Archive for April, 2013

Taboo: Homosexuality in male sports

Recent News: The fact that the NBA’s Jason Collins coming out as gay created so much attention shows that, to some extent, it is still taboo to confess your sexual orientation if other than straight. As of now, it is still seen as abnormal for male athletes to confess to being gay. Nevertheless, Jason Collins has proven how far we have come as a society in regards to freedom and equality. Much support, admiration, and appreciation has already been placed upon Collins from former and current NBA players and coaches, gay right activists, and even the President of the United States.

Outcome of Crumbling Taboo: The breakdown such as this has more positives than negatives. It promotes equality and freedom. It allows us all to be what we are rather than what others want us to be. The more male athletes that come forward as openly gay will only serve to decrease the stigma associated with homosexuality. Until it no longer becomes courageous to come out as gay, though, we will not see true equality. The very reason why this is seen as courageous is because it still is taboo, albeit a taboo showing its cracks.

There was a time when lip-synching was seen as an instant career killer in the music industry. The 90’s Milli Vanilli is a remembrance of this fact. They were a duo that not only didn’t sing live, but also didn’t sing on their album. They were forced to give back their Grammy after the latter was found out.

But who really sings on their albums in 2013? The unfortunate rise of Auto-Tune has, at least in popular music, made the answer to that question this: very few. In its simplest definition Auto-Tune is a device that puts a singer’s voice on autopilot so that they can sound like a computer rather than a human being, and sing without the imperfections of what makes a human voice pleasant to the ear. In other words, it allows those who cannot sing to sing better, albeit often this better is usually worse.

Auto-Tune essentially takes talent and work out of artistry. It aims to correct what needs no correction, and in the process makes all songs, all singers sound perfectly the same. It is one step below having computers sing songs.

In an age that is defined by individuality, it seems odd that the music industry is going toward conformity. Auto-Tune is yet another attempt by humans to alter nature, another attempt to distort reality. Perhaps soon we will realize that imperfection is the perfect state.

10

With the release of New Kids On The Block’s (NKOTB) new album 10 earlier this week, comes the reminder of what their presence has meant to the music industry. Since the five boys from Boston—Jordan Knight, Jonathan Knight, Donnie Wahlberg, Danny Wood, and Joey McIntyre—hit it big in the late 80’s and early 90’s, boy bands have been the source of much positivity and negativity. Truly, without NKOTB we would have no Justin Timberlake, a former boy band member that has sparked both critical acclaim as well as popularity.

Although NKOTB have never received as much praise from critics as Justin Timberlake’s solo material, they have received perhaps double the popularity from the fans. As a group they have sold over 80 million records, an astounding number for any musical act. This success, however, has not made the boy band any less of a taboo act in the industry.

Perhaps this is because few boy bands have been able to break the stigma of being manufactured, even while producing hit after hit. (Right now, only the British boy band Take That have been able to really make the move from taboo boy band to accepted band.) Even as One Direction stalks the top of the charts and sellout stadiums many see them as what is wrong with the music today. But sometimes we forget that the music industry exists to manufacture.

Boy bands will continue to rise and fall on the charts for as long as there are charts. The very thing that is taboo about boy bands, namely their so-called inability to make meaningful music, is the exact opposite of what fans find so enchanting about them: their ability to make meaningful music. Yet boy bands are about more than just songs; they are about an entire package of singing, dancing, fashion, personality, entertainment, and feeling.

Jordan Knight, the lead vocalist of NKOTB, says something similar: “There has to be a piece of magic in it. And that’s what we always look for. What makes your hair stand on end? What brings on the emotion? It’s not just about making a beat or playing music, it’s about the magic.”1

This magic is what every record company is looking for. And it is also what music critics make fun of. But no matter how much one may like or dislike boy bands, they will continue to cast their spells, and eventually they may even remove their taboo label.

To buy NKOTB’s new album go here.


1 Nikki Van Noy, New Kids on the Block: Five Brothers and a Million Sisters (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2012), E-book.