Music, you say?
Okay, bear with me. To my way of thinking, there is a similarity.
When I first started reading romance in high school, I found it to be basically about people falling in love and overcoming conflict that was trying to keep them apart. I'm talking two people here. Menage and group action pretty much changed that scene - not that I'm complaining. And of course there were vampires, werewolves, sex toys, fetishes, you name it, throw into the mix to spice up the action further.
Kind of like pyrotechnics and the stuff Lady GaGa does adds juice to concerts and personal appearances.
Lady Gaga in her 'meat suit'
With the tremendously short attention span of the viewing and reading public, we're told there has to be a gimmick to grab the audience and hold them. In music, that seems to be whatever outrageous thing can be performed onstage without someone calling the police. In romance, it seems to be anything that may titillate or shock.
So where does romance go from here? How far can it go? How far should it?
The best romances I've read are ones that touched my heart, in addition to making me pant really hard. I don't know about anyone else, but I'm always looking for a good story first with unforgettable characters, not gimmicks, not sex toys, not all that other stuff. If it's there too, okay, but I still want the romance. That look in the guy's (or guys') eyes when first meeting a woman that will absolutely rock his (or their) world. The HEA that makes me think about the characters long after I've read the book.
Sort of like a great song and singer that stirs your soul. To the best of my knowledge, Barbara Streisand, Carrie Underwood and LeAnn Rimes never dressed up in a meat dress like Lady Gaga, nor have they donned makeup like KISS.
Maybe it's because they didn't have to in order to stand out from the crowd. Maybe that's where the difference lies.
Great music, like great romances, can succeed without all that other stuff. And if the other stuff is in there, it doesn't detract from what's good about the performance or the story...it enriches it.