Soapboxing: Humpin' Around For "Art & Music" Sake

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

I'm sort of twitching like Ashley Banks trying to ward off bullies about this...

Okay. We know that sex sells. We also know that there is a fine line between being "sensual" and being just flat-out "slutty putty". In addition, we know that the music industry is built on sexual themes and that if done in the right hands it can be an iconic experience. Madonna built a career on sexual liberation, Prince has songs for days that are metaphors for "sky rockets in flight", and those Janet Jackson moans and groans on her records are not because she stubbed her toe while recording. Let's not be blind and deaf about this. Yet, every time some sort of controversy from the media blossoms up that involves music and its sexualized elements, we all have an opinion about being in-between the two extremes of  "sex" and "art", and what they both construe as.

In today's ring, in one corner we have Keri Hilson. In the next Raheem DeVaughn.

Keri Hilson has folks building a bonfire and roasting marshmallows under her rump after viewing her latest music video for single, "The Way You Love Me" (Karyn White called...). Aside from a weak homage to Smoking Aces and random guest stars from Faith Evans, Coloumbus Short, and JoJo (they obviously needed money for Christmas gifts this year), the video featured Hilson blatantly citing she basically wanted her man to  "f**k" her and that her "sugar walls" should be the only thing to keep a man...and if that wasn't enough she was licking inanimate objects and flapping on the floor, all the while visions of crotches thrust in our faces for a majority of the video. Just another day in 21st Century R&B paradise. The video is just flat-out tasteless.

For the record, Hilson is one of those artists that I got bored with as she kept releasing material that wasn't remotely engaging for me. I gave the lass a chance back in 2006 when she was emerging as a songwriter and a singer. It took her eons to come out with "Energy", which wasn't half-bad, but by then, I lost interest and Hilson was just sort of "there" for me. I really have nothing against her, she's just sort of the extra cheese left in the bowl. 

From the looks of the video, Hilson clearly doesn't want to have the leftover scraps at the buffet of R&B tarts nowadays. She wants what Beyonce and Rihanna have. She even called shotgun before Ciara could whip that ponytail. Hilson wants her piece of the pie, which is why desperation shows hardcore in the video and which gives the impression that Hilson clearly isn't sure of what type of image she has set up for herself. It's disappointing, because she actually had an advantage. 

What I can't get past is what Hilson is even trying to accomplish and if she's experiencing Jekyll & Hyde syndrome to further confuse her fans. Hilson's current single, "Pretty Girl Rock" is basically an anthem all about girl empowerment, which got a spotlight at this years Black Girls Rock! show with Hilson being a spokesperson for the show in support to a younger generation of girls. While it's not the best anthem, it did get Hilson a spot on a girl positivity float at the Macy's Thanksgiving then when "The Way You Love Me" video comes out a couple of days later, and it's explicitly discussing over and over that Hilson wants someone to "nail her to the wall"---confusion settles in. Look, it's okay be sexually empowered and showcase that, but for Hilson, in this case, less definitely was for the best. 

In a contrast, we have under-the-radar, soul man Raheem DeVaughn who released his Lil' Wayne cover "She's Single" the other day with a highly NSFW video in tow. From the first look, it's some saucy visual voyeurism, as Raheem goes between the sheets with his lady and we are there every step of the way. It's quite Cinemax after dark worthy. Yet, the reactions to that video were a total contrast from Hilson's as people were singing praises and saying, "Oooh, that is sexy!!". Still, I saw pretty much the same of what Hilson was shoveling, just that the camera shots were done tastefully and the song wasn't terrible. Plus we weren't getting a crotch shoved in our face for no reason... (Edit Note: The video from the original posting has been taken down from YouTube...but it has been put up again)

Explicit content for sales clearly goes through all bounds, but while Hilson is slammed, DeVaughn is praised? Sounds like a Male vs. Woman thing. Male does it, and he's a sex god, female does it and she's "slutty putty". I need some Febreze up in here because I smell some stinky contradictions here. Yes, I know Hilson's video was a tawdry mess, and DeVaughn's was meant to showcase more of the art of two consenting adults engaging in natural affairs, but frankly, I'm not all around impressed with either. No, I'm not a prude, but I'm sort of over these tactics to "win" me over with shock value (Hilson) or soft core soul (DeVaughn). We've been there, and done that, especially in the name of music visuals and if you're gonna be sexing it up in your video, be a little bit more imaginative...budget be damned.

These two videos spark the conversation, yet again, about how we view sexualization in music media and apply them to our own culture and how they have varying results and opinions. How two things can be of equal parts, but one always looks more appealing while the other is burned at the stake.

I might be in the minority about my thoughts, but it's interesting to compare the two to say the least. Thoughts?


  1. OMG!! Thank you for posting this. Keri's was too much...but I thought RD's was waaaaaayyyyy too much. I just don't understand the difference and I think people are being really hypocritical about it.

  2. No thank you, K. Rock, for not thinking I'm crazy! I thought BOTH needed to be called out for their "Skinamax" audition tapes. I hate when people become blind to the obvious just because someone is more "well-respected" than the other. If it quacks like a duck...


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