With R-Rated Music Videos, Are We Denying Younger Audiences Good Music?
At the ripe age of 20, I already find myself grumbling about the music "the kids these days listen to." It's sad, but my feelings also denote a weird moment in music history — one in which the divide between listeners young and old is sharp, and fraught with barriers. The release of the NSFW videos of Justin Timberlake's "Tunnel Vision" and Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines" prompted a lot of talk about sexism in the media, but at this point, it's also possible that these R-rated videos are a deliberate marketing ploy, one that is directed at adults and completely alienates a younger pop-listening audience. After all, after YouTube removed the NSFW version of "Blurred Lines," the site also banned Timberlake's "Tunnel Vision," making many headlines for the song, but few young fans.
It's clear that business, and marketing, is growing more and more important as artists think up new ways to cash in. Jay-Z just released his new album, Magna Carta Holy Grail, via Samsung free download, and given the high-volume of illegal downloading that still exists, musicians are scrambling to create new niches for themselves. But this particular R-rated tactic indicates trouble for an already troubled industry. After all, a pop music-loving culture divided cannot stand, no?
What we're creating is a fundamental split between adult listeners and younger listeners, one that has never been so hard to breach. We complain about kids liking "trash" like Justin Bieber or the Disney crew, but artists the rest of us enjoy, like Timberlake, Thicke, Jay-Z and others, aren't giving the juvenile market a fighting chance at good music taste. (Sure, young kids can access quality, PG artists like The Lumineers and Macklemore, but pop music is as essential to the teen experience as pimples and first kisses.) It's no wonder they're settling for soulless, synth-y beats and terrible singing — they don't really have much of a choice when it comes to pop music.
I know that when I was of a tender age, when my musical tastes were beginning to stray from Z100 and the Top 20, it was the availability of alternative music that led me to find what I really liked, even if it wasn't already on the radio. All pop was available to me, but so was every other genre was too — I just had to search for it. If we're now putting kids in the position where they actually cannot access the higher reaches of pop music because of marketing strategies, we're damning them to lesser artists, and we're damning ourselves to lower quality pop radio.
So for all the Selena Gomez- and Chris Brown-related grumblers, understand that we, as the audience with the power to purchase music, are screwing ourselves over. Timberlake or Thicke put out a risqué video for their new songs, and we laud it, talk about it, and hold it just out of reach of the hands of our younger counterparts.
Additionally, the ageist separation aside, the damage being done to the fight against sexism is immeasurable. We see older artists making the purposeful choice to objectify women even more than they have in the past. A naked model in Keds is no better than a big booty in a bikini, because it all means the same thing to viewers: Women are beautiful objects, and when you're rich and successful, you acquire them.
So these R-rated videos need to go. They force us back into history's favorite place for women, the mantelpiece, and force younger listeners away from what by right should be theirs if they want it. Just think: Where would you have been in 7th grade without being able to listen to any and all of the music you wanted to? Looking at nice boobs for two-and-a-half minutes isn't worth all this trouble anyway. We have porn for that.