If Male Musicians Were Described The Same Way As Female Musicians

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The doe-eyed Hozier (25) takes to the stage, clad all in black, and before he begins the chart-burning ‘Take Me To Church’, that he wrote himself, he peers out under his mane of luscious, beach hair to take in the crowd and smiles quietly to himself.

The raven-haired Dave Grohl, who has a smile that goes on for miles, shows his humorous side onstage as he fires off jokes, that are seemingly off the cuff. The jokes abruptly stop so he can focus before ripping into ‘Breakout’ and who could be the subject of that song.

Known to all as Taylor Swift’s best friend and Laura Sheeran’s younger cousin, Ed Sheeran has had a busy year. The flame-haired singer has a habit of writing heartbroken songs about his ex-girlfriends – including Ellie Goulding, who allegedly cheated on him with One Direction’s blond bombshell Niall Horan – while maintaining a happy-go-lucky, clean cut image in the press. Who’s next on his list to break his heart? Ladies, watch out. He’ll take that heartache and will make a hit song out of you.

Bruce Springsteen topless - HeadStuff.org

Bruce Springsteen flaunting his curves in his trademark barely-there jeans

In a white top that reveals just the smallest tease of greying chest hair, light blue denims and a tattered apron around his waist, Bruce Springsteen (65) invites us into his home. The white-washed walls are adorned with gold records, photos with celebrity friends and awards but the greatest achievement, he says, as the air is filled with the smell of the roast lamb he has cooking in the kitchen, is balancing life as a worldwide superstar and being an attentive father to his three children Jessica, Sam and Evan.

Eddie Vedder (50) is no stranger to noise so when the crowd in Dublin start a rousing chorus of ‘Olé Olé Olé’, he tucks his hair behind his ear and bares a toothy grin. Unlike the showy Jack White, Vedder modestly wears figure-hugging jeans and a loose-fitting plaid shirt as he sashays across the stage, guitar strap casually draped around his neck. The father-of-two quickly regains control of the crowd before wowing them with a heartfelt performance of ‘Alive’.

In what can only be perceived as a publicity stunt, the notoriously difficult Prince has called for tapes recorded from the radio with his music on them to be mailed to his Minnesota home. At 57, the twice-divorced, slender singer has been busy touring with his all-female band 3rdeyegirl so it’s a wonder he has the time to do anything else. Yesterday evening, he emerged in skintight yoga pants and a low-cut vintage shirt and pinned the delicately written open letter to the door of studio. The letter, written entirely in lilac calligraphy,  asks for all tapes containing copyrighted music to be returned to him where he shall then burn them in a ritual, cleansing bonfire. When asked by a photographer about his slim frame, he says: “I swear by bikram yoga, it’s the only way to stay in shape”, before turning on his heel, flaunting his famous rear and closing the church-like doors to his gothic mansion.

Kanye West is a feisty fellow. Unpredictable and outspoken, he makes sure that no one can pin him down. “I’m just being me, you know?” he explains, as he tries to ignore his phone that keeps vibrating on the crystal glass coffee table. His latest album is raw but he insists that he can juggle the roles of being an adoring father to North West and being an all-powerful, globe-trotting superstar. With the second baby on the way, I ask if he thinks it will slow down his workload. “No,” he chuckles, “my children and my wife inspire me daily. Without them, there would be no Kanye the godlike performer.”

Sting in his underwear - HeadStuff.org

Sting showing off his beach body during a recent break in Goa

Although many people say that Sting should give it up, the toned 63-year-old has no intentions of retiring just yet. His last album, the folk and jazz fused The Last Ship, was released to 2013 and in this modern age, when EDM and hip-hop are riding high in the charts, he has to compete with young musicians like Justin Bieber (21), Wiz Khalifa (27) and David Guetta (47) to remain relevant.

In person, Damien Rice is petit. Almost waif-like. The 41-year-old ex-boyfriend of Renee Zellweger insists that he loves to have a pizza night, just like the rest of us. “I’m not glitz and glam. Honestly,’ he says, as he takes a sip of his chilled Miller – Lite, if you must know. “I prefer nothing more than a Chinese takeaway or a quiet night out in Brady’s in Maynooth.” He may be known to those in Hollywood but it’s not a rarity to spot the singer hopping on the 67 from Celbridge into town to meet old friends for coffee.

There’s a softness to Bruno Mars. At 29 years of age, it seems as if he has lived this life more than once. What’s next for him? He sighs and looks off into the distance, his long eyelashes batting gently. Dusting a piece of lint of his crisp, white Prada shirt with his well-manicured hands, he shakes his head and asks “Who can ever answer that honestly?” He looks around his pristine beach house in Malibu, where he lives alone, and you wonder if his silence is echoing the silence in this home, which would comfortably fit a wife and three kids.

 

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About Author

Louise Bruton

Louise Bruton is a freelance journo, a popculture addict and a 90s music aficionado. Don't slag pop music near unless you are ready to fight.

50 Comments

  1. Brilliantly done. I never noticed how different the style of writing could be with male and female musicians!

  2. It strikes me that this kind of writing is more to do with the focus of the writer and their readership and less to do with the gender of the person they are writing about. I can imagine all of the above being presented, as is, in any glossy magazine or tabloid paper that does not claim any depth of knowledge on the subject of music. Any music journalist, who is good at what they do, connects with, and usually writes about, the music, the atmosphere and the performance of a show. Some male and female performers wish to engage the audience visually and so put emphasis on their costumes and appearance (Prince, Lady Gaga etc.), so from a wider cultural perspective, it doesn’t seem unwarranted in reviews, that some part of the commentary therein tends to this aspect of the performance.

  3. I remember interviewing Sam Beam (Iron & Wine) some years ago and being handed a list of questions I should not ask. None of these questions had anything to do with his music but were about how he dealt with touring and being a family man, why he had a beard, etc. He thanked me afterwards for the interview because I had focused on his music. So I do agree the kind of magazine definetely plays a role here.

  4. Sure. It’s just that every time a woman is interviewed, the writer and their readership just happen to be more interested in descriptions of her appearance and personal life than when a man is interviewed.

    It’s just a coincidence.

  5. Are there any quantitative studies done that you have based this “every time” on with respect to the factors I outlined above? Perhaps one that takes a sample of writing from across the board and indicates some result that actually substantiates what is, at present, clearly just your own selective perception and subjective impression of things? Cause if not, you owe sarcasm an apology.

  6. Sure, Clara. Let me just pull those stats out of my ass for you. After all, proving that women are dismissed and diminished to someone who will excuse the behavior ad nauseum is very important to me.
    Let me just get changed in my lululemon yoga pants, plain white t-shirt (is it Hanes?! I think it is!) and ballet-flat slippers before I power up my pink laptop, put on a pair of stylish, sexy librarian glasses and put my hair up in a messy knot before I start.*
    *I just thought I’d write that out in a way you’re appreciate.

  7. Way to completely deflect a valid point. Tabloids and buzz articles will always sex’ify people, either gender. It’s how they get views/money.

  8. Sure. What about Rolling Stone? Why do they do it? Or, Musician magazine. Or Vanity Fair.

    I’ll wait.

  9. Keep waiting. I don’t read crap articles from overrated magazines or websites. Sorry that you fall for gossip, nonsense, and a celebrity fronted magazines. Maybe you shouldn’t make blanket statements about interviewers because the money-grabbers offend you.

  10. So, you don’t read magazines but you told me why there is no sexism in their reporting.

    Well, I’m sorry I waited at all. You obviously have nothing of value to say.

  11. Well now…sounds to me like you give female image, appearance and stereotypes quite a lot of thought based on that description… It’s not surprising that that’s what you focus in on then when you read music reviews.

  12. Josephine Liptrott on

    Don’t waste your time, Lakey. One of those handmaidens who wails “But what about the menz??!” whenever a woman tries to make a serious point about sexism and the way women are denigrated or objectified. No point arguing someone so determined to collaborate with the patriarchy.

  13. Also, I can’t believe I forgot to mention this, there are a lot of studies done on sexism in print media. I’m not finding them for you because I’m not your librarian. Do some research.

  14. Perhaps you should focus on why articles full of sexism sell? When it’s a female being interviewed, the common male isn’t concerned with their fashion choices.

  15. Perhaps you should focus on why articles about female musicians are apparently only of interest to women and wonder why it is that women can manage to read an article on a male musician that doesn’t include fashion.
    Or, keep being stupid. You’re call.

  16. Haha now you want me to do the research for you to back up your highly subjective unsubstantiated claims? If you want to make a valid point, then I suggest you provide the research to back it up. Although if you’re going to take it out of your ass, you might want to be able to smell your own bullshit first.

  17. Can you not see that we are clearly discussing something very specific here?

    Here it is:
    I posted a comment with a view that made serveral contextual distinctions in relation to what is presented in the article. You replied by implying that “every time” a female musician is interviewed, there is more interest in her appearance than when any male is interviewed… A claim which you have, thus far, failed to support in any coherent way.

    And as for how you arrived at : “You want me to prove sexism exists to you?” I’m none the wiser.

    If you can’t even keep focused on the actual topic up for debate, you’re wasting everyone’s time here.

  18. You’re still off topic, but I’ll humour you and that selective perception of yours.

    If you’d actually bothered to read that published article, you’d have seen that their conclusion clearly states:

    “Yet in this article we have taken important steps toward empirically documenting the prevalence and intensity of the sexualization of men and women in popular culture. And what we found is striking: sexualized representations of both women and men increased”

    They did claim to find that women were more ‘hyper-sexualised’ than men in the images. Again we were talking about text media here…reviews etc. ^ But if you want to dwell on the image issue, you could also note that most females on the covers of rolling stone in the study were not musicians – they were actors and models and celebrities in general. So again, different topic. Of those who were music orientated, most were manufactured pop artists objectifying themselves because it is part of their ‘fame’ package. I digress….

    This is all not to mention the fact that my original comment clearly accounts for magazines such as Rolling Stone in that they are far more likely to contain this kind of writing because of their readership.

    So I’m still left perplexed as to why you are insisting that something is true “every time” without taking other factors into account. But best of luck with that …

  19. bullcrap. this kind of writing happens in musician based magazines, tabloids, national press etc. Everywhere

  20. Josephine Liptrott on

    Oh, sure. “The tousled-haired, voluptuous father of four showed off his pert beach body in skimpy denim…” SAID NO MUSIC JOURNALIST ABOUT A MAN. EVER.

  21. Ted Govostis on

    Don’t expect logical consistency from this crowd Clara. When it comes to something like human sex trafficking they will more than willingly (and for the most part, rightfully so) blame the consumer of the service (mostly men, by a large margin) for being the ones to perpetuate the cycle of mistreatment of women. This example is one I have to agree with.

    On the other hand, when the offending sexist product is one consumed almost entirely by women, suddenly the consumer plays no role in perpetuating the cycle, and it is all someone else’s fault.

  22. Yes, and human sex traffickers don’t gender discriminate either. There are plenty of male victims too.

    All of these points suggest that none of these issues are gender-based at their core, but are issues of certain populations at large.

  23. Very sharp. If the roles were truly reversed, though, there would be no mention of 3rdeyegirl being an “all-female” band.

  24. I always call bands with no women in them all boy bands, and I get funny looks, and a please explain look. Seems logical, if there are no women in the band.

  25. Can we just pause and appreciate that Bruce Springsteen picture? Because holy hell.

  26. Christian Friis Jensen on

    I laughed way, way, WAAAY too hard at the David Guetta bit. I had no idea he was an actual adult; since he mixes and produces music the way a particularly dumb 12-year old would.

  27. Point taken, but it’s a lot funnier in theory than on the page and it’s very poorly written and punctuated.

  28. Dean Martian on

    Jim Morrison & Mick Jagger get eyed up & down by all women. If they’re rich & powerful enuf they ARE viewed like female musicians. The difference is women don’t have to be rich & powerful to be viewed that way. It’s a double standard that women are only too happy to perpetuate.

  29. Nicolas Galvis on

    you said it yourself, “difference is women dont have to be rich and powerful to be viewed [up and down]” and the fact that you say “viewed like female musicians” goes to prove that it’s not a double standard.

  30. Yeah WOMEN are all about perpetuating constant ogling. Sure sounds like something women want. Yuuup.

  31. Well done Louise! But remember that the obverse of all that sexual attention is that many talentless women get a pass because of their attractiveness. A “guy review” of Luscious Jackson might read “They can barely play guitar & bass but fortunately have a drummer who kicks ass. However they *are* able to play barre chords, which separates them from The Bangles, who had studio musicians do all the hard work of playing their parts.”

    Of course your point is well taken though!

  32. I had a date with a guy who actually asked me why there weren’t any famous lead guitar players. “Male Domination”, I exclaimed.

  33. GlassSpiider on

    “At 68 the notoriously androgynous David Bowie can still turn heads of women and men alike— though maybe not at the same breakneck pace as he did in his Jazzin’ for Blue Jean days. Between his international supermodel wife of 20+ years, the stunning Iman, and his critically-acclaimed filmmaker son, the eclectic Duncan Jones, Bowie still has ample reason to beam with pride even in his golden years. And beam he does, broadly displaying his snaggle-toothed grin with an impish twinkle in his signature heterochromatic eyes. “I have no regrets,” he purrs, curling the corner of his thin lips into a coy smirk and gazing into the middle distance in a way that makes one wonder if even now he’s writing this conversation into a song in his still-virile mind…”

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