SEX Sells

In the current mass consumer market, I think it’s fair to suggest the notion that everybody’s after a piece of the action. Of course the amount may differ slightly, depending if you’re more of a Russell Brand, or a Cliff Richard.

Sex has been at the forefront of advertising since advertising began, and the music industry has been no different.
Over the past forty years we’ve bared witness to the rise of recording artists really starting to push things to the edge; however there was still an element of sexual allure before then.

Take for example Elvis, he’s been sighted as being one of the first male sex icons in music, a great performer, a great singer: a pioneer.

When he first performed Hound Dog, shaking his hips like there was no tomorrow, the place went wild and it kick started a revolution that we’ve all become a part of.

Of course, I realise if you were to look back at the video now it doesn’t look like much, but taking into account the zeitgeist of the time it had young girls squirming in their seats, positively enthralled.

The Beatles had a very similar effect on the female population eleven years after Hound Dog’s release. The day they crossed the pond in 1964, to play at the Washington Coliseum to more than 8,000 – predominately female – adoring fans it was noted that the screaming audience were louder than the band.

The Beatles went onto woo the world with their harmonised haircuts, trim suits and cheeky British magnetism, and the world ate it up. There hasn’t been a bigger band since, and I doubt there ever will be.

Having survived the LSD fuelled flower power and the summer of love we arrive at the 70’s punk rock era. If you were to overlook all of that controversial political twaddle the Sex Pistols were always banging on about, you’ll find we had one of the decade’s most influential stars rising to fame – David Bowie.

Bowie was like nothing the music industry, or for that matter, the consumer had come across before.

His music was fresh, interesting, typically British and always performed with a charismatic charm. Of course he’s also renowned for his manufacture of multiple alter-egos, the most famous of which he named Ziggy Stardust.

But the question that we’ve got to ask: ‘Would his undisputed success have been so large if he wasn’t so unique?’ Of course not.

You didn’t think those sparkly skin tight jump suits were all about comfort now did you? He probably didn’t even have pockets which must have been to a certain extent, rather inconvenient.

He most definitely used his sexual prowess as a vehicle to sell his work, and it worked very well. He always strived for individuality, and when he released one of the most acclaimed concept albums to date ‘Ziggy Stardust, and the Spiders from Mars’ in 1972, it was clear he had achieved it.

We’re now faced with the 80’s – The romantics and the rebirth of the pop culture.

This calls on the talents of such successes as George Michael, Madonna, Prince and Queen. Each very established artist’s in their own rights, however they all used fashion and sex symbolism to sell their music.

Have a think about the Club Tropicana video; have you ever seen anything that epitomises selling the idea of sex more? ‘If you’re attractive, and scantily clad you’ll be accepted into this exclusive club’ is basically the message this song conveys.

But nothing prepared us for the 90’s and 00’s. There are countless acts and artists that have used sex to create revenue worldwide; unfortunately I don’t think I’ve got the word limit allowance from the editor to list them all.

In 2004 there was a song released by a relatively unknown Swedish artist that had every teenage lad crowded round the recent innovation of the video phone for weeks.

It was Eric Prydz’ ‘Call on Me’, of which was based on a re-record of Steve Winwood’s ‘Valerie’ released in ’82.

The lip-biting, pelvic thrusting ‘aerobic’ based cerography was one the most risqué videos to have graced our screens in terms of contemporary music. Anyone who personally remembers it knows all about that illustrious towel one of the dancers runs between her thighs.

It was liberating and it instilled a sense of breaking the rules, which everyone loves.

Leaving very little to the imagination it didn’t just suggest the idea of sex, it actually sold it and as a result the single held the number-one spot in the UK single charts for five weeks.

What else we’ve got to take into consideration is that over the course of the popular music boom, it hasn’t just been the physical allure of artists that has been convincing us to buy music. There has always, and probably always will be sexual innuendos and double entendres within lyrics, however now there’s more than ever. It used to be purely euphemistic suggestiveness, unfortunately now I’m under the impression that all morals have gone out the window.

Look at Rihanna’s ‘Rude Boy’ lyrics for example: “Come on rude boy, boy, can you get it up? Come here rude boy, boy is you big enough? Take it take it, baby baby. Take it take it, love me love me.”

It’s painfully obvious what she’s talking about, and without trying to sound too much like my mother, I can’t see the necessity. When kids listen to this kind of contemporary music, they instinctively want to duplicate it, without releasing what it’s about.

Overall sex is always going to be a winning advertisement method because it’s something everyone can relate to – be it on a subconscious level or not. It’s an innate desire in various different aspects and as a species that has ultimately been designed to reproduce, it will continue to be used indefinitely.


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