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What does pop music have to do with pornography?

Why does Katy Perry always have her finger in her mouth? Why does Rihanna seem more like a pricey dominatrix who sings than a performer? And what the heck is Lady Gaga? All three stars make no bones about using sex to sell their music. But a UK music executive is asking if the current crop of female pop stars aren't just falling for a cringe worthy musical trend that puts the ability to sell sex above talent.

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Ethan Miller, Getty Images

Why does Katy Perry always have her finger in her mouth? Why does Rihanna seem more like a pricey dominatrix who sings than a performer sometimes? And what the heck is Lady Gaga? All three stars make no bones about using sex to sell their music. But a UK music executive is asking if the current crop of female pop stars aren’t just falling for a cringe worthy musical trend that puts the ability to sell sex above talent. 

In an interview with The Guardian, XL label founder Richard Russell blasts the current state of popular music in which female performers are sexualized to the point of absurdity (see: Katy Perry’s finger ). In Russell’s opinion, sexiness is now rated above musical concerns and as a result music has become “boring, crass and unoriginal”. 

He’s not the only one with some concerns about the trend. A few weeks back,  Gwen Stefani felt the need to separate herself from the current crop of female performers. In an interview with ELLE magazine in May, the star took issue with being compared to Perry, Gaga and Rihanna, saying:  “I don’t see myself in those girls. I usually put pants on. I see these girls as more going for the sex-symbol thing. I was more, in the band, like a tomboy. Of course, I think every girl is sexy, so there’s going to be a little of that. But I see a lot of younger artists going more toward the sexy thing.” 

The antidote to all this mindless bumping and grinding in music, at least in Russell’s opinion, is UK singer Adele, who is signed to his XL label. Russell argues that the singer, who neither grinds nor performs a “lesbian” kiss on stage for a piece of the pop culture pie, puts the emphasis back on the music. In his opinion, things have gotten so bad for women in the industry that to emphasize a female singer’s musicality is almost a political act. 

Russell told The Guardian: “The whole message with [Adele] is that it’s just music, it’s just really good music. There is nothing else. There are no gimmicks, no selling of sexuality. I think in the American market, particularly, they have come to the conclusion that is what you have to do.” 

Watch a few minutes of MuchMusic and it’s hard to disagree. When Katy Perry needs to distract you from the banality of her songs by wearing a whip-cream-dispensing brassiere you have to wonder if the cure for all that souped-up and utterly contrived sexiness isn’t to add a few dozen more Adeles into the mix. Until that day comes, and in the name of sexual equality, I want to see Bono put his finger in his mouth in U2’s next video.