WARNING: I said this was a family-friendly blog, but as the title suggests, controversial stuff follows. I’ll try to avoid too many gory details, but younger readers, those of a more sensitive disposition and all that might want to skip this particular article and get back to all the other brain-melting political/newsy stuff. Heck, it’s not like people being bombed to bits is all that bad, really. But seriously, some people may wish to avoid it, and it’s not like I condone the bilge from the sewers of popular culture that follows. De gustibus non est disputandum, sure, but still…
EDIT: I am also aiming to edit some stuff out further as there is extraneous stuff that doesn’t even belong here (controversial as it is) but we don’t need to read about it.
Now it seems in the nature of popular music that some of it will ultimately end up being controversial, as it has been since time immemorial. And whilst this at times can be a somewhat mixed blessing- for example protest music which challenges genuine injustices and seeks a better world- and at other times isn’t really all that big a deal, there are times when it is plainly silly and serving no other purpose than to get that person or group’s picture in the papers, literally and figuratively. This article is about the latter.
Anyone following the gutter end of the news about a year or so back will probably heard of the somewhat raunchy antics of a certain young lady by the name of Miley Cyrus, who in a desperate attempt to shed her child-star image (in the tradition of many a former child star gone before) has decided to adopt a more “adult” image, generally sexing it up, popularizing a strange new dance craze known as “twerking” (which from what I can tell involves wiggling your behind like a maniac, or some such) and doing unspeakable things with demolition equipment. This was the one thing which prompted me first to begin writing this post*, but of course it’s far from the only thing.
Of course some people invite controversy whilst they’re still child stars- see a certain Britney Spears for example, whose debut hit …Baby One More Time had to have the “Hit Me” part removed in case someone, somewhere, thought… she was wanting her would-be boyfirend to abuse her? She was wanting to do other things with him that 16-year-old girls arguably shouldn’t be doing at their age? Not, of course, a mere figure of speech indicating the restarting of a failed but innocent relationship. But of course even she had to sex it up to shed the otherwise-tame image of pretty much every other song bar one or two, with lows of mock lesbian weddings with Madonna (for probably no other reason than to tease the tabloids) amongst other things. And, after going off the rails (it seems the media pressure got too much), she seems to have spent half the rest of her subsequent songs telling everyone else where to shove themselves, she can do what she likes and everyone wants to seek Amy** regardless. Or she’s telling female canines to put in more effort. Or whatever.
As far as recent examples go, the black icing on the cake has to be Lady Gaga, whose persona matches her name exactly it seems. Be it wearing a dress made out of meat, or saying it’s perfectly alright to be gay, probably, or any number of things in her songs and videos I won’t even discuss here (an earlier version of this article contained one example, but we need not revel in that).
This is nothing new, of course. Be it Eminem dissing everyone, rapping disturbing things about obsessive fans, wielding a chainsaw on stage and all that jazz; to gangsta rap; to depicting the Queen with a safety pin in her nose whilst comparing the monarchy to fascism; to David Bowie’s gender-bending and (possibly fake) bisexuality, to hippies getting high, to Elvis wiggling his hips around (the masculine, frontal version of twerking, perhaps). And running through it all, the cry of classical music and easy listening lovers everywhere: what the heck is that Bleeping Awful Noise? (Ma, you’re just jealous, it’s the Beastie Boys? Or perhaps not…)
Of course it doesn’t matter whether you personally think it’s an utter outrage, innocuous silliness or even a positive attempt at trying to change social attitudes for the better (as some self-styled progressives might think of one or two of the examples hitherto mentioned). At the end of the day, ninety percent of it is probably deliberately trolling for publicity, certain that it will press the Berserk Button of some Moral Guardian or other***, or attract the hypocritical faux-outrage of the
Daily Fail Daily Mail and its equivalents. As the saying goes, all publicity is good publicity, and if it doesn’t get you known, it’ll make people buy your products out of spite for the haters. Either that, or if the star doesn’t like it, the media will be revelling in it and laughing all the way to the bank. Unless their name is Bill Grundy, in which case they might be regretting it.
Let’s be honest, on the one hand there is some stuff which is genuinely morally troublesome, and certainly something we don’t want our kids to see. But all Miley Cyrus’ bottom-wiggling antics can hardly be compared to shooting planes out of the sky or lying about weapons of mass destruction. It’s not as if Eminem was actually trying to hurt anyone with that chainsaw, or actually condone the desperate and murderous acts of the eponymous Stan- rather, in the latter case, trying to make a serious point.
Or, in other words, either laugh about it or just plain old ignore it. Despite what some may tell you, keeping up to date with mainstream popular culture or even having the blindest clue about it is, shock-horror, optional. Like internet trolls, showbiz stupidity will fade away if it isn’t fed it’s regular supply of publicity, which only happens as long as it sells. Whatever you do, The Man(TM) wants your money. Think carefully before giving him any.
*Which, like many posts, was sat lying around unfinished, such that it would be gathering dust if it was on an actual piece of paper and not just a collection of ones and zeros on WordPress’ servers, which it obviously isn’t, so there.
** Seriously, don’t try to find out what that means. At least not if you’re under 18. Don’t think of elephants, either.
*** According to the language of the TV Tropes website, which will ruin your life. Honest.