Disney has produced some successful and unsuccessful musical artist. From Britney Spears to Selena Gomez some Mouseketeers have proven that with a popular platform such as Disney one could and should go very far. But what happens in the transition period between the protection of Disney and the real world music industry? How does an artist “undisneyfies” themselves, how do they shed the label of a cute young Disney star? Looking in the music industry today there seems to be one logical answer for women, sexualization.
This adaptation of a sexual image is not only seen visually through music videos but also heard lyrically and musically. Because of the ages that these artists emerge from under Disney’s wings one could argue that the decision to take on a more sensual image is upon the artist and while another can dispute that one’s image is a result of who writes the music. Gina Vivinetto, a popular music critic once commented that, “No matter how seriously she once took herself, no matter how good her voice or her level of talent, she must start looking like a tramp. Tramp in this context is a slang word for a harlot or floozy. This transformation from an innocent child to a “tramp” visually displays the maturity of the artist, the migration from a child/teenager to an adult. Britney Spears in 1993 at twelve in the Mickey Mouse Club old singing “I’ll Take You There”, is visually different than Britney in 1998 at seventeen when she produces her album …Baby One More Time. In viewing the Mickey Mouse Club video, Spears at twelve years old wears shorts, a blouse with what looks like combat boots.
Despite her age in the Mickey Mouse Club video, Britney, due to makeup, style of clothing and the choreography performed, looks as if she is a short thirteen, fourteen-year-old. About five years later Spears would release her music video “…Baby One More Time. ” Spears, in this video, changes about three times, starting off as a high school private school student, adorning herself with a short skirt, an unbuttoned blouse tied to the front showing very minimal cleavage, knee high socks, shoes and braided pigtails.
The image that Spears sends is one that is very innocent and almost childlike. Even though it looks innocuous, it is this sense of purity and virginity that makes it seductive. It is in the wide-eyed look of her eyes when she says “hit me baby one more time”, the not so innocent dance moves and choice of clothing that makes one question the motives of this video and even the song itself. Written by male songwriter Max Martin“…Baby One More Time” lyrically places Britney as the sorry ex-girlfriend who “should not have let her boyfriend go” thus begging him to take her back.
But what is questionable in this song is when Britney sings “there’s nothing that I wouldn’t do” and when she sings “hit me baby one more time. ” The lines can suggest that Spears wants to go back to an abusive relationship and that she is willing to do anything to get there. Or “hit me baby” can mean she wants him to contact her, to “hit her line. ” While one interpretation is more innocent than the other the implication that Britney’s emotions and sanity are controlled by a male figure is still present especially she sings “when I’m not with you / I lose my mind.
The female Mouseketeers following Britney Spears tend to break from their Disney shell in the same manner. This year popular artist Selena Gomez follows the revitalization by sexualization with her new song “Good For You. ” Selena Gomez’s career begins to blossom in 2007 through the Disney Channel show Wizards of Waverly Place. It is in between 2007 and 2012 when Wizards of Waverly Place’s series finale takes place where Gomez’s musical career takes off. Selena’s first album in 2009 was with her band Selena Gomez and the Scene’s Kiss and Tell.
Like Spears, Gomez was about seventeen when her album was produced, but their videos are very different. Spears had an innocent but sexual look in her music video while Gomez in her video “Naturally” maintains her young, innocent image, without adding the touch of sensuality. This could be that up until 2012 Gomez was still acting in her Disney show thus having a connection to that younger audience. Like Spears, Selena after completing her time as a Disney star continues her road to musical fame.
In trying to shed her former image, Selena takes the same route as Britney with her breakout 2013 single “Come and Get It” which is very sensual lyrically and visually. This trend of sexuality seems to continue into 2015 with the release of her song “Good For You. ” Visually in the music video, Selena is seen in multiple postures that are suggestive. This includes a shower scene from the neck up, her sitting on a stool with wet hair and wearing what seems to be only an oversized white t-shirt and Selena laying and sitting in different love seats, tousling and tossing her hair.
Along with the video, the lyrics along with Selena’s vocal tone gives a voluptuous perception. writers Julia Michaels, Justin Tranter, Sir Nolan, Nick Monson writes lines such as “Gonna wear that dress you like, skin-tight / Do my hair up real, real nice” “let me show you how proud I am to be yours,” as well as “ ‘Cause I just wanna look good for you…,” suggesting objectivity. They also write, “ you say I got a touch so good,” “they say I give it you hard,” as well as “leave that dress a mess on the floor,” which places the imagery on Selena’s body and subtly but still obviously talking about sexual intercourse.
But what brings both the music video and the lyrics together is Gomez’s whisper like vocal tone, evoking a sense of secrecy and sexuality. If one could categorize sexuality in music Allison Faupel and Vaughn Schmutz seem to have superbly broken it into three categories; “(1) the artist as a sexual object; (2) the artist as a sexual subject; and (3) the music as sexual. ” Both “Good For You” sung by Selena Gomez and “…Baby One More Time” sung by Britney Spears at least fits into one or two of these categories.
All be it Gomez in “Good For You” and Spears in “…Baby one More Time” have no writer’s credit to both of their songs as well as both songs are written by a male or a majority male co-writers. This male viewpoint could be the reason behind the hyper sensualized visual and auditory representation of these artists, playing into the audience’s expectation of “subjective considerations of beauty, while also fulfilling the stereotype of women being “naive, virginal creatures” as well as “lustful beings. Also, since the goal is trying to detach oneself from one’s former Disney characterization the process of seeing “the girl next door” who at the end of her career “blooms” or comes into her own, is clearly seen when dealing with the physical body. If the singer is the songwriter, the question now becomes who is actually responsible the artist or the music? When looking at the singer, songwriter and former Disney star Demi Lovato, one could conclude that it is the artist choice.
Before the release of her 2015 song “Cool For The Summer” Lovato, for the majority of the time, has shown very little to no cleavage and very minimal to none suggestive or sensual movements or positions in her music videos. It is with “Cool for the Summer” that visually , wearing a skin tight faux leather body suit, lyrically, with lines such as “got your mind on your body / and your body on my mind” as well as musically, by singing in a light, playful voice that Demi paints a picture of a sexually curious female.
Here Lovato takes on Jewel’s statement from her song “Intuition” which says “if you want to have something to sell, sell you self. ” She seems to not use sexuality as a transition from childhood to adulthood but more as a statement of empowerment. While looking at the female artist, who are trying to shed their previous Disney image, for males this transition seems to be much easier, and less sexual. For women in pop, music sexuality seems to be a part of the criteria while for men sexuality is a marketing tool that is used sparingly.
Why is that? Well according to Bobby Campbell, Lady Gaga’s manager, male music is leaning more towards talent. Justin Timberlake, former Mouseketeer who performed along with Britney Spears in 1993 singing “I’ll Take You There”, is a prime example. He is “a fundamentally professional grounded guy” he sings, dances, and plays an instrument, which is the formula other legendary popular artist such as Michael Jackson, were able to do. This double standard criterion places women in a tight situation.
If femininity is connected to sexuality, and one’s sexuality can confirm or deny one’s legitimacy as an artist, then the more sexual a female artist is the more authentic she is. The more sensual she is the wider an audience she will reach. In undisneyfying her image, the artist may have a choice in deciding either to play into the hands of society or allowing her music to speak first and then her body. Overall unless one speaks with the artist themselves one could guess and speculate that the objectification of the artist body is the result of how the music was written or a personal choice.