New Reels: ‘Rub’ by Peaches

This week we look at the definitley NSFW new video from Peaches, and artist who divides opinion in a way few others do and ask what this video says about the role of sex in modern pop music.

Sex sells, or so the old adage goes, and nowhere more does it sell than in the world of music. From the swivelling hips of Elvis “The Pelvis” Presley through the ambiguous strutting and preening of Jagger, Bowie and Bolan, and later on the brazen flaunting of Madonna it’s been a key currency for artists wanting to tap in to something both risque and yet utterly universal. Even the term ‘rock n’ roll’ has it’s roots in sexual connotations, and yet these days that whole sex, drugs and rock n’ roll thing seems incredibly cliched, a remant of a time when musical stars were untouchable gods living lives of extravagent excess and hedonism.

In more recent times representations of sex in music have become much more brazen. It started of course with the aforementiond Madonna who in the late 80’s and beyond used sex to deliberately shock. later on it became a staple subject for rappers, albeit in a crude and often misogynistic way, and was also taken up by a succession of pop starlets like Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera. These days we have Miley Cyrus, who with every successive antic (like her recent donning of a giant strap-on dick) become more and more tedious and predictable.

And so on to Peaches, and artist who has been using exploring sex and gender throughout her career, sometimes to interesting effect and sometimes not. This latest video, the title track from her most recent lp, is as you’ll see full of female nudity, orgiastic revelling, female urination, and lewd lyrics. Now, questions of whether this is a sexually liberating expression of sex/sexuality or simply furthering the objectification of the female form in a still incredibly patriarchal music business aside (that’s a long conversation in itself too big for right now) what is the overall effect of this in artistic terms? In an age where hardcore pornography of every kind is simply a few clicks away, is there anything confrontational or challenging here? And if not, why not, as surely that would validate it artistically?

The truth is that Peaches schtick has started to seem, well, a little boring. There’s something almost a little desperate about this video, and the song, in that it wants to thrill or shock or maybe even arouse you, but seems to be trying a little too hard and as a result left me a little empty. The frankness of this video is not a strength but instead a rather blunt mallet hitting you over the head. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy it, I kinda did, but having watched it I’m not sure I need to again. The initial shock value was paling just after it finished.

And herein lays the problem with the whole sex/music relationship in 2015. There’s really nowhere left for it to go. What’s next? A 4 graphic minute video of actual fucking? Shit, the internet is full of actual fucking. The reason Elvis or Jagger or even Madonna were seen as dangerous was because they existed in a time prior to the mass mediation of sex. There was still a sense of mystery surrounding it, and thus the context was different. Today schoolkids can and do watch sex on their phones. It’s lost it’s mystique to the point where a video like this is only mildly surprising. Maybe it’s time pop music put it’s clothes back on and started saying something different, something interesting. All Peaches gives us here is a prime example of just how vacuous so much of modern musical culture has become.


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