When did music become about shock value?
And nothing else?
In the first five minutes of MTV’s Video Music Awards, Lady Gaga came out looking somewhat like a nun — the Catholics are always a good target, aren’t they? Then, she was quickly given an onstage makeup re-do that looked like it was applied on a bumpy road by a drunk clown stylist.
Of course, her display had to end with something close to nothing in the clothing department, with the “painted one” herself obligatorily disrobing as fast as she possibly could in what could best be described as a fig leaf G-string type of get-up, making sure everyone got a 360-degree view of all of her assets.
Following that, Miley Cyrus — who refused to be outdone by Gaga — sought equal fame (infamy?) by coming out in some sort of far-too-tight swimsuit embellished with a doggy face and herself enveloped by dancers cloaked with larger-than-life teddy bears. Great — let’s drive sex-appeal to the youngest target possible.
Of course, she had to disrobe further — if that were even possible — into about, well, nothing. Then, accompanied by Robin Thicke and donning one of those “We’re No. 1” foam fingers, Cyrus literally caressed Thicke’s penis on stage, stuck her tongue out about 50 times and grabbed and strummed her crotch like it was a flesh guitar. Finally, after bending over and grinding her ass into the groin of Thicke — a 36 year-old married father — acted out an on-stage masturbation session with the foam finger. Hell, even the commercials foisted a totally nude couple hawking condoms onto the 9 p.m. broadcast when a good many kids were still up and watching TV. This TV.
If you read the above two paragraphs alone, you’d have rightly thought I was watching and describing an orgy — not a music awards show.
Didn’t music used to be about music? Didn’t we previously appreciate and reward the song, the meaning and the singer? Do I sound like my grandpa?
If all of this flavors me old fashioned, a curmudgeon and stodgy, well then great. Based on today’s values, I’ll take that as a compliment. I just don’t care. I won’t care. I can’t care. For this is just not music. It’s shock. Oh, and I’m not awed.
But this is not about me; it’s about our children — particularly since these clowns quite effectively reach so many of them. Don’t tell me that this stuff isn’t increasingly marketed to kids.
With a one-year old (and another on the way), I’m constantly asking myself how will I help to form my innocent daughter’s conscience about what gets rewarded today for singing, entertainment and talent? How do I tell her — when she’s exposed to so many that are over-exposed and under dressed — what’s really what in the world of entertainment? How will I hold back the droning deluge of messages she receives about sexuality?
“Okay, Ava, I know that this is what most of your third-grade classmates are singing, acting out and talking about, but you’re better than that. You are so much more valuable than what you look like, how little clothing you could choose to wear and the way these other people choose to act. Let’s turn off the TV, honey, and go to the park.”
And, remember: I haven’t even yet mentioned a word about the lyrics. I’ve only discussed the visual component. But, in case you need proof that today’s lyrics are equally horrid, compare excerpts from these two generationally distinct songs. Here’s the first — it’s a Sinatra tune from some time ago:
Summer me, winter me
And with your kisses, morning me, evening me
And as the world slips far away, a star away
Forever me with love
Wonder me, wander me
Then by a fire pleasure me, peaceful me
And in the silence quietly, whisper me
Forever me with love
Forever me with love? That’s practically ear candy, isn’t it? In just a few lyrics, The Chairman turned nouns into verbs, music into poetry and frowns into smiles. And, importantly, notice how positive it was, how hopeful.
Now, here’s a slice of what recently passed for, um, “music.”
I see you driving ’round town with the girl I love
and I’m like, “f**k you!”
I guess the change in my pocket wasn’t enough
I’m like,” f**k you!
And f**k her too.”
Oh, really? You’re like “f**k you?”
I’m like: “STOP!”
Are you kidding me? This lyrical trash that middle-schoolers everywhere memorized actually made it to No. 2 — topped only that year by, you guessed it, the Shock Value Princess herself, The Gaga’d One. Worse yet, Cee Lo Green actually used several children in the video.
Clowns. Teddy bears. Children in videos gleefully singing the words that would’ve gotten a previous generation’s mouths washed out with a bar of soap. And all bathed in as much sexuality as graphically possible, targeted to the youngest audience imaginable and shoveled down our collective throats as music?
I should’ve been born in the ‘40s.