Most female musicians, no matter how talented they are, tend to become more sexualized over time from when their career starts to when they “peak.” This sexualization is especially noticeable in photo shoots, magazine spreads, music videos and on album covers. It is therefore interesting to think about how these musicians got started. Many were young when they began singing, such as Beyonce, Christina Aguilera and Taylor Swift. In the beginning, these artists are often less overtly “sexy,” but after a while, they all start looking the same, and nudity becomes a very common element in their performances.
Since CD sales are dwindling, nudity or partial nudity on the covers may be one way to bump up sales, even though you do not see many male musicians nude on the covers. At the same time one can make the argument that showing of ones body is an act of empowerment, self-confidence and originality, one that comes with maturity and self-awareness. In fact, this statement is often made, pointing to women’s sexuality as a tool to be used to gain power. However, it seems as if nudity and “sexiness” are now so routine that all women are expected to embrace these standards.
The female body is beautiful, but does it have to be on display at all times? The trend of sexiness seems to be here to stay, but I often find it tiresome. The saying goes, “sex sells,” and that seems to be true, but the underlying message of that catchphrase is that women constantly need to be sexy, because their talent comes second to their appearance, no matter how successful they are or how hard they work. I have a small sample of very talented and influential female musicians, but all these women look the same on the cover, with nudity being the trend. We all have different opinions on the matter, but Beyonce’s feminism and Lady Gaga’s activism becomes shadowed by their sexuality, as we somehow constantly expect more from them in the sexuality department, but focus less on their personal beliefs and standpoints. The CD covers I chose either display the female artists from the front with breasts and genitals covered in various ways, or there is a certain expectation of nudity where the musician is shown unclothed from approximately armpit level down.
First are the women who are depicted naked but simultaneously covered. We have Christina Aguilera, and Kelly Rowland, who both have their hair covering their breasts. Then there is Rihanna, who has one hand covering one breast while the other is covered by a label. In 4, Beyonce is using a fur vest to cover her breasts. As controversial as Lady Gaga is, it is not surprising that many of her album covers include nudity, such as The Remix and Singles. Katy Perry also shows off a lot of skin in a Teenage Dream. Then we have what can be called the more demure covers that point to nudity, yet does not showcase it in the same way as the just mentioned CD covers, such as Lady Gaga’s Monster Deluxe, Demi Lovato’s Demi, Back to Black by Amy Winehouse, and I am Sasha Fierce by Beyonce.
What becomes clear when looking at album covers is the expectation of some form of nudity, and the use of ones body to sell an image or simply sell the album. Sexuality is very often tied to a female artists representation in various ways. Whether we believe that showing of ones body is, or can be, objectifying or empowering, it is clear that women, not men are the ones specifically targeted.