Lady Gaga, The X Factor And THE CHILDREN

I talked about this kind of things the other week when I addressed the topic of Miley Cyrus and her controversial change in image. My verdict was fairly simple: we shouldn’t tell her how she should dress, as it’s her choice, and since it’s the responsibility of parents to stop their kids from watching it if they don’t want them to what Cyrus did was harmless. It was also cynical, and the whole thing played out in Cyrus’ favor anyway. This, however, is slightly different, a performance by Lady Gaga on The X Factor. This is an image from the performance:

Lady Gaga

Apparently 200 people thought that this was bad enough, before the watershed, that it needed reporting to Ofcom. First, I just want to express my surprise that people who watch The X Factor have thoughts at all. Second, I want to ask a question: is there any point in protecting children from this level of sexuality any more? The music industry is just one of many that is now following the mantra ‘sex sells’ religiously, and as a result we are surrounded by imagery not much less extreme than this. As far as I can see, the only way you are going to protect the innocence of children is to shut them off from the outside world completely, which is damaging in itself. We live in a more liberal society where standards are much more relaxed than they used to be, and the transition to it would be a lot easier if people didn’t make it while kicking and screaming. It’s something we have to adapt to.

The point I’m trying to make here is, basically, that screaming ‘THINK of  the CHILDREN’ at every little thing will get tiring and ineffective and will take up all of your time. If you didn’t want your kids to watch it, you should have sent your kids out of the room, but that isn’t the solution. Your kids are going to see more and more of this in the future, age regardless, and the best approach would be to get a healthy attitude to it. Then your children might also get a healthy attitude to it, which is really the best that you can hope for.

This doesn’t change the fact that the use of women (and men, to only a slightly lesser degree) as sex objects to promote products in industry is wrong, but it’s not wrong because it’s taking away the innocence of children. I think it’s wrong because it patronizes the audience (particularly the men who are treated by the media as apes who need to be kept slightly horny all the time in order to enjoy stuff) and only seeks to reinforce gender stereotypes. But that’s an issue that I will address some other time. For now, I advise that you take a more liberal approach to this stuff with regards to your children, making sure to let them know that these images and stereotypes are not true in the real world, and don’t watch The X Factor.

Single Review: ‘Counting Stars’ by OneRepublic

Part of a new series of posts that aim to review whatever is top of the charts in the UK at the time of writing to do one of two things: justify the rage of hipsters at the terrible music on the radio nowadays, or go against the grain and say otherwise. Obviously I’m going to be biased, but that’s part of the fun, and I will try to remain as open-minded as possible. Fair warning though, these posts will actually be quite irregular so, y’know, check often!

The most popular song in the UK at the moment is this:

On balance, this is a good start for me: OneRepublic is an alternative rock band from Colorado in the US, and has a good 10 years of experience. This is a genre of music that I feel confident in commenting upon, and I wasn’t expecting it to be topping the charts if I’m honest. But anyway, the song.

Not bad, not bad at all. One of my main criticisms of modern pop music is that it’s vacuous in its lyrical content and samey and boring in its musical arrangements, but these are not really valid concerns here in my opinion. The vocal line is well sung, with any autotune present kept at fairly low levels or reserved for places in which it actually works as an effect, while being fairly distinct. The arrangement is pretty standard for alternative rock bands, but the fairly consistent use of an acoustic guitar in a song that isn’t a heartfelt singer-songwriter ballad is a nice difference to the modern norm, and the use of instruments is varied and fairly tasteful. Texture is varied, which makes it more interesting, and the song has nice enough harmonies accompanying a fairly memorable melody. It’s not a bad song.

I have, however, criticisms. My least pressing criticism is probably the lyrics, which are OK in that they are neither boring and radio-friendly with a samey structure (think ‘Wrecking Ball’) while at the same time not being narcissistic and misogynistic (do I really need to provide examples?). However, the lyrics also lack a distinct and interesting subject and lack any kind of wit. While pop songs can function perfectly fine without this, I like to hear lyrics beyond the chorus that I’ll remember and a general intelligence and thought and feeling. Still, not really a problem. The problem I really have with this song is that it’s just not satisfying. The arrangement and the melody and the rhythm and the harmony is all…fine. The same goes for the structure, or any other musical feature. But this is not a song that I would download and listen to a lot. It tries to have a sense of energy (the dancing people in the video show this intention) but at no point does this song make me want to dance. The chorus isn’t uplifting enough, the song isn’t energetic enough, it lacks a sense of passion in every element. I can see how some people could listen to this song and feel like dancing and feel excited, but I don’t get that personally. This problem is made worse by the fact that, while it is a pleasant song to listen to, ultimately there is little here that is particularly different or new or interesting. It’s distinctive enough, yes, but this distinctiveness isn’t great and it is only produced through slightly different configurations of ideas and elements that have been used in countless pop songs for years and years now. As such, the song as a whole probably won’t stick in my memory for more than this week.

To conclude: ‘Counting Stars’ by OneRepublic is a perfectly nice song that is distinct from its competition on the charts and shows a sense of musicality that I often fear is lacking in modern chart-topping songs. But if you’re looking for the cream of the crop, the exciting music that tries different things in imaginative ways, this probably isn’t the song for you.

What’s My Opinion on Miley Cyrus?

Her music is about as distinct, imaginative and interesting as any of her cohorts in the world of pop, and as such I really don’t care for it. Oh, you meant on her choice of clothing, videos and general publicity? Well, why should I have an opinion?

That last question is a good one, and it’s one that many of us should ask ourselves more often. The whole Miley Cyrus debate and accompanying drama is only one instance in many in which everyone- everyone- has an opinion. It doesn’t matter how ill-informed the opinion, or how irrelevant or redundant that opinion might be, everybody not only has one but has to have one. When asked about it (and, when an issue is controversial, you will always be asked about it or have to bring it up) it is not enough to just say that you don’t care. People expect you to come down on one side of the argument, all the time! It’s crazy and unrealistic, and we should try to cut it out.

With this annoying human trait covered, I can examine the specific reasons why nobody should care about anything to do with Miley Cyrus. First, the people who have a problem with her video for the single ‘Wrecking Ball’ have an argument that can be effectively summed up in a single line:

 

The CHILDREN! Oh won’t somebody PLEASE think of the children?!

That is not a rational basis upon which to construct an opinion or argument! Sure, protecting the innocence of young children is fine and dandy and I’m not objecting to that, but it’s not as if Miley Cyrus deliberately made that video to corrupt minors. There was no malicious intent, and impressionable children who find and watch this video got there by their own choices and the choices of their parents. If, parents in the audience, you don’t want your child exposed to something, then it’s up to YOU to make sure that happens, not the person producing the material. Once that separation (if you want it) between children and the ‘offensive’ material has been made, and it can be made easily, why should you care what Miley Cyrus does?

Second, objections seem to include some reference to the way she dresses (or, in some cases, doesn’t) and her general attitude. It could indeed be construed that Miley Cyrus using her body as part of a promotional campaign with the aim of making money is degrading to women, and as such we should care and object to Miley Cyrus doing this. Yep. Fine. Very feminist. Except, of course, that it isn’t: it could also be construed that going on at a woman to dress in certain ways and generally pander to cultural norms as opposed to doing what she has chosen to do is actually very un-feminist, and actually undermines a key concept of women’s rights. We should not, as a rule, care about how a woman dresses or acts unless those acts actively harm anybody else. Does Miley Cyrus twerking hurt anyone else? No. Is it her freedom to do so? Yes. So why should you care? If that’s what she wants to do, leave her alone to do it. She’s not forcing you to watch.

Finally, there is the simple fact that every post with ‘Miley Cyrus’ in the tags, every angry click on her videos to post a righteously angry comment, every mention of the subject to your friends is doing exactly what she wants you to do: give her free publicity. For all that I defend her right to make her own choices, you cannot deny that Miley Cyrus has made these choices to create this hurricane of indignation. And why not? It’s free publicity! If, like me, you dislike the music of Miley Cyrus and have no desire to help further her career in any way, then you will simply stop caring and move on. In the end, it’s none of your business what she does.

That, then, is the summary of my argument. Stops caring about what Miley Cyrus does, because it’s Miley Cyrus. That’s all I’m going to say on the matter.