Have any of you ever stopped to fully appreciate the extent to which the majority of American society revolves around sexual repression?
This month the New York Times published a psychological study whose results inspired this magical, groundbreaking, and astonishing* conclusion: “Songs About Sex Are Hot Sellers.” The article divides three most consumed musical genres (country, pop, R&B) and analyzes their content in the hopes of understanding what’s behind their popularity. The study finds these themes in each genre, respectively.
COUNTRY: long-term commitment to marriage, parenting children, break-ups and oaths of fidelity.
POP: singer’s sex appeal, a person’s promiscuity and one-night stands.
R&B: singer’s sex appeal, boasts about the singer’s wealth as it relates to finding a mate, and descriptions of erotic acts.
And then the author pulled on the cargo pants he wore to Judgefest 2011 and reasoned, “In other words, country songwriters tend to write about mature, adult relationships, while pop and R&B songwriters write more about hooking up with someone at the local nightclub.”
What you’ll notice from each genre is that two out of the three (given the study has it right) deal with reality while the other fetishizes the fantasy of a white-picket-fence existence that society has so shamelessly imposed upon our vision of what’s perfect. Even if that IS your idea of a boss future, you know how you get there? That’s right! Probably by “hooking up with someone at the local nightclub.” Ends cannot happen without means. Parenting, commitment, and fideltity (if that is indeed the life you want) don’t just appear out of nowhere. They take time. They take trial and error. And more importantly, they begin with individual choice via self appreciation, reflection and acceptance.
Just because someone is in a monogamous relationship doesn’t mean they are more mature. Having a child doesn’t necessarily correspond with psychical adulthood. “Putting a ring on it” doesn’t guarantee emotional stability because there is no such thing as emotional stability. The nature of a bond between men, women, or men and women, rather than how society labels it, determines the maturity, value, and significance of a relationship.
Sex, money, power, beauty- these are what makes human beings tick. These are the realities of a human existence, shunted aside as fantastical afterthoughts because they fail to match with The Man’s imperialist vision. The beauty in pop, R&B, and hip-hop is that desire plays the heroine of the story rather than its villain or sidekick.
This is not to say, of course, that country music can’t illustrate the reality of a lustful existence. It totally can and might already. Just as a lot of pop, R&B and hip-hop songs emphasize fidelity, monogamy, and parenting so too can country focus on sex, desire, and attractiveness. The point is that these things have been and continue to be taboo and because we’re told that we can’t have them publicly we force them into the confines of the fantastical musical world.
R&B and monogamy
R&B and lust (This is not, by the way, the official music video because there actually isn’t one)
Country and sex (or at the very least, sexual undertones)
Country and fidelity
*Sometimes, when I’m wearing my hater boots, sarcasm is my default setting.