One man's sexy is another man's poorly written trend piece

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.

3 comments for “One man's sexy is another man's poorly written trend piece

  1. Kerry
    May 24, 2007 at 2:50 pm

    What’s more annoying about the CNN piece is that it manages to overlook the fundamental truth about how these female stars are being marketed even as it’s staring them in the face. The caption under the Avril Lavigne photo states that she has “gone the glamorous route.” Avril has only ever gone the route laid out for her by her record company, publicist, and management. There is a disturbing trend (and I think Dero has done some writing about this not long ago) to shift female artists into increasingly sexualized images. See also: Mariah Carey pre/post “Butterly;” Jewel, Kelis, Nelly Furtado, even Joss Stone. It’s unfortunate, but true: quality artists and vocalists who could do better are being manipulated, for whatever reason, into trying to keep up appearances (literally!) with the Britneys and Jessicas of the world… in other words, actresses who are currently playing the roles of pop music icons. When bimbos and faux-bimbos compete, everybody loses.

  2. May 25, 2007 at 9:41 pm

    and so i don’t go into a huge feminist/women’s issues diatribe, i’ll just go with the random tangent of … when i’m up at two in the morning and that nickleback video comes on, i think the song sucks, but i really like the video part. so, hate me if you will. not to mention, i find myself mesmerized by ANY video just like i did back when we got cable in 1984.

  3. Knitwear M. Groundhog
    June 8, 2007 at 4:47 am

    My issue here is that Avril Lavigne is starting to look like a parody of herself. The sneer and the oversized skater clothes and the uninspired lyrics were fitting for a teenager, but now she’s a married woman in her 20s. Time to adjust the image upwards in SOME way. People won’t buy her as anti-establishment for very much longer (if they do at all now).

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