2014 – The Summer of Songs about Asses

Apparently the singers and songwriters of our time all came to the same conclusion at the same moment: there were not enough songs celebrating having a large bottom and/or shaking one’s ass. What’s that, you say? This has been a theme in songwriting for a while? Sure it has, but this summer took it to a far more explicit level, and did it like, six times.

I present, as evidence of this trend:

Anaconda – Nicki Minaj

Wiggle – Jason Derulo

Booty – JLo

All About That Bass – Meghan Trainor

Even Taylor Swift is delicately hinting we should do some ass shaking – see 2:02

Shake it Off – Taylor Swift

I am not sure what, precisely, this says about our culture. Perhaps it suggests that we really are embracing a new phase in beauty perception, which allows amble bottoms to coexist alongside super-skiny women?

What I do know is that JLo’s attempts to shake her behind look foolish and amateur once you have seen what Nicki Minaj is capable of. If ass shaking is indeed a desirable skill, (hint- it is) she is the undisputed queen. (You might say she deserves a crown… right on that A$$ A$$ A$$ A$$ A$$, amiright Big Sean?)

Rude or Entitled?

So, there is this band called Magic! which put out this song called “Rude”. It had a moment in Canada and now seems to be having a moment in the rest of the world.

The song itself is not worth discussing — though the hat and hair choices the lead singer makes in the video may be — but the sentiment in the chorus of the song drives me crazy every time I hear it. I am concerned that it is symptomatic of a larger problem with whatever counts as the “young” generation today.

The song is about a guy going to ask the father of the woman he’s dating for a blessing in order to propose to the girlfriend. In verse 1 the dad says “tough luck my friend, but the answer is no”. The chorus then asks:

“Why you gotta be so rude?/ Don’t you know I’m human too?/ Why you gotta be so rude?/ I’m going to marry her anyway/
Marry that girl/ Marry her anyway/ Marry that girl/ yeah, no matter what you say/ Marry that girl/ And we’ll be a family/ Why you gotta be so… rude?”

So to recap, a young man goes and asks an older man a question, the older man answers no (you cannot have my blessing), the younger man replies with “what the hell dude? That’s rude!” and then announces he is going to forge ahead and do the original thing in any case. Is it just me, or does the father come off as the wise one and the young man/lead singer comes off as an immature dick?

Even if you don’t agree about that, here’s my question: since when did it become RUDE to answer a yes/no question with no? I have heard similar comments in real life where young people have acted like they were treated rudely or disrespected because someone told them no. If you ask a question, be prepared to receive no as an answer. That is not rude. That is one of two very legitimate potential outcomes in a scenario you (the asker) initiated. DEAL WITH IT. And yes, I realize that there are many ways a potential father-in-law could be rude to a boy asking for his daughter’s hand in marriage. The thing is, the song doesn’t show that. We never witness the father being rude. Only the singer whining that not getting his girlfriend’s father’s blessing is somehow rude.

Even though this song is all kinds of lame, and the concept feels incredibly dated (“Can I have your daughter for the rest of my life?” – not something her father gets to decide, Magic! man), none of that is what irks me. I am worried about perpetuating the idea that being told “no” is the same thing as someone being rude to you. This is simply not true. You cannot get everything you want. And someone might say no to you, and be wrong to have done so– but that makes them wrong. It does not automatically make them rude.

So please Magic!, refrain from perpetuating entitlement culture. Learn that being denied something isn’t rudeness — it might be common sense. Your song character comes off like an immature, petulant douche who isn’t ready to marry anyone. Deal with it. (Now that, that might have been rude.)

Not the sexy times I thought…

While listening to an early 2000s classic over the past weekend, I was shocked to discover that Tweet’s “Ooops (Oh My)” is not about doin’ it with another person, but is actually about masturbation. The lyrics are pretty clear too – I’m really not sure how I missed this. 

So my greatest wish is now this: next time Hollywood executives need to set a masturbation scene to music in a crass teen comedy, please please please use this song. I promise it will be better than “When I Think About You I Touch Myself” for the millionth time. 

Blurred Lines vs Timber

I want to start with something that’s been bothering me for about six months.

Remember last summer, when Robin Thicke’s song “Blurred Lines” was all over the radio? You know you do—or if you were lucky enough to miss it, like me (thanks to the tried and true trick of avoiding the radio 100% of the time), you at least remember some of the hubbub the song created. My introduction to “Blurred Lines” came via a series of articles I read critiquing the misogynist and generally rape-y content of the megahit. I then sought out the song, watched the clean and then uncensored versions of the music video back-to-back, agreed wholeheartedly that the lyrics were troubling and promptly fled back to my Robin-Thicke-free-zone. As I was running away at top speed, this is what I remember thinking: I’m disappointed in Pharell/ man, T.I. is suddenly in everything/I hope the critique of this song won’t be a one-off thing, but will instead lead people to reflect on the troubling content of other pop songs more publically.

For anyone who missed every aspect of the song, some of the lyrics that attracted the most criticism include:

“I know you want it”

“I’ll give you something to tear your ass in two.”

Charming.

However, even when I was mentally agreeing that “Blurred Lines” was sending a bad message, I remained a little confused – why was this one song garnering so much criticism? It could not possibly compete for the prize of most overtly mysoginist or most creepily rapey lyrics I had ever heard on the radio. So… popularity? That had to be it, right?

Fast forward, like, six months to the arrival of my own personal rape culture hell, “Timber”. It features Ke$ha, Pitbull, and a hook that will haunt you for days. Seriously, fuck this chorus, I cannot get it out of my head – so watch at your own risk.

As you can see, the theme of the song seems to be a mashup of line dancing/rape culture

The chorus says:

“Let’s make a night you won’t remember/ I’ll be the one you can’t forget” – troubling

Then Pitbull adds “One more drink, another round/ end of the night it’s going down” – if “it” is a woman, I will remind Pitbull WOMEN AREN’T THINGS. Even if “it” simply means “us having sex”, a song that encourages heavy drinking pre-hook up is creepy

But obviously nothing can compete with: “Face down, booty up/ TIMBER/ That’s the way we like to WHAT/ TIMBER/ I’m slicker than an oil spill/she say she won’t but I bet she will” – There literally could not be a clearer example of someone disregarding “No means no”.

SHE SAID SHE WON’T PITBULL, GET THE FUCK AWAY FROM HER

“Timber” spent multiple weeks at the top of the Billboard charts. So here is my problem, or the source of the confusion I am still experiencing: Thicke’s song was bad, but much of the critique cited the tone of the song, the general atmosphere of disrespect towards women and the implication that he knew better than them what they wanted. Pitbull yells “She say she won’t but I bet she will” and there is no outcry. Why? Did everyone expect more from Robin Thicke? (Granted, it’s hard to think of someone I expect less of than Pitbull. I would rather be trapped in a bar with any of the sharks in that video than with Pitbull. I would rather deal with a trained attack pitbull than Pitbull.) Is it that Pitbull is a “rapper” (barely), and that kind of talk is simply more accepted or more expected when it is rapped rather than sung?

I don’t have an answer. If anyone else does, I am all ears.

Superficial Content, Never Superficially Engaged

I am starting to go stir-crazy on a research trip, thanks to the inherently lonely nature of archival research. No doubt influenced by this, it suddenly seems like a really good idea to create a forum I can use to share my snarky comments and general rants about the kids these days and their music and clothes. I predict there is a wide audience for disdainful or bemused comments about the nature of pop music, television, fashion and celebrity — all things I consume to balance out my daily doses of war and genocide. Having said that, the future is not my forte.

As a historian in training, I approach everything I see with the same question in mind: how will this be remembered in the future? Ten, twenty, fifty, one hundred years from now, what pattern will this tv show/video/trend be symptomatic of? This drives my interest in pop culture.  I like to think about how historians in the future will grapple with the changes I’m witnessing around me, which are often highlighted by celebrity scandals or massive hits. This critical approach to pop culture will be old news to followers of http://www.laineygossip.com, one of my favourite blogs. As Lainey would tell you, we learn about cultural norms and our own views on them when we have a conversation about a pregnant celebrity or a trip to rehab. Plus, I’m just an avid collector of trivial knowledge.

Unlike laineygossip, this site will probably have a more academic tone. And feature more rap music. Because if there is one thing that constantly entertains me, sometimes ironically and sometimes completely genuinely, it is rap.

Snarky musings on pop culture