I blame Britney and the Bratz dolls.

From The New York Times (and courtesy of RightSaidFred over at MJ’s):

The scene is a middle school auditorium, where girls in teams of three or four are bopping to pop songs at a student talent show. Not bopping, actually, but doing elaborately choreographed re-creations of music videos, in tiny skirts or tight shorts, with bare bellies, rouged cheeks and glittery eyes.

They writhe and strut, shake their bottoms, splay their legs, thrust their chests out and in and out again. Some straddle empty chairs, like lap dancers without laps. They don’t smile much. Their faces are locked from grim exertion, from all that leaping up and lying down without poles to hold onto. “Don’t stop don’t stop,” sings Janet Jackson, all whispery. “Jerk it like you’re making it choke. …Ohh. I’m so stimulated. Feel so X-rated.” The girls spend a lot of time lying on the floor. They are in the sixth, seventh and eighth grades.

And it’s a cramped vision of girlhood that enshrines sexual allure as the best or only form of power and esteem. It’s as if there were now Three Ages of Woman: first Mary-Kate, then Britney, then Courtney. Boys don’t seem to have such constricted horizons. They wouldn’t stand for it — much less waggle their butts and roll around for applause on the floor of a school auditorium.

So what the hell does any of this have to do with Katharine McPhee? Will the tweens be dry-humping plastic schoolroom chairs to “Open Toes?” No, probably not. In fact Katharine seems to be quite far from a sexy songstress. So far, none of her songs seem to come even remotely close to Janet Jackson’s explicit lyrics, and while her booty-shaking, air-kissing red carpet poses are obnoxious, they aren’t exactly in the same league as pelvic thrusting in a music video. No, so far her songs range from hokey to blandly vague (or is that vaguely bland?), and “I felt the hit/it was hard as a brick/and made me shift” is about the closest McPhee’s come to trying her hand at innuendo.

Which is why it’s so interesting that even while her lyrics and music remain sugary and teen-oriented (songs about shoes and getting over her puppy-love boyfriend’s smile), McPhee’s album cover (and several of her more recent magazine poses), replete with spread legs, no pants and a breathless expression on her face, suggest an entirely different image. She’s almost a reverse Britney. After all, Spears began her musical career posing sweetly on her album cover but who brassily sang “hit me baby one more time.” Britney (in her seventeen-year-old prime) was the consummate sweet on the outside, naughty on the inside schoolgirl teen dream that every high school boy fantasizes about; she soon (for better or for worse) fully embraced her sexuality. Katharine, on the other hand, is the complete opposite. Her album cover exudes sex. Her body position and attire–or lack thereof–insinuate a ready-and-waiting sexual attitude, while her hooded eyes and parted lips are equally come-hither (what kinds of things do you think the photographer was shouting out to her as his camera snapped away? I’m willing to bet he wasn’t screaming “look classy, Katharine!“).

Yet, for all the blatant sexuality on the album cover, listeners are greeted not with lyrics about sexual escapades or even Britney-esque innuendos, but with candy-coated, sapless sweetness about high heels, getting over a (puppy) love’s eyes and smile, and a “dangerous” man (Ooh, does he skip seventh-period chem class to go to the beach? Dangerous!). Brit was the class prude who turned out to be not-so-prudish once you got her under the bleachers after the football game; Kat’s the overt tart who, it turns out, won’t let you so much as kiss her on the lips on the first date. It’s an interesting strategy, and I’m not sure what the response will be.


2 Responses to “I blame Britney and the Bratz dolls.”

  1. 1 talktocarllewis December 31, 2006 at 12:21 am

    That’s a really interesting observation. I’ve never thought about it like that. I LOVE the album cover personally, but I do wish she weren’t so sexed up sometimes– it could serve as a turn off to some.

    But there again, it may serve as a boon for her.

  2. 2 idolicious December 31, 2006 at 10:29 am

    It’s an interesting strategy. I’m not a fan of the album cover because I view it as a bit desperate–like, she’s saying (or being told) that she’s not good enough to sell albums on her voice alone, so she needs to look like she’s willing to sleep with whoever buys the CD, too. Which is stupid, because she looked just fine (prettier, even) on her single cover.

Comments are currently closed.

December 2006
« Nov   Jan »

What the kids are sayin’

"I hate them all. The judges, TPTB, the blatant manipulation, the songs, the contestants, everything. I'm a die-hard Cook fan, but for the love of god, at least try to look like you're enjoying yourself up there! Please? Syesha was awesome but she ruined it by being completely shameless and disgusting. Yes, being on American Idol is exactly like the civil rights movement, except for the part where you're fighting to make the world a better place."

"All I can say after the disgusting display tonight of favoritism towards the mediocrity that is David A. - good luck trying to market and make money off of that kid, American Idol. (Not to mention good luck dealing with his father.) All the teeny boppers may buy up his American Idol coronation single, but they will quickly forget about him before the album comes out. And I shudder to think of a David A. album - song after song of unrelenting sameness and heavy breathing. Why they are pimping him for the win is beyond me."

"This show was simply a hot buttered mess tonight. And Jason "needs to be arrested for what he did to I Shot the Sheriff. But I hope he stays. He amuses me. "

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