

The record labels involved in the scheme will submit their artists' videos for classification. The promos will then receive a 12, 15 or 18 certificate as well as content advice for viewers.”

3 News, Oct 2 2014

Sensible, wise and about time. Obviously there are more people like myself who are concerned about this sort of thing. But it’s sort a bit of a mixed blessing - it fixes one problem as it stops younger viewers viewing, but slapping a rating on doesn’t address the issue what’s actually happening on stage.

It was also interesting to read Lorde’s burb in the Billboard's '21 Artists Under 21' article:

"She's consistently demonstrated an influence that extends well beyond music, championing an image free of touch-ups and letting young girls know that they don't have to dress provocatively to capture the public's attention.”

I applaud you Lorde. This kid gets it.

In my book, this is the new cool.