Pop music will save the world. Hush, don’t say anything, you know it’s true. But are the female artists of the 2010s bringing about a cultural revolution? Controversial opinion, maybe, but it's probably true...
After a sexy, Slave 4 U-tinged late-90s and early 00s, the past decade has seen the rise of artists like Lady Gaga, Lorde, Grimes, Marina and the Diamonds, FKA Twigs and, yes, I’m adding Nicki Minaj in there, too, that are playing with regular pop conventions.
We, the Millennials, the Tumblr generation, are demanding a more complex breed of celebrity. And pop stars are responding.
The music industry of yesteryear doesn't have a great track record when it comes to feminism and representation.
Late-90s pop brought us "...Baby One More Time", "Genie in a Bottle", The Spice Girls and Madonna rocking the full Marilyn Monroe getup with extra cleavage. It was a glorious time, yes, but aesthetically it was almost exclusively focused on pleasing the male gaze.
While alternative scenes may have had bands like Garbage, Hole, Bjork and Alanis Morissette, at times if felt that in pop we only had icons like Missy Elliot and, well, Missy Elliot.
Let's be clear; I was up there the rest of my generation, shaking my non-existent hips to Britney Spears' "Toxic" and loving it. However, there was pretty much nothing else for a pop music fan like me to imitate. Britney's sultry moves were the only way forward.
Now, we could argue about how "...Baby One More Time" and "Dirrty" are actually empowering feminist anthems, but the point I'm trying to make is that, in recent times, things have changed.
It seems to me that ever since Lady Gaga rocked a meat dress to the 2010 VMAs, sexy was no longer the word of the day, or be-all-end-all for female artists.
Instead we got creative...
^^^^^ Or all of the above, tbh ^^^^^
People like Grimes and Marina are now crafting their music and image with little regard for the oh-so-spoiled straight male demo. Or they're having their image crafted for them, but that’s a whole other rabbit hole we’re not going down today. Even if everything these women put out is carefully curated by a bunch of (usually male) producers, it still looks like a male dominated industry is finally paying attention to its non-male audience.
But here comes the controversy: Nicki Minaj. Do we think Nicki is subversive? Or is she playing straight into the hands of the *gasp* patriarchy?
Clearly, Miss Minaj likes to dress up in pink workout gear and twerk the s**t out of her performances. But she also likes to say things like this.
You never know how much is too much - too much emotion, too much vulnerability, too much power (...) Women in the industry are judged more. If you speak up for yourself, you're a bitch. If you party too much, you're a w***e. Men don't get called those things.Nicki Minaj, Time Magazine
So are we ready for female pop stars who sexualise themselves and stand against objectification? Are Nicki Minaj, Charli XCX and Marina what pop culture has been missing all along? It looks like we're moving towards a more diverse music scene overall.
The pop icons of the 90s opened up new creative avenues for the ladies of today and it's only natural that we're seeing the industry get cooler and weirder every year. Girls growing up in this decade will definitely have more than just infinite versions of sexy to choose from. And that can only be a good thing.