Why Did So Many Male Musicians Keep Taking Their Shirts Off in 2018?


From Imagine Dragons’ Dan Reynolds to Panic! on the Disco’s Brendon Urie, there was no scarcity of abs and pecs in 2018

Earlier this month, Drake was, as he typically is today, feeling himself — so he posted a shirtless selfie to his Instagram Story. While it might have been simply to point out off the huge new addition to his tattoo assortment, it didn’t harm that the already sculpted rapper was trying much more sculpted than traditional. The pic obtained the sort of consideration you’d anticipate: thirsty weblog posts, drooling tweets and loads of new cellphone wallpapers for his horniest followers.

If you’re additionally available in the market for a hunky new cellphone background, 2018 offered loads of choices: Imagine Dragons’ Dan Reynolds and The Chainsmokers may hardly put their pecs away. Charlie Puth appeared to finish his concert events bare-chested as typically as Panic! At the Disco’s Brendon Urie did. Rappers like Travis Scott, Machine Gun Kelly and Tyler, the Creator have been incessantly shirtless. Childish Gambino delivered a few of his most important performances of the yr and not using a shirt. And whereas he doesn't carry out stay with nice frequency, if in any respect, Zayn has more than enough emo thirst traps on his Instagram.


Thank you Toronto. #prayforthewicked — @jakechams

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Of course, high male musicians flaunting their stuff onstage and off is a timeless custom — consider rock stars like Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Anthony Kiedis, Iggy Pop and Chris Cornell. “For male rock stars, taking their shirts off was a solution to activate the cheesecake, however with believable deniability,” Rolling Stone critic Rob Sheffield explains. “They may faux it's simply so sizzling and sweaty up on the stage, they’ve to tear their shirts off to maintain rocking, to not vamp it up. It's a means for them to strut their stuff however maintain on to their treasured credibility.”

Yet stylist Candice Lambert, who’s labored with the likes of Pentatonix and Kelly Clarkson, says that evolving social norms and trend tendencies have led male artists to be extra deliberate and unabashed about how they specific their intercourse attraction. “People are allowed to be who they’re a bit bit extra, and I feel that influences every thing,” she explains; she factors to Brendon Urie’s option to come out as pansexual in an interview earlier this yr for instance of extra candid conversations about intercourse and sexuality within the mainstream. “That’s on the market, so possibly now different individuals will come out, after which that additionally has to do with clothes. Some individuals won’t be capable to say these issues but. So how do they specific it by way of trend?”

While late icons like David Bowie and Prince famously performed with androgyny of their clothes selections, that sort of experimentation has solely change into extra commonplace at this time — Lambert says she places lots of her male shoppers in ladies’s clothes now. “I really feel like garments are genderless and persons are extra open” to daring model selections, she says, whether or not that’s A$AP Rocky’s decidedly feminine red-carpet look on the LACMA Art and Film Gala earlier this yr, or within the case of many musicians this yr, not carrying lots of garments.

Stylist Anthony Franco, who has dressed Panic!’s Brendon Urie previously, thinks that widespread shirtless is only one signal of male celebrities’ rising embrace of vulnerability, which additionally manifests itself in issues like Travis Scott’s adorable pictures with daughter Stormi. “In 2018, I’ve observed males are extra open with their sexuality, and nothing is sexier than a assured particular person,” he says. “We stay in a really emotional time. I’ve seen extra kindness and folks caring for others. When we see males discuss love and be obsessed with life, it’s a lot extra engaging today.”

There’s additionally a been rising consciousness of the other ways female and male artists have marketed or expressed their sexuality. Female pop stars have lengthy needed to cater to the male gaze — like when Britney Spears posted for a 1999 Rolling Stone cowl in her underwear with a Teletubby — by seeming equally horny and innocence directly. And whereas male pop stars have needed to do the identical to a point — in spite of everything, teenage ladies have at all times been the tastemakers of who’s sizzling and who isn’t in pop music — as we’ve seen with Charli XCX’s star-studded “Boys” video from final yr, there’s a higher willingness amongst male musicians to take part and flip the script.

“There’s at all times been a typical [that] a man doesn’t have to do this,” says Topher Gauk-Roger, an editorial producer for Entertainment Tonight. “It doesn’t conform to the [traditional] male gender position. But additionally, you must assume, properly, all these media publications and the entire music trade are run by males who’ve hypersexualized ladies through the years.”

Still, the larger shift, he argues, is the rising acceptance of and visibility for LGBTQ followers, which permits them be extra vocal about their very own needs and lust over the abs of Shawn Mendes or G-Eazy identical to everybody else. It additionally permits artists, in flip, to acknowledge them proper again.

“We're now in a spot, due to social media, the place queer tradition is allowed to be so public and be so ahead,” Gauk-Roger says. “And you’ve got a neighborhood [with social media] the place individuals within the homosexual neighborhood are allowed to be outspoken about their pursuits and their fandom. As a results of that, we now have artists sort of catering [to that]. I feel it was taboo again within the day to attempt to attraction to the queer neighborhood.” (It’s laborious to think about Dragons’ Reynolds — who's stated he got fit for health reasons after battling an auto-immune illness for years — not being conscious of that each time he wrapped himself in a pride flag sans shirt in live performance this yr.)

There are nonetheless dangers to doing so, nevertheless. Try too laborious to attraction to the queer neighborhood, and also you’ll be accused of queerbaiting — making an attempt to draw a queer viewers to additional your individual profession, not out of a honest want to be an ally. That’s what happened to Nick Jonas following some steamy photoshoots, performances at homosexual nightclubs and interview feedback in which he played coy about whether he’d experimented with men whereas concurrently plugging his position as a homosexual MMA fighter on the TV present Kingdom. Lambert, too, is cautious of performances of shirtlessness that don’t appear real. If there isn’t an authenticity behind it, whether or not that’s stripping off garments onstage or posting on Instagram, it comes throughout as “determined.”

As with any development, there’s sure to be an ebb and stream to all of the flesh we’re seeing, however Gauk-Roger doesn’t assume the sense of freedom behind is altering anytime quickly. “Hopefully which means the principles and stereotypes and requirements should be torn down and thrown out the window,” he says. “I hope [this] implies that an artist can actually be as inventive as they wish to be and doesn't should be involved about becoming right into a sure field or a sure position. Because what’s masculine? What is female anyway? I feel it's serving to artists with their creativity and being who they wish to be.”

And fortunately for all of the thirsty followers on the market, meaning being somebody who bares their abs in addition to their soul.