Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Sexism & Music - Plus 1001 Albums Update: 580 & Counting

Well, it's been a while since I touched this blog. Other things in life took over for a while. Lots has happened since I last posted, and I'm actually well into the 600s with my 1001 albums challenge. I'll update you a bit about that below, and I'll do another proper post about some of the albums I heard over summer I can remember more about.

Before that though, I'd like to touch on a subject I've been contemplating writing about for a good long while: is it just me, or does it feel like misogyny and sexism in music is more rampant than ever?

This topic was brought to my attention once more after reading an excellent article on the Guardian website by Lauren Mayberry, vocalist in Glaswegian synth-poppers Chvrches. In the post, Lauren covers the kind of comments that get directed towards her on social media from "admirers" - from the plain na├»ve (the person propositioning her for dinner because "I think we'd make superior love together") to the more graphic ("I'd fuck the accent right out of her and she'd love it") and of course our good old friend rape culture ("This isn't rape culture. You'll know rape culture when I'm raping you, bitch"). Mayberry also points out neither of her male bandmates receive this kind of attention.

Granted the objectification of women isn't exactly new, but with the anonymity certain parts of the internet gives us consequently leading to the rise of trolling, some people feel the need now more than ever to share their stone-age opinions of women with the world. I honestly don't know how someone can feel they've found their calling in life informing female music personalities of how they'd "give them one", but it's clear that there are people like this who exist.

What dismays me even more, however, is when music itself actually appears to encourage these attitudes. Yes I am of course referring to THAT song and THAT video that lead to THAT MTV VMA performance: "Blurred Lines" by Robin Thicke.

I have several reasons for hating said song. Not only did it make Robin Thicke, the older, crapper Justin Timberlake, a thing again and completely rip off Marvin Gaye, but it seemed to go out of its way to become the most sexist piece of media in history. If music were fashion, this song and its video would be one of those horribly inappropriate Topman slogan shirts.

The music video, where all the women are topless while the men involved stay fully clothed because, you know, that's just how the music industry works, is bad enough. But the two big refrains in the chorus are absolutely horrendous. "You're a good girl" - the implication being "you'll do what you're told " (or else). "I know you want it" - exactly what all those #LADS say when the girl BLATANTLY doesn't want it but #LAD is too proud to admit that's the case. Real stoneage stuff.

The success of "Blurred Lines" led to two more incidents that left a sour taste in my mouth. The first was when ACTUAL Justin Timberlake decided to make similar use of gratuitous nudity in his video for "Tunnel Vision", in some sort of nod to how Thicke essentially owes his whole career to ripping off Trousersnake's sound or something. Granted, JT's effort is perhaps trying to be more "James Bond film opening credits" that Thicke's, and at least the women don't actually share a room with Justin & Timberland so they're not crawling all over them and being gawped at like they would have been in Thicke's video.
But it was still a miss-step in my book and made Justin seem behind the curve when in actuality, his music is vastly superior to Thicke's. Alas, the damage was done, and in the UK at least "Tunnel Vision" didn't even scrape the top 40 (a damn shame, it was the best track off his first "20/20 Experience" album) and then when follow up single "Take Back The Night" (which stalled around the 30 mark in the charts) had the misfortune of sharing its name with an anti-rape charity, said anti-rape charity became furious when it turned out the song's lyrics weren't "SEXUAL VIOLENCE IS WRONG" said on repeat.

The second incident, I'm sure I don't have to go into detail. In fact, why don't we let the pictures tell the story for us

What irked me about this performance was how some segments of the media were quick to point out how inappropriate it was for Miley to be doing this to a 36 year old husband and father ("Won't somebody PLEASE think of the children!?!") yet completely forgot about the fact that Thicke effectively endorsed this kind of behaviour by making the "Blurred Lines" video.
I just hope that as a consequence of this there aren't women who watch these kinds of things and think "Ah, so barely wearing any clothes isn't enough to get peoples attention anymore - now you have to barely wear any clothes AND flaunt yourself in front of a man!", because that's the way things seem to be going. I mean Lady Gaga basically only wore a pair of scallops all show and nobody gave a fuck!

Sadly this will no doubt encourage the trolls such as those that made Lauren from Chvches the object of their desires, as their tiny Neanderthal minds can't comprehend that not every attractive woman wants to be the Miley Cyrus to your Robin Thicke.

The moral of the story is, next time you see someone talking about women in stoneage language simply quote Taylor here and tell them this:

1001 Albums Challenge Update

So the reason I'm just listing what I heard is partly because it's been too long since I heard all of these and partly because not a lot in this run really stood out - besides Muddy Waters, Outkasts, The Boo Radleys and, despite any preconceived prejudices I had against them, Bjork and Ryan Adams. I promise I'll talk more about the next lot I listened to
  • The Louvin Brothers - Tragic Songs Of Life
  • Marty Robbins - Gunfighter Ballads And Trail Songs
  • Jimmy Smith - Back At The Chicken Shack
  • Muddy Waters - Live At Newport 1960, Hard Again
  • Bill Evans - Sunday At The Village Vanguard
  • Morrissey - Vauxhall And I, Your Arsenal, Viva Hate!
  • Stan Getz & Charlie Byrd - Jazz Samba
  • Scott Walker - Scott 4
  • Fairport Convention - Liege And Lief, Unhalfbricking
  • Nina Simone - Wild Is The Wind
  • Paul Simon - Heart And Bones
  • Ray Price - Night Life
  • Sufjan Stevens - Illinoise
  • Charles Mingus - The Black Saint And The Sinner Lady
  • The Mars Volta - Deloused In The Comatorium
  • Missy Elliott - Under Construction
  • Ms Dynamite - A Little Deeper
  • Jurassic 5 - Power In Numbers
  • Ryan Adams - Gold
  • Soloman Burke - Rock N Soul
  • Bjork - Vespertine, Debut
  • Lambchop - Nixon
  • Outkast - Stankonia
  • Ute Lemper - Punishing Kiss
  • Sebadoh - Bubble And Scrape
  • The Boo Radleys - Giant Steps
  • Red Snapper - Our Aim Is To Satisfy
  • Erykah Badu - Mama's Gun
On that note, I bid you adieu and will see you all soon.