Between Nicki Minaj's Sir Mix-a-Lot-sampling "Anaconda" and Jennifer Lopez roping in (and oiling up) an embarrassed-looking Iggy Azalea for her "Booty" video, pop music has been all about big butts this year. Well, not quite all of it.
One of the summer's biggest hits (and HuffPost Canada's number one song of 2014) was "Hideaway" by Canadian newcomer Kiesza who refused to use sex to sell her music, even though she was advised to.
Ironically, the 25-year-old Calgary native was actually a beauty queen in her youth, making it all the way to the Miss Universe Canada pageant.
"I realized it wasn't for me, it's just too superficial, it's too catered around body image and I felt like I was in a group full of gorgeous women but there was only one profile that fit and as a result they felt like they weren't good enough. It's not a healthy environment at all," she says.
"Beauty has so many forms and I think the most beautiful thing is confidence and loving yourself, so. I'm glad I did it because I learned that it wasn't for me."
This knowledge made Keisza confident she wanted to be judged on more than her appearance before she entered the pop music industry, which mostly uses skin to market its stars.
"Yeah, it's all built around sex," she says, but notes that she would never have done something like the "Booty" video. "I would've said 'no.' I understand a lot more right now what I would and what I wouldn't do. I believe that beauty comes more from within, that it comes more from self-confidence. I think sexy also comes from the same place.
"What is sexy? It takes so many forms, but I don't think shoving my butt into people's faces will tell them anything about who I am. How is that connecting to your audience? What is that doing for your music? I want people to listen to my music and take me serious but if I just use my butt to market my music what am I really saying to my audience? And what am I teaching people?"
Still, it's not the 1990s, even if Keisza's throwback dance-pop hearkens back to that era, and she's certainly felt pressure to change her image.
"People have mentioned 'maybe you should try to be more sexy? Look at how this butt stuff propelled this person to the top of the chart it's amazing!' And I'm like, 'what if I really want to sing something to people? I speak my mind, I want to be that person people feel they can listen to. A lot of people preach and talk but I think the only way to preach is to actually do things. The only way for people to take you seriously is for them to watch [and] look at your example and see what choices you make."
"So yeah, I would take the longer road but for me it's about the music, it's about the art."
Which is not to say that Keisza is averse to being sexy in attitude or fashion. "I wear crop tops and stuff but I genuinely like that style, so it's just has to be genuine. Once you start getting to that world where you're using sexuality to try to propel something you're losing the moment. You've lost; people are not focusing on that anymore."
Keisza says it's also about how you use your body, noting that she was naked in the video for her lovelorn "What is Love" cover, but that it had a purpose beyond titillation.
"I'm not showing anything but it's a metaphor for that love doesn't have a face, love doesn't have a skin type, love takes so many forms and I wanted to strip away what people identify love to be, it means something different for everyone. So everything I do has a meaning to it."
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