The Kiwi songwriter Lorde was recently awarded two Grammys for her work performing and writing the hit song Royals. At just seventeen Lorde (real name Ella Yelich O'Connor) performed to a room full of pop stars and music legends. Royals delivers a sharp jab at the ridiculous opulence of pop culture and its irrelevance to the everyman — or everywoman in this particular case!
Lorde's talent for using words and music to convey ideas is clearly significant, but equally impressive is her ability to stand out without exploiting her sexuality.
Using sex to sell music is nothing new. On June 5 1956 teen icon Elvis Presley performed to a national audience on the US television programme The Milton Berle Show. His performance of the hit song Hound Dog was so controversial critics labelled him 'vulgar' and the Catholic Church released a piece entitled Beware Elvis Presley.
The temptation to employ shock tactics to sell records is prevalent in the music industry. For many musicians the ability to exploit their sexuality seems to be a marker for success. Lorde's fellow Grammy Award nominees illustrate this. Robin Thicke's song Blurred Lines caused controversy in 2013 after the music video featured topless women dancing.
The song then went on to generate unprecedented moral outrage, with The Guardian labelling the tune 'the most controversial of the decade'. The lyrics came under scrutiny from rape survivor advocacy groups, who claim the song promotes a non-consensual attitude towards sex.
The controversy escalated when Robin Thicke infamously performed the song alongside former Disney princess Miley Cyrus at the MTV Video Music Awards. Cyrus' clothing (a nude bikini), dance moves (twerking) and evocative gyrations were the cause of public ridicule and shock the world over. And yet Blurred Lines was nominated in several categories of the most prestigious music awards on offer.
Another one of Lorde's fellow Grammy nominees is no stranger to using sexuality to gain exposure. Pop star Katy Perry's 2008 breakout single was provocatively titled I Kissed a Girl. The song drew criticism — not for the fluidity of sexuality it displayed, but for the use of such a taboo topic as a means of getting attention. Music critics condemned the star, claiming her lyrics were not about conveying a message, but solely intended to provoke and sell records.
Suggestive lyrics, scantily clad women and shock tactics seem to dictate accomplishment within the music industry making Lorde's success a refreshing change. Lorde's triumph is a real challenge to our sex-obsessed culture where the pressure is for men to objectify women, and for women to exploit their sexuality in exchange for recognition.
The Bible says our sexuality is a gift from God and is a good thing when expressed within marriage as God intended. Throughout the Bible we are shown times when men objectify or take advantage of women and we see the tragic consequences of rape, lust and betrayal. The biblical book of Proverbs details the danger of the adulterous woman; a woman who uses her sexuality like a weapon to get what she desires. The writer of Proverbs warns this woman is like a deep pit — a trap that is easy to fall into and hard to escape from.
Lorde's achievement proves that true talent can deliver without being dressed up in sex appeal. In a world where musicians vie for the sexiest show and most outrageous lyrics we can truly applaud a modest seventeen-year-old Kiwi who performs her homegrown hit to a room full of pop icons without exploiting her sexuality.
First published March 10, 2014
Writing is both a personal and professional passion of mine - with training in Theatre, English Literature and Journalism I love of all forms of communication! After working in journalism, public relations and the performing arts I'm currently taking some time out to focus on a new adventure: motherhood! I live with my husband Andrew and our son Guy in Christchurch, New Zealand, where we enjoy spending time with our large extended family and serving our local church.
Sophia Sinclair's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/sophia-sinclair.html