Pornification of Pop

I thank god that I do not own a television set today. Ten years ago, it disgusted me to watch music videos on TV because many of the most romantic of songs would have cleavage-baring women in them. Today, of course, that is classy. Back in my teens, I used to think ten times before switching to MTV in front of family, and hence, lost many opportunities to be updated with the popular music. Now, I have a radio on my phone, a radio in my clock, YouTube, Pandora and every single resource possible to listen to songs. Yet, I constantly find myself going back to the music of the Carpenters and the Bee Gees, Kishore Kumar and Kannadasan, and even Annette Hanshaw(much to the irritation of my friends; my phone never gets picked for playing songs in the car), but never contemporary pop or hip hop. I do not like rap either- I can’t stress that enough. Which automatically makes me turn off all music that comes out these days, save probably for Adele or Coldplay. I also don’t like Eminem, Lady Gaga or, especially, Rihanna. And if you can see where I’m going with this, you’re going to see how much I detest Rihanna’s songs.

The girl is barely 24, and she already has a string of No.1 hits, even more tattoos and a million more fans- half of who don’t even know how to pronounce her name. One of her biggest hits, as most of you might already know, is called S&M. Its first few lines say: ‘Feels so good being bad/There’s no way I’m turning back/Now the pain is my pleasure.’ Yes, the song is definitely catchy(I hummed it as soon as I heard it for the first time). Back when I was a kid, I sang a nursery rhyme that was used to spread awareness among children about legal implications of physical abuse as opposed to verbal threats- sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me. Today, you can hear S&M’s refrain being sung by children all over the world: Sticks and stones may break my bones but chains and whips excite me.

Generally speaking, young pre-teens would have no need whatsoever to know about sadomasochism. But thanks to the increasingly revolting music industry, they are now extremely familiar with almost every permutation of sexual intercourse. My roommate was taught the names of two sex acts from her ten year old cousins!

Rihanna grew up watching her drunk of a father repeatedly beat his wife. She was herself very famously assaulted by her then-boyfriend Chris Brown, who went on to face 5 years of probation. She then immediately recorded a song with Eminem, whose lyrics go, (Eminem): ‘I feel so ashamed I snap/I laid hands on her/I’ll never stoop so low again/I guess I don’t know my own strength,’ he raps. Rihanna’s line then says, ‘Just gonna stand there and hear me cry…But that’s all right because I like the way it hurts.’ During one of her concerts last year, she showed the middle finger on multiple occasions, pulled up a female fan and straddled her right in the middle of the stage, gyrating on top of her. She very recently said in an interview that she “doesn’t care” about how people are bothered by her working with Chris Brown again, and that she will do what she wants.

Rihanna of course, is not alone in sexualising the world’s teenagers a few years too early. Madonna has done it, so did Britney Spears. Miley Cyrus and Taylor Momsen are barely out of their teens, and they have dance routines with so much cavorting on stage that I can’t bear to watch- when alone! A friend of mine played a song a few days ago(which prompted me to write this),called ‘Do it like a Dude’ that goes, “Dirty, dirty, dirty, dirty, dirty, dirty sucker/You think I can’t get hurt like you, you mother******.” It turns out, this song was sung by a pretty 21 year old girl called Jessie J. The accompanying video was repulsive to say the least. It was on top of the charts, again.

I do not even want to get started on gansta rap going on these days with barely two expletives for lyrics. (And I used to think Vengaboyz were despicable!)

It makes me wonder why songs  with such explicit lyrics and almost compulsively sexual videos are liked by many. Is it the mere fact, like the sex revolution of the 60’s, that people are now openly talking about what was considered generally to be a taboo topic- and hence exaggerating its worth? Are we going overboard with our acceptance of sexuality? Money, is very obviously, at the root of all of it in the entertainment industry. But is it so important to include vulgarity in songs to ensure a hit? Is crass language, crude character and porn star-like dressing  such an integral part of it that everything else without these parameters seem incomplete and boring? If so, what does it say about our culture today? Not just the pop culture, but society? A lot of young girls tend to look up to young female celebrities whether we like it or not. And to that, Rihanna’s response was,”The music industry isn’t exactly Parents R Us! We have the freedom to make art, LET US! Its your job to make sure they(your kids) don’t turn out like US”. Why isn’t she telling the kids who buy her songs that violence towards women is never acceptable? Why is she making songs that glorify near-rape? And last of all, why is it accepted to be normal?


8 comments on “Pornification of Pop

  1. WolframZeta

    1. It’s all about money and the record companies, artists,and the music industry on the whole wants to make as much can.
    2. Teens are a great target demographic cause they will consume for a very long time.

    Craig Ferguson explains why everything (including pop) sucks [ Watch this until 10:30 or this ]

    3. Teens are hormonal. Sex sells, specially to them.
    4. Over time you need to do more and more vulgar, lewd behavior to sustain the consumer interest and keep them entertained.

    You shouldn’t take pop seriously as a form of music. What should be of concern to all of us is the impact it has on the mental development of teens.

    1. admin

      The bottom line, sadly, is always money. It’s appalling, the kind of thoughts and ideas teenagers today are exposed to. What I perceived as taboo ten years ago is now openly accepted as “normal”. The video is superb, how CF explains how youth begin to be celebrated by society. How very true. Everything is made to appeal only to the youth. It’s a vicious cycle- people are influenced by what they see and what they see is in turn influenced by what they are.

  2. Nirav

    Freedom of expression… You can’t control thought and entertainment. If you don’t like it, don’t watch it. But at no point in time does that give you a right to tell other people what to do or not to do. Ever been to an American high school? I saw 14-15 year old guys walk around wearing mascara and glitter acting Gay. And I’m a guy who 1 year before seeing these kids didn’t even know “Homosexuality” existed… I can’t figure out how kids that young would have a clue as to their true sexuality and lifestyle preference. I don’t know, but nor could anyone control them… Something inside them was telling them to be different, either to delude themselves or to express their true nature. I don’t know which. Somewhere down the line, these performers and their fans will figure out their deal on these issues themselves – they are treading new waters, there will be sharks and new lands as well…

    1. admin

      True, but isn’t 14 an age when you are influenced by everything around you? At one point, censor agencies just have to know where to draw the line. Being open-minded is one thing, allowing all forms of lewd expression on television is another.

  3. Ganesh

    People always complain about declining moral/ethical standards over time. Views about what is tolerable and what contents should be censored also changes continually. What was norm in your age, wasn’t the norm for our grandparents or parents for that matter.

    1. admin

      Agreed, and a perfectly valid point. But today, there seems to be a fine line between music videos and pornography.

      1. Ganesh

        Its not that I’m not agreeing with you. There is no golden standard for censorship.
        Psychological impacts are rather intangible and hard to quantify. Its easy to prohibit under-age drinking or smoking, because of its obvious impact on health. Its not quite clear how do we find the upper bound or agreeable levels of sexually explicit or for that matter explicitly violent contents. Even if we find any such agreeable upper bound, its almost impossible to impose censorship on the web.

        1. admin

          The internet is a completely different world altogether. Although I agree with you about censorship, my bone is probably the accepting nature of society itself. Freedom of expression ideally should be accompanied by moral obligation towards the society to avoid glamorization of anything that could impact young minds negatively, but sadly, we live in a much less Utopian world.

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