By Todd Jackson
We like singers, sure. But we absolutely love singers who make us randy. Consider the young and eager Britney Spears. She brought a new album out this month and her last one sold nine million copies. She’s hardly alone. ‘N Sync, Shania Twain, Ricky Martin: hugely popular and obviously sexy.
I became wise to this trend when Shania first swaggered onto the scene. My friends used to watch Country Music Television with the sound turned off. They would sit there still and beguiled by the person Steve Earle once called "Nashville’s highest paid lap-dancer."
I admit that I once agreed with Steve. I thought, naively, that Shania’s music should be judged on the sound that she produces and not the swing of her hips. I couldn’t be more wrong. Last week, while watching Britney’s new video, I finally understood. I realized that my friends weren’t just lecherous. They were pioneers of musical appreciation.
My friends got the point quickly. They understood why, as last month’s Rolling Stone noted, Britney has a tanning bed on her tour bus and not a practice studio. Britney really wants nice skin and isn’t so concerned with crafting musical masterpieces. Accordingly, we shouldn’t judge her on the sounds she makes. This isn’t music for the ears. Britney is an artist of music for the eyes.
This shift from the ears to the eyes didn’t just happen. Opera asks people to look at singers as they act out the music. Musicals do the same.
If you don’t see or at least imagine rough-looking French people singing when you listen to Les Misérables, you won’t get it. Sexy singers merely draw on this rich tradition.
The only shame is that we’re dragging our heels and, frankly, I’m getting restless. We need to embrace the sexual role of the singer. I see a kind of porn-meets-song–singing that aims for our pants and whose purpose is to unabashedly caress our carnal appetites.
Of course, this means rejecting the fiction that the singer actually has to carry a tune. Singers shouldn’t spend precious energy worrying about the melody when they could make themselves sexier. Without question, this movement calls for more skin.
Instead of flashes of skin and bare midriffs, the next step begs for partial nudity at least. And I don’t see how we could avoid plenty of fondling. Alright, Madonna grabbed her crotch. A good start to be sure, but we need to see some real touching.
Masturbation to music? We can only hope.