Miley Cyrus vs. Taylor Swift: Does Sex Really Sell?
In today’s world, it seems as though the females in the entertainment industry are relying on over-sexualizing themselves to sell their music. We have all heard the common phrase “sex sells,” but does it, really? Amidst all the twerking and sledgehammer licking we see in today’s music videos, there are a few females that vow to keep it clean. Does how the public and media view these stars affect their sales, and how do those squeaky-clean stars’ numbers match up to this generation’s sexy youth?
Back in 2006, Miley Cyrus was America’s Sweetheart. Fast forward a couple years, and that image seemed to vanish in almost an instant. Miley first won her way into the hearts of America with her role as the teenage girl by day, country star by night, Hannah Montana, from 2008 to 2011. With the departure of the pop-princess image Ms. Montana gave Cyrus, came the new pixie-cut-twerking-rebel version of Miley we all know today. But was the transformation worth it?
In the wake of the new and (arguably) improved Miley, came her fourth studio album, Bangerz. The first single off the album, “We Can’t Stop” features questionable lyrics such as,”red cups and sweaty bodies everywhere/hands in the air like we don’t care/’cause we came to have so much fun now/ bet somebody here might get some now” and “everyone in line in the bathroom/trying to get a line in the bathroom/ we all so turnt up here/ getting turned up, yeah, yeah, yeah.” These lyrics, filled with sexual and drug related actions and innuendos, are leading many to believe that Miley is no longer a role-model for their young children. But Miley did not stop there. The second single, entitled “Wrecking Ball,” a touching ballad about her relationship with ex-boyfriend Liam Hemsworth, touched the hearts of fans everywhere. However, it was the music video that raised eyebrows and dropped jaws of those around the world.
Miley shocked the world with the release of this music video. Between licking a sledgehammer and mounting a wrecking ball naked, the world seemed the ask “what will Miley do next?” What she appeared to do next was set records. According to TIME, Miley’s music video for “Wrecking Ball” was the most watched music video in 2013 with over 371 million views. As for the rest of her album, Billboard reports that in May, Bangerz hit 1 million in sales and hit Platinum status in five countries, including the United States.
The Bangerz Tour, which began May 6, included Miley grinding on a gold car, twerking, and stimulating masturbation, and earned her $500,000 per appearance, according to Live Nation Entertainment. From a “hot mess” to “hot and heavy,” Miley has received mixed reviews on her album and tour. But with multiple Number 1’s on Billboard and a Grammy nomination for Best Pop Vocal Album, Miley seems to be laughing all the way to the bank.
On the total opposite side of the spectrum, Taylor Swift has remained America’s Sweetheart since her first single, “Tim McGraw,” in 2006. Known for her squeaky-clean image and tendency to write songs about ex-boyfriends, Swift has undergone a much more subtle transformation over the years from starting out as a country artist, to slowly rising to pop stardom. With five albums and three tours under her belt, Taylor Swift has taken the entertainment industry by storm, all while keeping her clothes on. And in today’s portrayal of females in the media, one may ask how Ms. Swift can achieve such success while being fully clothed. Like Cyrus, she started her career off in the country music genre at the young age of 14, and was an instant star in the eyes of the public. Her first album, properly entitled Taylor Swift, contained five successful singles and peaked at number 5 on Billboard Top 200 and has sold over 5 million copies in the US and 11 million worldwide since it’s release.
Taylor’s country-turned-pop album Red, released in 2012, is what marked her transition. The lead single, “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” marked Taylor’s first Billboard number 1 single and the album overall hit 4x Platinum status in the United States.
One of the reasons why the media portrays Swift in such a positive light is because she actively connects and interacts with her fans. As part of promotion for the album, Swift arranged a live web chat between herself and her fans. The chat generated over 72,000 fans while Taylor chatted about the album, and revealed its release date. In addition to this web chat, Swift surprised a fan at her home with gifts in November, contributing to her All-American-sweetheart image.
As far as her music videos go, they pale in comparison to Miley’s outrageous antics. Her quirky and colorful videos consist of her dancing with her real-life friends, or playing acoustic guitar in a computer generated field such as in the music video for Fifteen.
When it comes to awards, Taylor dominates in that category, as well. Out of the 531 awards she has been nominated for over her career, of those include seven Grammy nominations, she has won 317. She has been inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame and just recently won the Dick Clarke Award for Excellence at the 2014 American Music Awards.
Taylor’s most recent full-on pop album, 1989, was released on October 27th and within it’s first week, sold 1.2 million copies. With singles including “Shake it Off” and “Blank Space,” this album became Taylor’s third to sell over a million copies in it’s first week.
Although Taylor’s tours don’t consist of not-so-family-friendly outfits, they are just as theatrical as Miley’s. With elaborate sets and a team of dancers, Swift doesn’t just put on a concert, but an extravaganza of confetti and even guest appearances by stars such as Ellie Goulding and Sam Smith. In 2011, Swift began her Speak Now Tour to promote the album by the same name. By the end of the tour, Swift had generated over $97 million across the 89 shows. Swift is beginning her 1989 Tour on May 5th, which is expected to attract just as much success.
These two young stars, although they may be vastly different, are successful nonetheless. Whether they are wearing a glittering one-piece or a long-sleeved ballgown, their albums are selling and arenas are filled with adoring fans. With these two successful females in mind, does the idea of sex and sexual images- or lack there of- actually benefit these singers’ sales? Must young female entertainers prance around a stage half naked to gain supporters and attention, or is it all just another character they play?
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