Why ‘male manipulator music’ isn’t real


Perhaps one of the most polarizing music descriptors of recent years is that of ‘male manipulator music.’ This label is not well-defined; it is a catch-all term to describe bands that potentially unpleasant people may listen to. It is most often used (although not exclusively)  to denote seemingly pretentious or melodramatic indie rock groups; bands such as Weezer and The Smiths are often associated with the term. There is no objective reason why bands such as these are considered to be ‘male manipulator music,’ other than their fan-bases or their songwriting styles. 

Critics of this term argue that this descriptor is nothing more than an immature insult of musicians one doesn’t like, and that it is either a reductive way of engaging with certain musical genres or an unfunny and repetitive cliché. Some apply this label in jest; they may jokingly describe a certain artist they enjoy as ‘male manipulator music’ as a form of self-deprecating humor. This use of the term is not reductive or immature, it is simply a humorous description of a certain type of music, even if it is overused. 

The most defining feature of the term is that there is no set criteria for what constitutes ‘male manipulator music.’ There is no specific genre or songwriting style that automatically makes something ‘male manipulator music.’ The term can be applied to any artist of any genre, and it cannot technically be contested due to the vague nature of its definition. (‘Female manipulator music’ is also a term that is used, mostly in jest as a parody of the original term, although it is even less well defined than its male counterpart.) 

The most peculiar part about the term is that, on occasion, it is used as a completely serious and non-humorous descriptor, rather than a joking assessment of a band or artist. Such a use of the term strips music of its original meaning; it reduces complex themes and songwriting to a label intended to be used jokingly. 

To demonstrate the absurdity of such a label, a playlist has been created with songs commonly deemed to be ‘male manipulator music.’ While these are all great songs, some would say that they do not belong in a playlist together, as their moods and genres are completely different. Ask yourself- do shoegaze classics like “40 Days” by Slowdive really belong in the same label as synthpop like “Blue Monday” by New Order? 

No matter one’s opinions on the joking use of the term (such as whether it is a hilarious joke or a repetitive and outdated bore,) it is clear that a serious use of the term is both incoherent and unproductive.