If women are to become free agents of their gender’s destiny in music, in a music world which is reliant upon shouting loudest over the clamor, it stands to reason that online pissing contests only serve to detract from the strong messages being put forward by such artists like Janelle Monae and Erykah Badu. Their recent collaboration on “Q.U.E.E.N.” is an eloquent and impassioned rallying cry for what Monae identifies as “everyone who’s felt ostracized and marginalized.” And yet it is women that she addresses most specifically in the track, ending with the line,
“Electric ladies, will you sleep, or will you preach?”
This speech by Charlotte Church is hitting so much on the head in terms of where (and why) sexuality has intersected with the music, video, and performance scenes over the past several decades. Which artists and which instances use it as a conversation that is empowering, non-degrading to any sex or gender, and worthy of the “art” label? And, regardless of that question, should young people be exposed to these things or should we be more careful about how we portray our bodies & messages instead of celebrating them (OR berating them) with media coverage, social media chatter, and tasteless slut-shaming language that still catches the attentions & imaginations of even our youngest music lovers?
Ultimately, it does not need to be like this. Sex can be art: look at Bjork’s “Vespertine,” a highly-sexual and sensual record by a woman entirely in control of her career and of sex. The same can be said for almost every Prince record, and should be. Both are artists, adults, and human beings intelligently addressing a human subject, not exclusively a male one.
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Special thanks to Charlie for sending Church’s words my way this week.
- You can worship at the altar of Erykah Badu & Janelle Monae here by listening to their afore-mentioned song, Q.U.E.E.N.
- You can ALSO hear this explosively gorgeous raw cover by 3 gifted Tennessee-born musicians here. (Singing starts at 1:15.)
- Lastly, you can enjoy the incredible quick wit & multi-faceted talent of Badu by listening to her on NPR’s Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me.