Can Beauty Be Defined?


What is beauty and can it really be defined? Different cultures and backgrounds all have a very different point of view of what beauty is. Surely everyone has heard the old adage that ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder.’ But what does that mean? If you look at humanity and its recent addiction to outer beauty, it becomes evident that mankind has a pre-occupation with how he or she looks and is unfortunately often judged by others based on his or her exterior packaging. But this problem did not just start; man has been pre-occupied with his looks ever since someone invented the ‘looking glass’ for him to peer into.
What has changed is the meaning of beauty or what passes for beauty in this modern society; and if you were to single out art and more specifically music, upon examining a little closer you will find that not only does the meaning of the word beauty change but it changes so drastically from genre to genre. Music has and always will play a vital role in the lives of people. But because music has the ability to touch you on a deep emotional level, it is often more visual than tonal. When you close your eyes and think of your favorite song, was that song perhaps associated with a movie, or music video or if you’re lucky you had the pleasure of just listening to music without all of the distractions and you associate that song with a memory, good or bad.
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For those who grew up during BET and VH1 or MTV the fact is that they have a handful of music executives, bean counters determining what images are to represent a particular song or an entire genre of music. Unfortunately, the highly sexual materialistic songs that glorify money, cars and fast loose women, does a great injustice to the listening audience.  Especially when it comes to specific genres like mainstream rap/hip hop; black women are often paraded around half naked with exaggerated body parts (silicon injected butts and boobs) that are supposed to personify beauty. But beautiful to whom? 
And if we were to compare what passes for beautiful from different types or genres of music the contrast is even more shocking. For instance let’s compare classical music to mainstream rap or even hip hop. Classical music by its name implies that it is a classic, a standard bearer and the women that are often depicted by artist or associated with this type of music are supposed to be by nature, also classic; as in a classic beauty, timeless, and delicate. 
It is also safe to say that these same women are almost always Caucasian with exaggerated white or porcelain like skin, while the women associated with hip hop are almost always black with over made up faces and bodies.  Tragically the music industry has effectively rendered black women young and old as desperate, materialistic gold digging caricatures; but the real tragedy is that some black women and black men have bought into this caricature of what makes a woman, a black woman beautiful.
A quick survey of the young women that are so often influenced by these rap lyrics and videos and it is easy to see that quite a few of them are emulating the behavior displayed in these videos down to the heavy make-up and questionable clothing choices and even the ever increasing popular “butt shots”.  We are all inundated by images every day of our lives, some positive some negative and some down right destructive.
The fact is that music is one of the most influential mediums available to young people half of whom are women, and  it is the responsibility of the artist, the music executives, the video director/casting agents etc, and the young women participating in the videos to portray real, healthy, flawed and yes beautiful African American/black women.
Just as the classical music of Beethoven’s time conjures up the image of women as a thing of poise and beauty, so can and should the mainstream rap/hip hop music of modern times portray and support the images of beautiful, respectful and poised black women.
Yes for now the meaning of beauty is different as applied to different genres of music, but it does not have to be this way. Women of color can also be associated with positive images if in the near future young artist start to rap about things that matter while referring to their women as beautiful instead of the caricatures that we see today.  When this happens beauty may once again be as universal as music.

4 responses to “Can Beauty Be Defined?

  1. Great article…I think the music industry has effectively rendered women and especially black women to be sex objects particularly in the past 10-15 years.


  2. Good point, not only black women but all women have been objectified in music video’s and in live performances. It is almost as if in order to be successful as a women entertainer, they have to be willing to push the envelop further and further. Talent is no longer sufficient, we have to parade around on stage in our underwear.


  3. I remember exactly what your talking about. I used to close my eyes with certain songs and be instantly reminded of the time or event I associated that song with. Now I can’t listen to music without all of the images (sometimes negative) that don’t always show black women in the best light.


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