Music Labels vs The Female Body: Ain’t I Pretty Enough?

Mister D: This is what happens in the age of auto-tune combined with a narcissistic culture. I’m amazed this is happening to two talented women in this day and age…Yet, it makes sense in this culture of botox, plastic surgery, steroid use and people’s obsessions with the body perfect! Shouldn’t it be the music that matters?

The Guardian
Music Blog
September 25, 2012 

Never mind the Botox: it’s the music that matters, not the singer’s looks ~ With Lady Gaga and Marina Diamandis both having been chided by their labels about their looks, it’s worth remembering a time when women didn’t have to be stunning to be successful

If there were an OMG moment in pop this week, it was this: two successful female singers have been reduced to defending their looks, after their labels apparently decided they were physically wanting in some way. Lady Gaga, who has gained 25lb and supposedly been told by Interscope Records to lose it or else, has been on Twitter, thanking her Little Monsters for supporting her despite her ass being larger than usual: “Thanks to my fans, who love me no matter what and know the real meaning of beauty and compassion.” Meanwhile, Marina “and the Diamonds” Diamandis, having received word that Atlantic plans to re-edit her new video to make her appear prettier, tweeted: “I look ugly in it, apparently ”¦ I am happy to leak the ‘minger’ version for my fans”.

What’s remarkable is that both labels have hitherto been happy to market these two singers as “quirky”, with their perceived unconventional looks a major part of the package. But there’s a line, evidently, and Gaga and Marina have suddenly crossed it. Gaga’s 25lb are the difference, it seems, between quirky and unsaleable, while Marina’s strong Greek features now make her a “minger” (Atlantic’s view just might be informed by the disappointing sales of her last album). And instead of telling Interscope to sling its corporate hook, Gaga is meekly going on a diet (Gaga! The star whose doctrine is inclusiveness, because, baby, you were born this way), while Marina is giving in and letting Atlantic prettify her video.

But you can’t blame them for succumbing to pressure; and, in a way, you can’t even blame the labels, which are influenced by the opinions of bloggers such as Perez Hilton and by celebrity magazines and their pernicious articles about stars “embracing their curves”. There is exactly this sort of piece in the current issue of New! magazine, in which unflattering photos of Gaga are accompanied by an insidious little article. “[She] is certainly not shy about showing off her all-natural womanly curves,” it says. “The singer flaunted her bouncing booty in some raunchy costumes.” At least it didn’t add: “She’s so fat!”

While Gaga may have sold 87m records for Interscope, the label still can’t afford to extend to her the latitude to do whatever she likes (it’s been noted that, had Adele been on a major, she’d have been “encouraged” to lose weight as a condition of her deal). Oddly, though, it wasn’t always this way. Back in the 70s, which are remembered now as the gender-equality dark ages, there was actually far more diversity among pop stars in terms of beauty. It was possible to turn on Top of the Pops and see women whose careers were flourishing despite their distinctly high-street looks (and sometimes figures). Kiki Dee, Joan Armatrading, Maxine Nightingale, Carole King, Bette Midler ”“ as New! would have put it, they embraced their ordinariness. Never mind the Botox; what mattered ”“ to the artists themselves and their record companies and the public ”“ was the music.

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