Opinion: The Flawed Concept of Male Manipulator Music

From indie rock to hip-hop, a consideration on why we need to skip on terms such as “male manipulator music.”
A Spotify playlist titled male manipulator music with a series of songs featuring artists that are in this category
A Spotify playlist titled “male manipulator music” with a series of songs featuring artists that are in this category
Rory Manskie

In today’s musical world, there’s been a specific term surfacing the internet and making its way through popular culture: a label you may have already heard in passing called “male manipulator” music. However, what does it really mean, and why is it such an inefficient label?

Male manipulator music is a term commonly used to describe artists who are frequent in the R&B, rap, grunge, and indie rock genres. Most artists who fall under these genres tend to make songs that incorporate themes and references of  infidelity, substance abuse, obsessive and impulsive behavior in relationships, rebellionism, or presenting themselves as if they are better than everyone around them. While it may seem to be a harmless joke, labeling certain songs or artists as “male manipulator” music is reductive and unfairly stigmatizes both the music and the listeners. 

As we are taking a focus on “male manipulator music” and the musical aspect of this pop culture term, let’s not forget the “male manipulator” part as well. A male manipulator, or a manipulator in general is commonly described as someone who uses an individual’s weakness to exploit them, someone who tends to use your insecurities against you, someone who will make themselves seem like you need them in order to thrive in life, and they will continue to do so until you leave this toxic situation. 

On top of being associated with what pop culture believes is a “male manipulator,” this “category” of music is also habitually associated with those who wear a grunge type of  style, such as baggy oversized jeans and graphic t-shirts over white long sleeve shirts or halter tops and denim skirts. Not only is it associated with style, but also with smaller themes such as certain social media filters, emoticons, common phrases, and even certain aesthetic groups. Linking someone with a certain artist or song has appeared to be a large pattern in modern social media, usually certain songs that were significant to a past lover or an ex best friend. 

But as of now, engaging with music online has provided a satirical outlet for many individuals to poke fun at themselves. People have been slandering their own music taste and making fun of other individuals’ music taste for a long while now.  Yet, this kind of labeling can also discourage open and diverse engagement with music

So, why is this term such a popular trend now and why are we labeling certain songs and artists with this category? Personally, I listen to a collection of artists under this “male manipulator category,” such as The Weekend, Tory Lanez, Deftones, and Radiohead, and I am not a male manipulator. I feel like using this kind of term can perpetuate harmful stereotypes while undermining the diverse experiences and interpretations of music, and overall detract from the appreciation of musical expression.

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