The Burden of Being a Male Sex Symbol: Can An Artist Sell Sex And Still Have Their Music Taken Seriously?

July 25, 2012  |  

Didn’t you dig the way I rubbed your back girl?

Wasn’t it cool when I first kissed your lips?

Was it enough to penetrate your dark world?

Or were you embarrassed about the way you freaked?

For those who don’t know, those are the opening lyrics to the alluring and jam-worthy song, “Till The Cops Come Knockin‘” by Maxwell. Not only is it one of my favorite songs by the sultry singer, but with him writhing on the floor in the video in front of his muse, it was definitely one of my favorite videos by the brotha too. In fact, pretty much anything Maxwell does, I’m a huge fan of. Though I got on the Maxwell train late in life (I was still in elementary school–not even junior high–when he dropped Urban Hang Suite), that hasn’t stopped me from having all of his CDs on my computer, and it didn’t stop me from running to the store the day BLACKsummers’night was released after his eight-year hiatus. You could say that in the eight years he had the chance to do his own thing, cut off his hair and live life like any every day 9-5 working individual running errands and trying to mind their business, I had eight years to get fully acquainted with his amazing work–and his fine self.

Being a big fan, and one who often does the Evening Eye Candy slideshows on Monday nights for the site, I decided to show Max some love. In the slideshow, I tried to do a progression of what he looked like early in his career, to what the brotha looks like now–still fine and aging like a fine wine. But to show pictures of the past, you have to be reminded of the loveliness that was his afro. Many men have worn an afro and looked…aight, some hot, but there was something about the way it added to Maxwell’s personality  that was just so alluring. It helped him stand out in a time where male R&B singers and rappers damn near looked the same. I didn’t want to ask the same obvious question of, “Isn’t he fine, ya’ll?” when I posted the picture on Facebook and Twitter, so I posted an old pic of the man and asked our followers if they loved him with the fro, without the fro, or love the brotha no matter what? I meant no harm by the question, and I knew it would start a good conversation.

Flash forward to near the end of that week when my co-worker text me to let me know that Maxwell, the REAL thing, tweeted MN about the slideshow. I was standing in a dressing room at H&M jumping around in excitement. My text went something like this:

ME: “SAY WHAAAAAAAAAAAAT!?  What did he say???”

FRIEND: “Cuz you asked the fro question…He said “we gotta move forward, nothing worse than using a visual crutch…makes the music cheaper, a stunt” Loool cuz our followers were blowing his timeline up!”

I definitely wasn’t expecting that response, and knowing that the question possibly upset one of my favorite singers, I felt pretty bad. But that was until my friend gave me the real deal: “We love him but needs to stop playing. How you gon’ sing songs about sex and then think women aren’t going to look at you? Boy please. Since when has music been just about the auditory?”

After she shared her opinions with me, I thought she had a profound point. In my mind, I see nothing wrong with singers and artists selling sex–even if just occasionally–to fans to get them entertained, excited, and on their side. But I have a problem when these same artists talk about how they feel the attraction towards their looks, body, booty or whatever, is a distraction from their talents and music. Nicki Minaj once said that she wasn’t trying to be sexay (spelled like that on purpose), yet homegirl can be seen rolling around in the world’s tiniest bikini in her video to “Starships,” or popping her booty RIGHT IN FRONT OF THE CAMERA in videos like “Stupid H*e,” and “Dance A** (Remix).” You can’t be a sex symbol if you keep your clothes on and your booty still, folks. I’m just saying.

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