Pop Life

Slutwave: Pop Phenomenon Or Feminist Scourge?

"Every generation needs a new revolution."

- Thomas Jefferson

As one of the few women on the Rocks Off writing team, we were fervently proud to take an introspective stab at the new, curiously named micro-genre that 2010 bestowed upon us: Slutwave.

Believed to have been coined by Brooklyn blog Hipster Runoff, and since endorsed by Rolling Stone, the term describes the domination of female pop solo artists in the '00s. More specifically, it depicts those women performers who favor sex appeal - suggestive dancing, scant clothing, explicit lyrics - to promote their career over their actual music. Consensus examples include Katy Perry, Ke(Dollar Sign)ha (evidently the unofficial Queen of Slutwave) and, according to some, even Lady Gaga.

Slutwave aims to describe female artists who hesitate to consider that their music can independently speak for itself, and instead shed their clothes in an effort to gain attention and, ultimately, record sales. It's hard not to take a second glance or second listen when Katy Perry and her shapely assets are spread naked atop a fluffy cotton-candy cloud.

Of course, the idea that 'sex sells' is nothing new, and is sadly proven accurate year after year; but it's these gals who are upholding such an archaic concept.

Madonna almost never covered herself up; in fact, she embraced and flaunted her sexuality, wearing lace corsets and cones on her boobs, and I've never second-guessed her talent; point being, dressing scantily does not necessarily preclude lack of ability. Female musicians like Debbie Harry and Pat Benatar also embodied talent while confidently sporting risqué attire; it's artists like these women who have made it possible for successful acts like Lady Gaga to even exist.

If a woman chooses to dress freely and provocatively - "sluttily," what have you - she has every right to do so (the same as any man). But some young women performers out there must feel the pressure to dress and act this way to be desired and thus successful; the best case in point right now would probably be Miley Cyrus. Then again, which artist who willingly opts to enter this business doesn't desire attention?

Nevertheless, it's a dichotomy: Female artists are confidently flaunting their bodies, having fun, and making money, of which Rocks Off is wholly supportive - proud, even - but it begs the question whether the act is genuine or masking a certain degree of insecurity and perceived social pressure.

Perhaps the real question regarding these entertainers is what greater good are they serving. Of course, pop music doesn't necessarily have to serve any higher purpose than producing music, and Slutwave-categorized singers are responsible for producing some of the catchiest pop we've heard in years. However, considering modern music's leading women begs the inevitably natural comparison to those of decades past.

It seems that every decade or so, a novel incarnation of women in music comes along. Most recently notable is the radical musical and political revolution brought on by the Riot Grrrl movement of the early '90s.

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Neph Basedow
Contact: Neph Basedow