Pop Life

Tweens Shrug Off Influence Of So-Called Slutwave Singers

Earlier this year, Rocks Off took a curious delve into the bewildering appeal of today's successful female pop singers. When such artists are aptly and comfortably categorized into a subgenre called "Slutwave," it makes us wonder what affect these entertainers might be having on today's youth, considering the very women who embody Slutwave are believed to be idolized by droves of tweens.

It grew hard for us to believe Katy Perry's whipped-cream-spewing bra doesn't somehow affect already naturally self-doubting 13-year-olds. Once we tracked down a few kids who satisfied our age-ranges (pre-tween, tween, teen), we posed this very question: How much influence do these pop singers have on today's youth?

Abby, who is 8, sits back on the feathery pillows of her family's living-room sofa, as her sun-kissed legs barely dangle from the cushion's end. Her younger brother Jackson plays video games in the next room, while his older sister tells me about her favorite pop singers and shows off her artwork.

"She's a rock star," Abby says, after I show her an image of Disney star-gone-racy pop vixen Miley Cyrus. Though Abby's reasoning for liking Cyrus is mystifying ("She wears a wig!"), the first-grader certainly knows a lot about her.

In one swift motion, she darts from her dainty positioning on the couch and bolts up the stairway, spacily singing the familiar nursery rhyme "K-i-s-s-i-n-g," as she climbs the stairs and disappears into her room. A minute later, she returns, clutching her - what else? - Miley Cyrus doll. (It does look like she's wearing a wig.)

When Rocks Off showed Abby some additional photos, she recognized Lady Gaga instantly, as she often hears her songs "on (her) MP3 player." She recognizes and likes Taylor Swift "because she sings country music" and "likes the way she dresses."

Without notice, Jackson dashes into the room, football in hand, and accusatorily teases his sister about "loving" Justin Bieber. Instantaneously blushing, Abby fervently denies his claim, and changes the subject to songs they've heard on Rock Band.

Abby doesn't recognize the images of Katy Perry, Britney Spears, or Madonna. She moves on to showing me projects she's done in class - paintings of cats, smiling faces, and snowmen - as she ponders the question of what she'd like to be when she grows up.

She gazes at the raindrops streaming down the window, and seems to lose herself, if only for a moment, as she traces a raindrop's path. "Can I... write a book about... me, one day?" she wonders. "I want to be an author when I grow up... except you have to type and do stuff." After careful reconsideration (and a glance in our direction), she adjusts her answer: "I want to be a singer - like Hannah Montana."

Ultimately, and refreshingly, this 8-year-old was wholly unaware of any influence by these singers other than a positive or innocent one.

As we began our interview with 13-year-old Maddy, we noticed a trend: Where one sibling is, the other is not far behind, and wants to be interviewed too. So with Maddy came the welcome peanut gallery of her 9-year-old sister, Kate.

Maddy dreams of one day becoming a doctor and likes "anything but jazz," enjoys "riding horses, playing basketball and volleyball, and hanging out with friends." When asked whether she liked Miley Cyrus, she quickly proclaimed an emphatic "No." Upon elaboration, she decided the pop singer's "going from Disney to what she is now" is "kind of weird."

Her feelings on Ke(Dollar Sign)ha seem to mirror the majority of the rest of the world's - she's puzzled. "Her music is OK, I guess, but I'm in the middle about her... and I heard she gets her clothes out of the trash!"

While she clearly isn't sold on Ke(Dollar Sign)ha's trash-tastic duds, Katy Perry and Lady Gaga are both OK in Maddy's book. Little sister Kate, however, thinks Perry "wears weird clothing" and "looks like a brat."

"I like Katy Perry's music, and I guess the way she dresses is fun," Maddy maintains. "I don't really look at fashion magazines or anything, though."

While Maddy is evidently able to dodge these singers' saturation of pop media, she insists they don't influence her. "I just listen to their music," she explains. "I look up to the girls in my family, I guess, because they're all, like, pretty successful... I don't really want to be like any of [these singers]. I guess I want to just be like myself."

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Neph Basedow
Contact: Neph Basedow