Are pop singers exploiting gay people? Mykki Blanco certainly thinks so. Le1f thinks so. These might just sound like fringe elements on the music scene, but there's a growing number of people that think that the way some pop music is being targeted towards gay people has ventured into exploitation territory - and Britney Spears, Lady Gaga, Macklemore and Katy Perry are all coming under fire for it.
In case you missed it, earlier this week Britney Spears rush released her new song "Work Bitch". I loved it - it's a solid 8-9/10 dance song. It'll certainly have no problems getting played at gay clubs - which seemed to be the point Mykki was trying to make. The tweets (which have since been deleted but were screencapped) called the single "tacky" and asked "is it just me or is EVERY female pop star currently in a war to secure as many GAY fans and gay $ as possible ?". Last month, gay rapper Le1f criticised Macklemore's marriage equality song "Same Love", saying that "gay people don't care about your video about gay people.". Back in 2011 when Born This Way and Firework were released, both Gaga and Katy faced accusations of pandering.
Even if we're to go with the stereotype that gay people only listen to music specifically aimed at them, there's a fine line between exploitation and being a target market. The "pink pound" is well established now - it's worth £6bn in the UK alone and estimated $2tn worldwide. We're certainly a bankable lot. To many people, the gay community is a target market. Madonna, Cher, Gaga and the likes have made loads off it. The whole music industry revolves around target markets, all types of people can be broken down and targeted by record company execs based on what it's assumed they'll like. But the thing about having a target market is - you have to please the people you're targeting. Or at the very least, they have to feel they're getting something out of it too.
To be exploited, someone has to have been used without them getting anything in return. Pop musicians might well be using gay people or gay culture in their music, but it's not as if we don't get anything back. Madonna, Macklemore and Gaga all work tirelessly promoting gay rights, putting the very high public platform they're afforded to good use. And we've no reason to doubt the sincerity of their words.
Even though some musicians don't devote as much time to talking about the issues as others, they're making catchy music that a large amount of gay people enjoy. Britney may not voice support frequently (she doesn't really do much in the way of public speaking since her breakdown), but she seems to be a good person and all she's done is made a song her fan base will like.
Sometimes large parts of the gay community develop an affinity with a certain artist, and that artist may feel they want to reciprocate by making music their fans will love. To anyone who doesn't get what the fuss is about this might seem like one way exploitation, when it's more like a two way relationship formed out of admiration and respect. It takes a really cold hearted cynic to think that all musicians see when they look out into their audience is cash cows - don't forget they got into music for more than just making money. And yes, sometimes music is made with the goal of selling it to a certain group of people. As with Work Bitch and many others, this amounts to giving people what they'll enjoy. If it didn't sell, it wouldn't work.
In any case, the simplest thing to do if you feel an artist is exploiting you because of your sexuality is to just not buy their music. You're not obligated to buy into anything you don't feel good about. If you want to change anything, you'll find with your wallet is the most effective way to start.
Have a listen to Britney's "Work Bitch" below -- what do you think about Blanco's claims?