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Shvoong Home>Social Sciences>Sociology>Gender roles in songs and lyrics Summary

Gender roles in songs and lyrics

Article Summary   by:klau     Original Author: Szabó Klaudia
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Music is an everyday phenomenon of the modern world, a business, a form of entertainment, lifestyle and means of self-expression. As an unavoidable surrounding condition it necessarily reflects the culture and society from which it origins. A means of self-expression: for members of the society through one’s taste of music and for musicians a way to express individual feelings and thoughts. The world of music regardless of genres is an interesting area. We can discover such practices that are totally different from social convention. This is also true to gender roles in music, songs and lyrics. It can be seen that in most cases singers take up the role of a stylized character. Not simply because songs are often not written by the singer rather because their aim is to picture a certain personality and so amuse the audience. Such personalities are often confident, dominating and staying in the centre of attention. Such roles are typical of gangster rap but, interestingly, they can be taken up by men and women alike, for example, Pink in her song ‘Get this party started’ and Eminem in ‘The Real Slim Shady’ play similar characters. Subcultures also get to word in the world of music, like rap is originally the music of black people talking about social problems and the difficulties of their ‘brothers’ and is represented mainly by male rappers.Women appear in rap songs only for the short time of the refrain as vocalists. However, recently duets in which rappers ‘feature’ female singers are also favoured and in many cases they become hits. So it was with ‘Dilemma’ ( Kelly Rowland feat. Nelly) and ‘I’m Real’ (Jennifer Lopez feat. Ja Rule). A special stream with a feminist tone can also be detected. Against the machos and debauchers, misused and left women tell the world that men could not let them down, moreover, they do not need men. Starting the row with Gloria Gaynor’s most famous ‘I will survive’ female singers protested their power and strength since then, so is a key word of these songs is ‘strong’, ’stronger’, like in Cher’s ‘Strong Enough’ and Britney Spears’ ‘Stronger’ which bear the word even in their title. Further examples are Anastasia’s ‘I’m Outta Love’ and Lara Fabian’s ‘I Will Love Again’. Mentioning above machos and debauchers, some songs are indeed treating women plainly as sexual objects, although, in a nice tone, presumably not to deter female customers (but this is another business…). Attractiveness and being sexy is emphasised in a positive way, but still, these are the only emphasized features of the female subject. The best example is Tom Jones’ ‘Sex Bomb’ but ‘Candy Shop’ by 50 Cent and ‘7 Days’ by Craig David can also be listed here. Surprisingly, there female singers,too, who draw the attention themselves to their body and sing about the power they have over the opposite sex by doing so. Of all songs, there’s one kind that is special concerning gender roles.
These are loves songs that have a sort of liberating effect, meaning that borders between genders blur completely. Women are said to be emotional and open to express their feelings and so they do in love songs: swearing love, telling a story of love, showing their sorrow for an unrequited love. What is special about them is that emotional openness is as natural to be performed by men in them, as by women. Men who are conventionally taught to be strong and never show weakness appear in these songs as gentle, sometimes hurt lovers, dependant on the love of a woman. Just think about boy groups, like Backstreet Boys, Five, N*Sync and so on. Their main (or it can be said their only) topic is the pure confession of their feelings. Doing this is socially accepted and also loved (mostly by girls of course). Aside from boy groups many solo singers follow this practice of ‘pure emotion’, like the founder member of the one-time Wham!, now soloist George Michael. So the old macho is replaced by a male figure that is so close to a female that it’s even one with it. One of the most popular love hits is ‘The power of love’ by Jenifer Rush from 1985. It was adapted by many artists, Celine Dion''s remake is probably the most famous. The well-known refrain of the song goes like this: ‘Cause I’m your lady/and you are my man/whenever you reach for me/I do all that I can.’ Andrea Bocelli also sang the song - which is originally a woman’s confession – with a smart twist in the refrain: ‘Cause you’re my lady/and I am your man’ but no other changes. The lyrics qualify for a man as well as for a woman. This male uncovering can be experinenced not only in love songs, but in music, as a whole. We can see such faces of the stronger sex which are hid in everyday life from the public. Some portrayed feelings and relations are taboo to speak about for a man even in his most close relationships. The Metallica track ‘The Hero of the Day’ tells about longing for motherly love and protection while the band is the world’s most acclaimed trash metal formation. The same filial love for the mother appears in Queen’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’. Acting out such emotions is peculiar for men but is accepted in music. Dominating, ruling women are yet as strange as emotional men according to social convention, but this tendency may show a future direction of change in gender roles.
Published: June 20, 2007   
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