Celebrities using sex to sell albums, music no big deal

Illustration by Parker Wilhelm

Sex sells. This fact is ingrained in American culture and exemplified by the American music industry. With people’s tolerance for sexual innuendo and suggestion growing, artists are finding more ways to put their bodies on display. Whether it is in their music videos, onstage or on their album covers, celebrities will find any way to show off their assets.

For example, there is rarely a time when Rihanna is on stage when she isn’t bouncing around wearing next to nothing while groping herself suggestively. But if she were to cover up, would people still care? Sure, she could sing songs like “Diamonds” while wearing a burqa, but I have a feeling that songs like “S&M;” and “Rude Boy” would lose some of their meaning if she were to cover up.

Speaking of being uncovered, Rihanna’s latest album “Unapologetic” features the singer topless with one breast covered by her arm and the other hidden underneath the album’s title. The title “Unapologetic” is very appropriate, as she seems not to care that thousands of people have seen regions of her body usually reserved for private situations — otherwise she wouldn’t have put them on display.

If she is confident enough to put herself and her body out there for the whole world to see, shouldn’t we embrace her rather than criticize her?

Or, if you don’t want to celebrate her nudity, ignoring it is always an option. No one is making you buy her album or look at her.

However, maybe it’s the public that is at fault for the way Rihanna is objectified. In 2010 when she released a music video for the song “Man Down,” which tried to make a statement about sexual assault, she was criticized by the Parents Television Council. Since then, Rihanna has stuck to what she knows, which is apparently wearing no clothes, exemplified in her newest music video “Stay.” Maybe if she had not received so much negative attention for trying to bring awareness to an issue that was important to her, Rihanna’s music and videos would be more meaningful and less sexual.

Rihanna is not alone in her quest to wear as little clothing as possible. With Katy Perry shooting whipped cream out of her bra and Beyonce constantly prancing around in leotards, she is in good company. These artists are some of the biggest names in music today, and I don’t think that it is a coincidence that only on rare occasions do they decide to wear clothes that actually cover their bodies.

Now, I’m not saying that all artists have to sexualize themselves to be popular. There are exceptions to the rule. Take Adele for example: she is always fully covered and still wildly successful. However, in my personal opinion, Adele is a little bit boring. What makes her so successful is her ability to write and belt out huge ballads. If someone with a more limited vocal range like Katy Perry tried to get away with singing “Rolling in the Deep,” I don’t think she’d have near the success that Adele does.

I am not saying that singers who lack talent automatically default to an oversexualized portrayal of themselves to gain attention. I think that every artist needs a shtick to differentiate themselves from the competition. Ke$ha has the drunk party girl market cornered and Beyonce owns the divas.

To appeal to a more diverse audience, many other artists throw in a dash of sex — after all, sex sells. Adele already appeals to such a diverse audience that she doesn’t need to sexualize herself, but, like I said, she is an exception to the rule. Sex wouldn’t pair very well with her shtick of big ballads.

People concerned with the oversexualization of celebrities (why someone would devote their life to this, I don’t know, but I’m sure someone out there is very concerned with confiscating Katy Perry’s whipped cream bra) need a reality check. Musicians using their bodies to sell records is not just trendy right now; it will always be in fashion. And not just for women either; Adam Levine seems to be doing a fine job of using his body to sell Maroon 5 albums. Sex sells now and it always will, but no one is forcing you to buy it.

Zach Foley is a freshman in education. Please send comments to opinion@kstatecollegian.com