This story on CNN is nothing new, and it’s almost insulting that it’s treated as such. There are a whole mess of problems with this article, starting with the difficulty in defining sexy. It seems to be substituting for “conventionally attractive” But for the sake of argument, let’s stick with sexy and all the connotations therein.
I don’t find Avril Lavigne “sexy” at all, and I doubt anyone over the age of 13 would use that word to describe her. Lumping her in with Shakira or Beyonce is some lazy fucking writing, and the only evidence for such a claim is the litany of promotional appearances she’s made for this album wherein she gets glammed up.
And since we’re talking about pop music here, that’s really what we’re talking about: image, and how it’s used to sell pop music. Avril Lavigne is no more “sexy” now than she was a “skate punk” earlier in her career. She’s switched images, but that’s all it is. The image of Avril might be sexy, but Avril sure ain’t. Sexy is confidence in who you are, not trying on big sister’s clothes.
So to say that you need to be sexy to be a successful pop singer, and to use Avril as your leading example, is to completely ignore her prior success, which wasn’t built on a “sexy” image at all. In fact, she was sold as the antithesis of sexy in some respects (note that the article mentions she used to rail on female singers who would pose in the way she is now).
The headline is also misleading, as the word “female” should be changed to “pop.” Go look at the Billboard top 40 albums that the author uses to make his/her case. Gosh, that Michael Buble in the #1 spot sure is handsome. One might even say…sexy. As are Tim McGraw, Akon, Robin Thicke, Justin Timberlake, Trent Reznor from NIN, and Timbaland, all of whom are sitting pretty (pun intended) in the top 40.
And not for nothing, but Barbra Streisand, who the author mentions as being an example of pop music’s oh-so-enlightened past when substance mattered more than style, is on the top 40 albums list this week, too. By the way, AP writer, this is how Barbra used to market herself. I’m sorry, strike that “used to.” She’s got ’em out on the new album, too. Why? Because she’s a pop singer. And that’s how it’s done.
But having said all that, pop stardom isn’t given only to the sexy. You might just chalk this up to the difference between when the author looked at the charts and when I did this evening but those top 40 albums also include Bjork and Martina McBride. Bjork is either unconventionally attractive, adorable or weird-looking, depending on your perspective, and Martina McBride, while certainly good-looking, doesn’t fit into the conventional definition of sexy. Nor does Daughtry or anyone in Bone Thugs-N-Harmony.
But I’ll tell you what: I’d get down on my knees and pray every night if sexiness were a prerequisite for pop stardom if it meant those ugly cusses in Nickelback had to go back from whence they came.