Most of us at UC Irvine are familiar with pop sensations Rihanna and The Pussycat Dolls. Songs like “Don’t Stop the Music,” “Disturbia,” “When I Grow Up” and “Buttons” are upbeat dance hits that not only have catchy lyrics, but also unique and creative music videos and dances that attract large audiences. The performance value and sex appeal that pop stars offer is often greater than their sheer musical talent. When we see stars don skimpy threads here in the United States, it often doesn’t gain a second glance. However, when these singers perform overseas (such as in Muslim countries) it can often be the cause of controversy.
Many Muslim-majority countries have decency guidelines and laws on performance costumes that the performer must abide by or they will face monetary fines. R&B singer Rihanna’s tour “Good Girl Gone Bad” plans on stopping in Malaysia next month, a country that has a 60 percent Muslim population. Thus, the singer has agreed to cover up more than usual for her performance there.
Despite her agreement to bide by the decency guidelines, Rihanna’s concert organizers are still concerned that protests by conservative Muslim citizens could disrupt her performance. Other concerts in Malaysia by Gwen Stefani and Avril Lavigne faced protests by conservative Malaysian citizens expressing their disapproval for the artists’ “immodest” clothing. Although in the end Stefani agreed to a costume change, she deemed the request as being a “major sacrifice.”
While performing artists may view wearing clothing that shows little to no skin a slight inconvenience during a concert, calling this a “major sacrifice” seems melodramatic. When singers agree to perform in certain countries, especially those like Malaysia with a Muslim majority, they are also agreeing to abide by that country’s laws and guidelines.
All the groans and moans coming from these celebs for having to follow the so-called annoying guidelines can only stem from one concern: most of their performance value comes from their sexy dance moves and barely-there outfits. Thus, having to be modest can severely affect the appeal certain groups have for audiences.
The Pussycat Dolls would not be half as entertaining minus the gyrating dance moves and lingerie. It is no wonder that their slow ballads are skipped over and never make it to the top of the hit lists — audiences tend to lose interest when Nicole Scherzinger and (wait, what are the other Dolls’ names?) the rest of the group stop working their hips and actually try to get serious.
Unfortunately, their vocal talents are not what make them stand out. This could explain why the organizers of one of The Pussycat Dolls’ concerts incurred a nearly $3,000 fine despite knowledge that they would be flouting decency regulations. They would rather pay up than have to cover up.
When performers agree to hold concerts in Muslim-majority countries, they must understand that they will be subjected to the country’s laws and cultural beliefs. Blatantly disregarding guidelines while complaining at the same time seems arrogant, to say the least. Having to wear modest clothing during a performance for one night seems like a small sacrifice considering all the revenues they rake in for selling out the concert arena.
As the world continues to globalize, it can be certain that more American performers will have increased contact with Muslim countries. Artists will either have to compromise or risk fines, which could create an image of the United States as unwilling to respect cultural differences.
Lila Kooklan is a fourth-year political science major. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.