[Please note: I wrote this quite some time ago and did nothing with it... Hence some of the slightly outdated reference points. You'll enjoy it, regardless.]
couldn’t help myself. I had to watch an episode of ITV2’s latest trash TV
documentary series, The Big Reunion.
consists of washed up ‘90s pop bands talking viewers through the highs and lows
of their careers before culminating in a get-together of these sad and bitter
has-beens for a live tour in a display of human spirit
overcoming adversity, or something like that.
episode I had to watch was the one featuring Irish girl group B*Witched.
the late ‘90s, as a pre-teen, I was besotted with them. They were so fun, so
bubbly, so relatable (“Hey, they wear denim. Wait a minute… I wear denim too!”) and, above all,
utterly sexless. Those double denim ensembles were cool to a twelve year old -
I would have given anything to own the jean flares my favourite member, Edele,
wore on the cover of their debut
album as they had a snazzy flame applique around the hem – for the precise
reason that they showed no signs of a womanly figure beneath them. No boobs, no
hips – just tomboy cutesiness.
relived the dizzy heights of B*Witched’s heyday (which essentially boiled down
to four consecutive number one singles) I also had to remember their untimely
demise. When their country-tinged 1999 single 'Jesse Hold On' peaked at number four it was time for a new plan. As
the documentary’s voice over said, “It was time for them to ditch the double
denim and sex it up.”
For my Irish idols their sexy image overhaul consisted of
less denim, halter neck tops made of flimsy material, no bras, smoky eye makeup
and prolonged bedroom-eyes gazes down the camera lens in their music videos,
and posing for FHM. [Whilst we’re on the subject – why do pop
stars bother posing for men’s magazines? The male readers digesting the images
are not their target audience. They don’t buy the music, concert tickets or
merchandise the act is selling. Is the money really that good?]
sexy angle simply did not work for them. Their chart positions worsened and
they were swiftly dropped by their record label. Sex destroyed B*Witched and
their bubble gum brand of wholesome pop.
band member Keavy Lynch admitted, “The whole change of image was the wrong
choice. It was never who we were.” Fellow B*Witcher Sinead conceded that “the
fans got confused.”Damn right they did.
What the hell was my ten year old self
supposed to do with their new image? Why did they describe their image as more
“grown up” or “mature”? Is that all it takes to be an adult – be sexy and have
sex? How is a young girl supposed to react to seeing the pop star she wanted to
be, or at least invite to the slumber party of her dreams, suddenly discovering
their libido and forcing it upon you? Was I supposed to grow up overnight too? I,
like the rest of the world, ditched B*Witched and directed my obsessive fan
music and its stars have, of course, always gone hand in hand. Starting with
Elvis’ censored hips in the 1950s and, arguably, peaking in 1992 with the
publication of Madonna’s soft-core pornography coffee table book Sex. Lady Gaga and Rihanna are yet to do
anything as senselessly sex-charged as their foremother. The balance between
pop and sex is a delicate one. When done right it’s pleasing and instantly
likeable. No body achieved this better than Britney Spears for a two year
period between 1998 and 2000.
was the veil of innocence draped over Britney’s overtly sexual image. Sure, she
was dressed like the prettiest school girl the world had ever seen but it was
okay to like her as her fans were schoolgirls too. Even that dangerously lolita David
shoot for Rolling Stone worked as
although it was risqué it was also tongue-in-cheek and sexy without being
aggressive or forced. She was suggestive without being offensive.
But once 'Slave 4 U' rolled around and Britney
was tired of people looking at her “like a little girl” I had to abandon ship
once again. I liked Britney when she wore her hair in pigtails and pretended to
be pro-chastity, not when she was covered in baby oil and wearing a pink G-string
over her hip huggers. Literally slobbering over Madonna was the nail in the
coffin for me ever buying another Britney Spears CD or any of her endorsed
products. No more Pepsi or Sketchers for me.
it preferable for female pop sensations to begin as bright, young and
supposedly virginal products before descending to out-and-out selling of their
sexuality and bodies? Is the
transformation of Christina Milian from the fun-loving, curfew-breaking girl of 'AM To PM' to that of the writhing geisha
of 'Dip It Low' more or less depressing
than the cards-on-table tactics of today’s pop queens?
What about Miley Cyrus
trading in her status as Disney teen sensation to dancing around a pole at the
Teen Choice Awards, gyrating
in hot pants before the British monarchy and portraying herself as some
kind of sexy
ornithological oddity. [Since having written this Miley Cyrus' case has obviously progressed somewhat] Are those image U-turns better or worse than Lady
Gaga or Katy Perry who made it clear from day one that they were about “disco
sticks” and promiscuity and little else?
If I had
the misfortune of being a teenager today I’m not sure whose poster I would be
pinning up on my bedroom wall. In fact, I don’t think I would bother.