IT is the sworn responsibility of every generation to lament the generation beneath them and lament we must.
While popular feminism is on the up and up, while No More Page Three, Everyday Sexism and the Feminist Times are making determined strides forward, popular music is pedalling backwards at an alarming rate. There is an untrammelled flood of music videos echoing Benny Hill and infused with bass lines, bare breasts and a tincture of hip hop.
All fingers - thankfully not all foam fingers, having witnessed the intimacies she enjoyed with said item - pointed this week towards the 20-year-old Miley Cyrus and her cringe-making shenanigans at the MTV video awards this week. To recap: Cyrus, former squeaky pristine teen star of the Disney show Hannah Montana, is trying to break the shackles of her clean-cut image by partying, boozing, slyly referencing drugs and ramping up her sexual spec to a ridiculous peak. Her MTV performance on Sunday night featured faceless backing dancers, a nude rubber bikini, twerking (which you can, as of this week, look up in the dictionary) and the aforementioned foam finger intimacies. She also threw herself, gyrating and licking and desperate, at a fully suited and unresponsive Robin Thicke. Bless her, she deserves props for effort.
While Cyrus has raised ire on multiple continents for her self-disgracing antics she is but the product of an increasingly cynical, increasingly vapid and increasingly anti-intellectual chart music culture saturating air waves and impressionable minds alike.
What you see when you look at modern chart music - and I say "chart" because I do not want to tar all pop music - is a bleak notion of sex appeal that is hyper-sexed but not sexy; women reduced to passive, physical parts; and an ideal of men as drooling, lust-driven dominants. It is nought but over-marketed, over-simplified, cartoonish dross and an impoverishment of opportunity.
On offer in charts now: the aforementioned Robin Thicke's song Blurred Lines reached number one despite being widely described as "a bit rapey". In nightclubs across the land young men and women dance unquestioningly to the lyrics, "You know you want it". There's Pitbull collaborating with Flo Rida on a song entirely about looking at bums. Its video features countless backsides in surreal poses, as does the delightful Bubble Butt by Major Lazer. If it's not backsides, it's boobs: Blurred Lines, unsurprisingly, is a video of naked mammaries, as is the new Justin Timberlake video, as is that for Calvin Harris's Thinking About You. Chris Brown. We have domestic abuser Chris Brown in the charts and that's OK. Then, female performers have universally appropriated the ubiquitous leotard, for there is barely a lady performer's crotch we have not seen displayed.
And despite all this it is so grim as to be inoffensive. It's boring.
Pop music has traditionally pushed boundaries, questioned societal norms and reflected cultural change. But this new glut of musicians is pulling in the wrong direction, acting against positive cultural tropes. Sexist lyrics long stopped raising eyebrows. The trend is barely even worth mentioning as such songs are so unquestioned.
Unquestioning is the problem. If you go to the gigs of these performers they are stocked wall-to-wall with teenagers and young adults, mostly female, to whom the appeal of such things is a mystery. I wonder, to sound like a terrible killjoy, that were they to stop and listen and analyse would they not wish for something of quality. Something with meaning.
Robin Thicke may sing about Blurred Lines but he and his peers are as formulaic, reductionist and production line as it's possible to be. Blurred, intelligent, challenging lines are missing from modern pop dross.
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