Singing a little off key

Singing a little off key

Multiple Authors

[heading size=”16″ margin=”10″]The female body under the looking glass[/heading][heading size=”10″ margin=”10″]Music industry sexualizes women in order to gain more attention, please consumers[/heading]Nearly everyone has seen a music video with a female performing some type of sexually suggestive act. (Think: Miley Cyrus on her infamous wrecking ball, Nicki Minaj on the Anaconda cover art and Katy Perry at the Super Bowl halftime show.)
RBHS’ United Feminists Association certainly notices this sex-to-sell tactic of portraying women in a sexual manner, and members, including junior Shelby Yount, won’t keep it to themselves. Yount and the club watched music videos and commercials and analyzed them for the sexualization of the actresses.
The commercials and videos included everything from Beyoncé’s “Flawless” video to Lana del Rey’s “Shades of Cool” and Hardee’s Kate Upton commercial compared to Dove’s #LikeAGirl commercial. While some depicted women in a more positive light than others, most videos had at least one obvious sexualization of the female actress or musician.
Yount recalled her comments on the videos’ use of sex advertising as ones that were resigned and disappointed, but were words she felt were necessary to be said.
“A little sexualization is fine. It’s healthy. It’s normal. Women can be sexual beings,” Yount said. “It’s just sometimes in the media, women — and it’s mostly women — are sexualized so much that that’s all they become, and that’s all they’re there for … that’s not healthy. It’s demeaning to women.”
UFA member and freshman Roman Wolfe was also present at the socratic and shared Yount’s observations.
“We watched the Carl Jr.’s Hardee’s commercial, and essentially it was Kate Upton stripping while eating a burger,” Wolfe said. “I mean she’s beautiful, but what does her practically touching herself in [a] car’s backseat while holding a burger have to do with eating at Hardee’s?”
The commercials’ and music videos’ use of sex to appeal to a wider audience isn’t a new tactic by any means. Sex has been used in advertising since it’s beginning, and while it is weird to think that even shop owners in the 1800s used sex as a marketing strategy, it’s true.
The earliest examples of sex advertising were present in posters and wood carving advertisements that depicted naked women for saloons. This tactic was only increased at the turn of the 20th century when consumer culture was created due to first world societies becoming more materialistic and more concerned with buying goods rather than producing them, according to Alexandra Howson’s book, The Body in Consumer Culture.
However, research shows this use of sex in media, mainly with women, contributes to many social problems.
“[There is] no way to link dangerous behaviors such as eating disorders or crimes directly to media objectification — and it would be irresponsible and inaccurate to do so. [However, it does] contribute to social problems,” Associate Professor of Strategic Journalism at University of Missouri Dr. Cynthia Frisby said. “These problems include sexual violence and other violence against women, eating disorders and negative self image, and pressure on teens and young women to dress and behave more sexually.”
These connections between sexual objectification and violence against women have been researched countless times, most notably in a 2012 study lead by Dr. Daniel Linz, a professor in the department of communication and law and society program at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
In order to study the effects of “emotional desensitization to films of violence against women and the effects of sexually-degrading, explicit and non-explicit films on beliefs about rape and the sexual objectification of women,” as described in Dr. Linz’s study’s abstract, he had males watch two or five R-rated slasher and horror films that had large amount of female nudity. After each film viewing, the men’s reactions and cognitive expressions were noted. Then, the subjects of the study completed a questionnaire and watched a redacted version of a sexual assault trial where they were asked to judge the victim and perpetrator. Results showed men were less sympathetic to the rape victim and rape victims in general after having watched movies where women were abused and sexualized. Dr. Frisby herself, stands behind this study’s findings.
“Sexualizing not only hurts women experiencing everyday life, but women who have been sexually assaulted and are seeking help,” Dr. Frisby said. “Studies and observations have shown their cases are less likely to be believed if in an environment of highly sexualized behavior [like those of] models, actresses, x-rated film stars.”
Despite that numerous studies find using sex in advertising contributes to harmful and objectifying mind-sets often adapted by its audience, the sexual objectification of women is more often an economic concern rather than an ethical one.
Businesses continue to use sex to sell despite its unhealthy influences because it works in raking in consumers and profits. In fact, many companies have claimed in several cases sex advertising as the reason for increased consumer interest, motivating them to continue these methods.
In 1910, Woodbury’s Facial Soap, a cosmetic soap at the threat of extinction because of declining sales, turned its business around by putting out ads of romantic couples and promises of intimacy. This occurrence is seen again all throughout advertising history including Calvin Klein’s Mark Wahlberg and Brooke Shields campaign.

Calvin Klein achieved great commercial and financial success, which was furthered as a result of having Mark “Marky Mark” Wahlberg, a popular rapper in the early ’90s, shoot a commercial involving him in only Calvin Klein underwear with a topless Kate Moss circling him.

Klein followed the pattern again, this time with jeans by shooting two commercials of actress Brooke Shields — one where she was putting on a pair of jeans and another saying, “Want to know what gets between me and my Calvins? Nothing.” In fact, in Mary Lou Galicains book, Critical Thinking about Sex, Love and Romance in the Mass Media, she found that popular men’s magazine, Maxim, sold better when a sexy, semi-naked woman appears on the cover. In fact, the sale of the magazine overwhelmingly outperforms when an image of a fully-clothed male star is on the cover.

This same tactic is used in the music industry, as seen with the many media outlets through which the music industry functions, such as music videos or album artwork. However, as easy as it is to conjure that image of a female pop star being forced to wear clothes and sing songs she isn’t comfortable with, which is and has been a recurring and unfortunate situation many on the rise to fame find themselves in, research and observation finds that many times female artists themselves have a part in their objectification.

Dr. Frisby co-authored a publication in the Howard Journal of Communications in 2012 that examined the role female artists, their race and their genre play in their own sexualization.
She had noticed in male artists’ music videos, women were often used as props, only there to look good and showcase their bodies. Yet, even when women were the featured artists, they still put themselves in sexually submissive positions in their videos and were sexualized as much as they had been in male artists’ videos.
In order to analyze women’s sexualization in these music videos successfully, Dr. Frisby used the objectification theory as a framework.
“Objectification theory proposes that sexual objectification of women’s bodies teaches women to internalize an outsiders’ perspective on the self such that they come to see themselves as objects to be evaluated by others, a tendency called self-objectification,” Dr. Frisby wrote in her paper. “A first step in determining how women may be socialized to see themselves is through the portrayals of their bodies in the media. The media do this by sexually objectifying bodies, which ‘‘occurs whenever a person’s body, body parts or sexual functions are separated out from his or her person, reduced to the status of mere instruments, or regarded as if they were capable of representing him or her.”

They used this theory and four variables to examine how much sexual objectification occurs in pop female artists’ music videos. Those four variables were seductive dancing, sexually provocative attire, how often women in the video were “checked out” by men and illicit acts meant to illicit sexual arousal from viewers, like licking their lips.

Dr. Frisby’s study found all music videos surveyed from the country, pop and hip hop genre had at least one of the indicators of sexual objectification and that pop music had the highest usage of the indicators out of all the genres. Dr. Frisby and her co-authors wrote in the paper, they believed this to be an aspect of post-feminist thought in that these women were choosing to sexualize themselves as a way of expression and their authority to choose, thus female artists who sexualize themselves are considered empowering.
However, Dr. Frisby countered with the thought that in female artists portraying themselves in such a sexual manner, they undermine their own talent and convey the message that in order to succeed as a women in the music industry, and in extension life, they must sexually objectify themselves.
In cases where female artist are not sexualized very much or have done it of their own accord, and have achieved great success, Dr. Frisby credits it to trying to please consumers.
“Some female artists do have agency over their image. Beyoncé has often talked about how her agents wanted her to lose weight and get thinner, but she refused,” Dr. Frisby said. “Although some of her work is definitely sexual in nature [like in] ‘Single Ladies,’ she and Carrie Underwood are great examples of the use of agency in what you do. Sex does not always sell, especially if the audience perceives that it is being used for the purpose of soliciting sells.”
However, many young feminists at RBHS disagree with Frisby’s conclusion, citing the empowerment women can feel when embracing their sexuality.
“To say that a woman only shows her skin or dresses in a ‘provocative’ manner in order to become rich and famous or to please a man isn’t a feminist or equal ideal, it’s patriarchal to its core,” sophomore and UFA member Rucsanda Juncu said. “It’s not incorrect to say sexualizing women is wrong because research has shown it leads to many social problems, but the idea that a women can’t be sexual because she’s selling herself out and a man can because he’s being masculine is ridiculous.”
Juncu isn’t alone in her disagreement. In a poll taken among UFA, 15 of the present 20 feminist members disagreed with Dr. Frisby’s beliefs.
“Self-sexualizaton is a different matter because it’s someone saying they feel comfortable and they feel happy [with themselves] … and that’s OK, that’s healthy,” Yount said at the UFA meeting. “Beyoncé does that, Nicki Minaj does that, and some people have problems with them when they do it, but it’s [the artist’s] choice, it’s what they want to do.”
Dr. Frisby addressed these complaints and disagreements with more research. She cited a Children Now report concerning sexualization in video games. According to the report, 38 percent of the female characters in video games are scantily clad, 23 percent show bare breasts or cleavage, 31 percent expose thighs, another 31 percent expose stomachs or midriffs, and 15 percent bare their behinds.

“[Sexual objectification] definitely undermines the performers’ talent. Why do women have to objectify themselves and men do not? It is not equal at all. That is what I purpose my research to do—equality in the type of coverage and how media frame successful artists,” Dr. Frisby said. “Instead, equity can be achieved by simply portraying females as powerful and talented just as they do men.”

By Kat Sarafianos
[heading size=”16″ margin=”10″]Threshold to pop success[/heading]There is always that one song of the summer. The song that always seems to be playing on each radio station, sells more than one million copies and drives a nobody artist into a world of newfound fame. Last year, “Rude” by Magic blared constantly and no one could get the catchy tune out of their head.
After that, the song can go two ways. It could launch the artist into fame and jump-start a successful music career, or the artist can suddenly disappear, replaced by someone or something new and exciting and starting the cycle again.
In his book, The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell describes the moment when an idea, trend or social behavior crosses a threshold and spreads rapidly. This happens with music artists, as well as with trends and ideas. A tipping point for an unknown artist’s new single can take him to the world of tours and hearing his voice on the radio.
When the boy band One Direction broke into the public sphere, they were the third place finishers on a British reality singing competition show titled The X Factor. One Direction followed up this mediocre success by signing a low budget record deal.
Then, in a pop and a flash, they were everywhere: billboards, radios, posters and more. The X Factor helped One Direction build a fan base and that little push gave the band what they needed to debut their first album and become noticed by people around the globe.
One Direction’s first album became a best seller and they sold out shows all around the world. Professor of Popular Music at the University of Rochester Dr. John Covach feels like a real shot at fame, like in One Direction’s case, is hard to come by.
“Artists need to be heard, which takes a promotional campaign that starts with only a few fans,” Dr. Covach said. “But not very many artists can get that kind of support because they start really small.”
When an artist starts his/her climb, they look to different outlets such as iTunes and other online mediums that allow them to upload their music for a profit. As people leave reviews and share the music with their friends, hopefully through either word of mouth or social media, the artist will gain some popularity and a fan base.
Sophomore Kathleen John believes the key to getting people excited about a song that gains fans is in the style of the song.
“When people can relate to a song or it has a catchy tune, it stays in their brains,” John said. “Pop, R&B and country can relate to people, which is why those artists are more popular.”
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Fender 10G Amp. Photo by Elad Gov-Ari
While certain genres may be more popular than others, ultimately artists are most concerned with what the people want. If more people like pop, it makes sense that more artists are interested in making pop music. John said she believes artists respond to the cries of the fans above all else.
“Lots of pop music sounds about the same. If one artist comes up with something that sells really well, other artists will notice,” John said. “It’s a way to sell music. Artists respond to supply and demand of a certain kind of music.”
Most pop music is in the key of C Major, which has no sharps or flats, according to a study by Hooktheory, LLC. This similarity in chords is why some people believe all pop music sounds the same. This also allows pop artists to create music that will get stuck in people’s heads and that they can easily remember. According to, familiarity is key; if it isn’t memorable, the song will not stick, people will forget and the song will not gain attention.
Pop artists manage to sell thousands, if not millions, of albums following this formula. infographic by Elad Gov-ari
“Pop originated from the rock ‘n’ roll of the 1950s but typically refers to chart-friendly music,” Hannah Evans of The Independent said in an article titled “Why Does All Pop Music Sound Similar.” “A pop single tends to be between three and five minutes in length, and they have long been built around a golden formula of hook and big chorus.”
Pop artists manage to sell thousands, if not millions, of albums following this formula. Not everyone is a fan of these somewhat similar pop songs, however. Some people with a more eclectic and distinct taste are interested in independent music, ethnic music or even classical. Freshman Cassi Viox likes to pick and choose songs in many different genres.
“Some popular songs I like, some I dislike,” Viox said. “I don’t listen to music based on the number of people who listen to it. I listen to music by personal preference.”
Many artists who have sold more than 50 million albums, like Katy Perry or Lady GaGa, tend to imitate the pop single formula and then have a large fan base for when their new songs and more innovative songs are released. Diehls ultimately believes songs most easily become popular because they have been recorded by an already famous artist.
“The same people are releasing music that ultimately becomes popular,” Diehls said. “Taylor Swift, for example, is known, so when she releases a new album, people already know about it and it’s already popular.”
By Elinor Stanley[vc_video link=”″][heading size=”16″ margin=”10″]Tuning into popular music[/heading]Pop music has recently received a stamp of negativity, with a plethora of articles displaying headlines like “Scientists prove that pop music is literally ruining our brains.”
With claims of talentless artists and over the top performances, electronic vocal correction software, such as auto-tune, is usually at the base of all the blame.
Singers have corrected their voices for the past 25 years, although not to the same degree as today’s singers. Pitch correcting software dates back to the ‘90s, with artists such as Cher, Madonna and even Britney Spears using them. So why are the listeners getting fed up now?
Many people say auto-tuning is cheating. The artist only needs to get close to the desired pitch, and the machine does the rest. Music audiences worry what this will do to future artists. For the newer generation of listeners, the sound of a saxophone or trumpet will seem out of place if not spun with an electronic twist. The taste for smooth jazz or a classical symphony feels as though it’s fading.
“It’s bull,” freshman Liam Stanley said. “It’s taken over the music industry. If more artists use auto-tune, we will lose the real music behind it all.”
Stanley is not alone. Bashing auto-tuned songs has become a trend, mostly on sites like YouTube and Twitter.
“Singers — true singers — have made albums for decades without the use of these tools, displaying their hard-earned abilities,” Luke Offield, a longtime professional guitarist, said. “If a record label only wants a ‘face’ for a song, auto-tune is often used to make up for this person’s musical shortcomings. I believe this to be a misuse of technology. It misrepresents the artist and the music.”
Despite many people’s accusations that auto-tune is only used to fix bad singing, a lot of artists use auto-tune solely for the way it sounds, not to cover up a bad voice. In an a cappella version of “Born This Way,” Lady Gaga surprises the comment section with her natural voice.
“I like to see artists like that perform without auto-tune,” Stanley said. “It’s cool to see how they can work in any scenario, and it makes songs that do use auto-tune feel a lot less fake.”
With 95 percent of America’s Top 40 songs using some form of auto-tune, according to an article from the Socionomist, everyone has their own opinions on the matter. Junior Ben Hulen said he doesn’t mind it too much, and although it is not his favorite type of music, he will occasionally listen to some of it. He feels it can be a helpful tool to some artists’ careers and enhance the music, but when used too much, it becomes dull and the songs all sound the same.
“I don’t think it’s cheating. It’s just not their natural voice,” Hulen said. “It just makes the songs sound better. So I guess they just do what they can, so it’s more like a tool, or an extension to the song, to make it more enjoyable.”
As they were in the past, the older generations aren’t very fond of the current pop music claiming, “It’s just a bunch of noise,” or that “It hurts their ears.”
In an NBC Today! article, music journalist Tony Sclafani writes, “Back in the day pop artists like Frank Sinatra and the Beatles used to be able to record albums in just a few days,” Sclafani said. “Country musicians like Patsy Cline and George Jones trudged through grueling tours in out-of-the way rural locales yet still missed nary a note.”
In his article, Sclafani reminisced on the time where computers and artists had no connection — where the singer could hop on stage anytime, anywhere. Despite the old days, times changed, and as technology grew more prevalent in people’s lives, it was inevitable it would wind up in music.
“Computers are now mostly inseparable from today’s music production,” Offield said. “Computers play a role in most every aspect [of society]. It is inescapable. However, like any art form, music should be authentic. Tools can easily be misused. If any computer program is used in a way that misrepresents the artist, or the artist’s creativity or actual ability, then it is a falsehood. As with anything moderation is key.”
Similar to any trend, auto-tune will either fade out or be a causal tool. Just as saxophones and trumpets dissipated from pop music, auto-tune will eventually do the same, and perhaps be the iconic sound of the 2010s.
“I’m sure it will maintain a presence for a while,” Offield said. “Again, since technology is everywhere, and anyone can record albums in their own homes, people will continue to use whatever tools that are made available.”
By Elad Gov-Ari[vc_raw_js]JTNDaWZyYW1lJTIwc3JjJTNEJTI3aHR0cCUzQSUyRiUyRmNkbi5rbmlnaHRsYWIuY29tJTJGbGlicyUyRnRpbWVsaW5lJTJGbGF0ZXN0JTJGZW1iZWQlMkZpbmRleC5odG1sJTNGc291cmNlJTNEMEFrVUs0SC1hNXRNV2RFUjRjWEIzZGt4NFNWb3liVVpXVWpkQ01HTldRWGMlMjZmb250JTNEQmV2YW4tUG90YW5vU2FucyUyNm1hcHR5cGUlM0R0b25lciUyNmxhbmclM0RlbiUyNmhlaWdodCUzRDY1MCUyNyUyMHdpZHRoJTNEJTI3MTAwJTI1JTI3JTIwaGVpZ2h0JTNEJTI3NjUwJTI3JTIwZnJhbWVib3JkZXIlM0QlMjcwJTI3JTNFJTNDJTJGaWZyYW1lJTNF[/vc_raw_js]Feature Photo of Maroon 5 concert at Sprint Center in Kansas City on Saturday, March 21, 2015.
Photo by Elinor Stanley