S&M and Women in Music

I’m a Top 40 girl, always have been. I lived for those noon-hour sock-hops in high school, and still, I love to dance the night away.

Music played an enormous part in my emotional & social development. Despite the “no boyfriends, no makeup, no parties” rules my Tiger parents enforced, being able to discuss the deeper meanings of Madonna’s Papa Don’t Preach or Whitney Houston’s Saving All My Love For You, showed the cooler kids that there was more to me than my flute. In Grade 9, I would spend hours with my ear cocked to my favourite station (CKLG 73), index and middle fingers poised over the PLAY and RECORD buttons on my AM/FM/Cassette player, ready to launch into action should Madonna’s Borderline hit the airwaves. And if I was really in the groove, I would record it perfectly, without any of that inane DJ jabber. I would try to dress like Madonna in her Lucky Star video, carefully so not to draw my parents’ ire and argue with my sisters about which one of us would get to marry John Taylor of Duran Duran. I spent countless hours playing my tapes back and forth, meticulously deciphering the lyrics so that I could sing them gleefully while dancing. Music was my happy place.

Now that I’m much, much older, music still moves me. But there are some who would argue that my tastes haven’t matured in accordance with my age. My husband chides me for my so-called teeny-bopper taste in music. But I beg to difffer – Katy Perry, Rihanna, Lady Gaga, Pink, Ke$ha – these ladies sing some of my favourite anthems! Katy Perry’s Teenage Dream has actually propelled me up the legendary Grouse Grind. Sometimes after a hard day of skiing, you will find me rocking out at Buffalo Bills, singing at the top of my lungs (without a microphone, thank goodness!)
You.make.me
Feel like I’m living a
Teen.age.dream
The way you turn me on
I.can’t.sleep
Let’s run away and don’t ever look back

Great music moves me and transforms me into a dancing dervish, and I love how that makes me feel. Better than Botox, anyday.

But now, there is an incredible new song that I love and frankly, I’m aghast. Rihanna’s new S&M song is great dance music. Even the lyrics, while jaw-dropping, showcase a powerful woman Betty Friedan would be proud of, but when Ri-Ri showed up at the Grammys in a sheer dress that showcased her butt crack, I had to begin to worry about the legions of not-yet women she is influencing.

Cause I may be bad, but I’m perfectly good at it
Sex in the air, I don’t care, I love the smell of it
Sticks and stones may break my bones,
But chains and whips excite me.

Oh, I love the feeling you bring to me
Oh, you turn me on
It’s exactly what I’ve been yearning for
Give it to me strong
And meet me in my boudoir
Give my body some AHH, AHH, AHHHH,
I like it, like it

While her 42 year old fans might be able to appreciate those powerful (and explicit!) words, I’m uncomfortable with the fact that her younger fans have Rihanna as a role model for what is womanhood. I grew up on Bananarama’s Cruel Summer and The Go-Go’s Our Lips are Sealed, and really, that wasn’t that long ago!

It could be argued that every generation has their controversial star(s), and the controversy only served to make them hotter. We had Madonna who wore a rosary while dancing in front of burning cross in Like A Virgin and my mom had Elvis Presley’s gyrating hips that were deemed too hot for television. Are the overtly sexual lyrics and outfits just part of Rihanna’s global marketing strategy? Or should we be more concerned about Rihanna’s ample assets negatively impacting girls’ self esteem as they go through their formative teenage years? And what does Rihanna and her fellow female artists teach boys about women and sexuality? Suddenly, music doesn’t seem so safe anymore.

I’ve switched to an easy-listening station while I muddle this one through. Although the Kings of Leon are probably talking about the same thing as Rihanna with Sex Is On Fire, at least they keep their pants on.
Love Lucie

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6 Comments

  1. I think you are right that every generation has at least one scandalous popstar. The thing that worries me is that EVERY new popstar is more and more outrageous it seems. There doesn’t seem to be that balance of sweet and innocent, sexy and controversial anymore. It’s like Gaga, Ri-Ri and the rest are in a competition to one-up eachother in the shock value department, so 10-year-olds wind up listening to ALL sexy sex artists. I sound like a total prude…and maybe a hypocrite… I LOVE me some Kings of Leon 🙂

  2. I find it funny how benign Madonna and Elvis are today in comparison with their heyday, so if you extrapolate that with Rihanna’s career, we should be dancing to naked ladyboy pop superstars in the next decade or so! I do really like that S&M song but have to listen to it covertly now 🙂

  3. I too am still a teenager and wont admit that I am 42! Well written article. You have certainly opened up a big can here and there are several debates on this topic but only to be talked about over a large goblet of vino! My kids certainly love top 40, but if there are any songs that I dont care for the lyrics, I just change a word or two and the kids don’t know the difference (at their age anyway)
    I do however LOVE Rhianna.

    • We are overdue for a large goblet of vino Sarah! Maybe we can do that while we’re dancing to S&M!

  4. I had heard Rhianna’s new hit while in spin class, where the beat is more important than the lyrics. I asked my eleven year old what the name of the song was that night. She scrunched up her eyes and read “S and M?” from the iTunes list.
    Needless to say, I regret letting her download that one, and will be a bit more careful in the future!

    • Hopefully she thinks S and M stands for Socrates and Mandela. Fingers Crossed!


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