Photo by Taylor Schroeder featuring Mayah N. Hatcher for Mad Sounds Magazine Issue 20
The ages of 12-16 were odd to say the least. Middle school was filled with teen dream boys, including Justin Bieber, Cody Simpson and One Direction, along with my impromptu emo phase that took me all the way to my sophomore year of high school. Ouch. Though my tastes during these four years were day and night from each other, one thing all these eras of my music taste had in common was the lack of representation and high objectification in women. To say across the board this was true in every single artist I patronized would be a lie, but did Justin really have to refer to his love interest as his "prized possession"? Did Asking Alexandria really have to use the word “whore” in the place of every other word? As I reflected on my favorites from these impressionable points of my life, I began to analyse what could have changed for the better in my views on women depicted in music.
A lot has changed since I was in sixth grade. Cody Simpson has practically disappeared off the face of the earth, One Direction has broken up, and Justin Bieber is no longer singing “One Less Lonely Girl”. Being out of the loop, I enlisted the help of a tween/young teen expert: my 14-year-old sister, to guide me through what all the rage is these days. After listing a plethora of names I’ve either never heard or sink into the storm of irrelevancy, one artist stood out to be the ultimate favorite: Shawn Mendes. Shawn is everything you could possibly want, he plays acoustic guitar, is cute but unthreatening, and quirky in his own respect. His songs consist of a monotonous strum pattern and a string of endearing and thoughtful lyrics; Shawn Mendes is the whole package.
Obviously, being a fiend of pop music and the classic teen dream boat, I listened to his latest album and, though as I said previously, it’s quite cheesy (but then again, doesn’t that make it all the more charming?)
But the messages being described were incredibly positive towards women. His power-ballad, “Bad Reputation”, stood out especially to me. He claims, “all my friends seen her naked, or so the story goes…. Mistakes we all make them, but they won’t let go” along with, “I don’t care what they say about you baby, they don’t know what you’ve been through” and god, it’s so corny, but it’s also touching something that is hardly ever touched in mainstream music these days. With so many praises towards the “pure” woman being held so high in society, Shawn emphasizes the triviality of one’s past and even slightly hits on the wrongdoings of slutshaming. Though Shawn Mendes is no hero, it’s so important, considering his demographic, that these messages are put out there in pop music.
Growing up in a state of being consumed by music and culture, much like other tweens at the time, I wish I had gotten these positive messages much earlier on. Indulging in artists with powerful and strong messages about feminism and society in mainstream music, such as Rihanna, Alessia Cara and even Shawn Mendes, promotes an empowered generation. If we continue promoting bands and singers that talk down to and objectify the impressionable girls they sing to, we are only creating more stigma and backwards motions to going forwards in feminism. As trivial as it sounds, pop music matters.