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In today’s music industry many artists dominating the charts take time out to lend their voice to good causes. They may relate to problems such as world famine, body issues, war and lately even gay rights. This may seem like something truly commendable as famous individuals lend their name (and hundreds of thousands of twitter followers) to a cause in order to give it a greater voice. However, in relation to gay rights just how much of this advocacy is truly on behalf of those suffering and how much is for personal gain?
This may sound a little cynical to some who believe these stars are truly helping gay men and women across the world become more accepted, which to extent they are. However, whilst having a big name star promoting a cause is a guaranteed way to make a mark for it, for the star it is also a way of gaining yourself a loyal fan base that will stick by you. The audience think you ‘get them’. The cynicism enters when thinking about gay men and women as the power of the pink pound and its appeal to PR executives everywhere is remarkable. Leading mostly metropolitan lives and statistically freer from the financial black-hole of childrearing, our demographic are often thought to have more disposable income. For many this is mostly true.
When you think about gay rights advocacy and celebrities today, one of the biggest stars that come to the forefront of most people’s minds is Lady Gaga. Now I am by no means accusing her of not believing in equality for everyone, in fact she has done quite a lot over the last few years to help LGBT advancement, but you cannot help but feel there is a slight marketing push behind it.
After watching her concert on DVD you are left with the feeling that the chanting about gay rights is a little too much overkill. Sometimes it feels as though she is trying too hard to ensure that those in the audience who are gay know that she loves them. Also when you listen to her album Born This Way, the running theme of gay rights throughout it is incredibly obvious, so much so that it starts to annoy you. It has to be said that the title song of the album was a brilliant way to gain exposure across the world for gay rights (I know it advocated rights and equality for everyone but the message for the LGBT community was much stronger), but also a great way to guarantee gay men and women would buy the single and the album and that it would be played as a gay anthem for years to come.
Now I do not want this to sound like I am ripping into Lady Gaga, after all she wouldn’t be the first star to have a large gay following, although she seems to be one of the first to specifically target them. That said her predecessor Madonna did this but in a much subtler way.
‘Vogue’ was a massive hit worldwide back in 1990 and it is well known now that voguing was very popular on the New York gay scene. Madonna helped bring this facet of gay subculture into the mainstream. However, back then it would have been much harder to publicly back LGBT people through song in the way Gaga has today due to widespread homophobia, the legacy of the HIV/AIDS epidemic of the 80s and the fact that as a community, equality was still a long way away in many more countries than it is today.
So when you look at it that way pandering to a gay audience has been going on for some time, whether it has been obvious or not. Rewind to the 50s and 60s when the biggest gay icon of them all Judy Garland was selling out concerts all across the world that were known to be frequented quite prominently by gay men. However, back then there was no marketing or pandering to gays and as Judy quipped when asked about her gay following, “I couldn’t care less. I sing to people.“ I’m quite sure that if being gay wasn’t the crime it was back then, some marketing savvy individual would have had her shouting out for gay rights across the globe.
So maybe it’s not the stars, maybe it is the marketing companies and their strategic soapboxing of stars that grinds my gears. By advocating a certain fight for equality they tap into a lucrative market in an attempt to exploit it for all they can. After all, stars such as Madonna and Lady Gaga just want to sing, entertain, love their fans (so they say) and be appreciated. As most people know, companies involved in marketing, advertising and PR are out for one thing and one thing only: Money.
So yes maybe stars are pandering to the capital of the pink pound, but is it because the teams behind them are exploiting them, and in turn exploit the pockets of fans across the world? I’ll let you think about that one.