Contemporary R&B Music Videos: A Manifesto

Glitz. Glamour. Fashion. Fame. Sensuality.

Contemporary R&B artists embody all of these things. Their music videos shape who they are as artists, and how they present themselves to the world. They showcase the talents of these artists, from singing to dancing to fashion. These talents are often portrayed in a very sexual way. Yet, R&B music videos attract a wide range of people, regardless of race, age, or gender. Their popularity and sexual nature lend them much potential to promote social change. Video makers must be conscious of this potential, so that R&B music videos are used to reinforce positive self-images and social norms regarding women and gender equality.

Some R&B music videos sexually objectify women. They show unknown bodies and pretty faces dancing provocatively in skimpy outfits. The purpose these women serve in the video? To cater to the male artist’s desires and ego. This message must not be shown to the world. A woman’s sole purpose is not to serve a man. Her sexuality is not defined in his terms. She has desires and talents of her own, and these must be demonstrated to the world.

Female R&B artists demonstrate these things. Makeup, high-heels, and sex appeal. These women know how to use their music videos to show off what they got. And what they got is usually pretty sexy. But their sex appeal is not their only talent. They write lyrics, sing, and dance, providing entertainment to millions. Take Beyoncé’s “Diva” music video for example. I’d like to see a man walk in those heels, let alone dance in them.

In music videos like these, the artists’ overt sexuality does not objectify her; in fact, it does quite the opposite. It shows that a woman can be confident in her sexuality and also be extremely talented. She has a personality, a successful profession, and all the fame and glamour a person could dream of. Yes, sexuality is one of her many assets (pun intended); however, she has complete ownership over it, and it is not her only skill. Her stunner looks simply augment her status as an independent, successful, and powerful woman. So basically, these videos portray female sexuality in a positive light. This is the message R&B music video creators need to send. We need to let the viewers know that it’s no longer the 1960s, and that they’re not Don Draper. And sure, women’s capabilities are much more recognized in today’s society, but we’re going for complete gender equality here. None of this subtle bias towards men that creates statistics like how men on average earn more than woman who do the same job. If you’re a guy reading this, I’m pretty sure Beyoncé gets paid more than you. But I could be wrong.

Anyways, I applaud female R&B artists, who show us that women can be successful like men and look good doing it. Music video creators should illustrate this fact. They must use their powers of creation to continue portraying female sexuality in a positive light. Not only will they be creating something visually appealing and entertaining, but they will also be reinforcing a lesson in gender equality. Videographers, you not only have the power to entertain, but you also have the power to promote social change. Realize this potential, and embrace it.