Role models In music

When I was growing up I had many role models in music. I’ve been reflecting on those role models and the influence they had on me. The band Talking Heads were quite an influence, I related to their arty intellectualism and their quirky expression. Madonna was another one. The 14 year old me saw an ambitious, determined, woman who was demanding the world's attention and was getting it.

I’m interested in exploring the idea of role models in music and the level of influence they have and what effect this has on us as people.

Did you have a role model in music as you were growing up? What parts of them were you influenced by?

To get myself started I checked out an Aria singles chart online today. I wanted to get a snapshot of what music people are buying these days. I used to watch the chart religiously when I was younger, but I haven’t for many years now, so I thought I’d just check in and see what’s going on. I know from my experience as an artist that it’s mainly young teenagers – 13, 14 ,15 year olds who buy singles and dictate the charts. So I wanted to see what young Australians are taking in musically and visually.

As I looked and listened I became increasingly aware of the feeling of desperation I was getting from these videos and the music coming through my speakers.

I admit I’ve been out of touch with it all, but I was surprised at how far it’s gone and how much the artists were competing to get my attention. Women were naked and posing in pornographic positions, one was licking a sledge hammer and riding naked on wrecking ball and that’s just a few of the visuals. The sounds and the songs felt like they were saying – “Help me, I’m desperate ... or look at me, somebody see me.”

I know popular music has almost always been about rebellion and pushing boundaries, that’s nothing new and I played my part in that too when I was a young artist. But how far will we go? And how far is too far? Is it ok for our young men and women who are looking for role models to be bombarded by these type of visuals? What effect is it having on them?

Is a naked young woman swinging on a wrecking ball empowering herself? What message does this send to young girls and boys about being a woman?

What message does the song Blurred Lines send out to young men about being a man? The irony of rebellion and so called empowerment in music is something that’s worth studying.

On the same note, the latest clip by Rihanna is no different to walking into a strip club. There are women in G-strings gyrating and giving their power away to men and money. We don’t allow children into strip clubs, but here it all is in front of them in a music video.

Here are some questions I’ve been asking.

How do our role models affect us? How much of their way of being do we take on?

  • Is it just the way they look?
  • The clothes they wear?
  • Or is it also the things they do?
  • Their behaviours? The way they walk, speak, treat and relate to other people??
  • How many tattoos or body piercings they have?
  • How much they demand our attention?
  • How aggressive or obscene they are?
  • What’s actually going in and how much do we take on?
  • Especially when we are young and hungry for role models?

As mentioned above, when I was a teenager, Madonna was one of my role models and the effect she had on me was profound.

I read her biography and any press I could find. I was influenced by her music and her way of being, her ambition and her way of pushing herself to get things done and achieving. When she took on a punishing fitness regime so did I. Running up to 10kms daily and sculpting my body until I had an unhealthy level of body fat. I could see how she did things to stand out and get attention and how she was loved by the public for this.

For me as a young woman this was a simple equation of:

  • work hard
  • be really, really good at what you do
  • be so good that you stand out
  • being seen – win recognition
  • popularity
  • have lots of friends
  • gain a feeling of value and worth.

Don’t get me wrong, in no way am I blaming Madonna for this. These were my choices and I am responsible for them.

However I feel that the power of role models and their influence on us can not be underestimated.

The other day I saw a ten year old girl for her first singing lesson.

During the lesson she explained to me how she loves Katy Perry, and how she really, really wants to be successful and famous like her. When I asked her why she wanted to be famous she said words to the effect of – “I don’t know ... I just want to be famous." I could relate, as this is exactly how I felt when I was her age.

On that note I feel to conclude the article with one question: Who are your, or your children’s role models in music?

Filed under

EmpowermentSelf-worthRole modelsPornographyMusicMusic videos

  • By Rachael Kane, Singer / Songwriter

    Rachael is a singer/songwriter and singing and expression teacher who is interested in the true health and well-being of people.

  • Photography: Clayton Lloyd