Hints of Queerness in Mainstream Music Marketing: A Case Study of Sam Smith’s “I’m Not the Only One”



original-print“Although Sam Smith, a queer man, has been incorporated into the mainstream music industry, he has been incorporated on the condition that his marketed image ‘adhere to the traditional and perhaps conventional expectations of male behavior’ (Clarkson 396). Even though not all of Sam Smith’s music videos are hetero-washed (some have obviously queer elements that are not coded for queer eyes only), there seems to be a clear struggle behind the scenes … While Smith’s queer identity is made visible through his music, people behind the scenes seem to be doing acrobatics to make sure it is not too overt.”

“The wife is shown scene-after-scene in complete distress over her husband’s infidelity, yet she ultimately accepts him back. In opposition to the wife, the other woman’s presentation, from her loose hair and hoop earrings to her sleeveless dress, suggests her dirtiness. These presentations fall in line with Jane Caputi’s explanation of conventional notions of the female gender. According to Caputi, because women historically have much narrower sexual freedoms than men, they ‘are split into ‘pure’ or ‘dirty,’ ‘virgins’ or ‘whores,’ ‘keepers’ or ‘trash’’ (378). Men, on the other hand, can easily avoid these binary sexual labels because they have much wider sexual latitudes.”

new-print“We aimed to counter the stereotypical casting of a woman as the victim of her husband’s betrayal, as well as offset the common labeling of women within binary sexual labels. We also aimed to include the queer narrative that Smith’s team disguised … Queer displays of intimacy are usually depicted in censored and tamed fashions, while visceral images of heterosexuality permeate throughout media. In our recreation of the video, we chose to display homosexual intimacy, thereby explicitly adding Smith’s queer storyline to the music video. In addition, we had our recreated relationship attempt to mimic an androgynous living system, whereby power and subservience is not rooted in gender performance.”

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