Blurred Lines was criticised a lot last year. Its lyrics “I know you want it” earned it the reputation of being a ‘rape anthem’. It also has a catchy little hook, and although it’s banned in many universities and condemned by modern, forward-thinking people, it’s still played on Radio 1 with reasonable regularity.
So now we’re in 2014 I thought I’d have a look at the some of the chart music available for the enjoyment of men, women and children, and see if those cheeky pop stars have learned from Thicke’s mistakes. ASK YOURSELVES: are pop songs on radio 1 sexist?
Is Jason Derulo: Talk Dirty to Me (ft. Chainz) sexist?
Current position in the chart: 38 (17th week in the top 40)
There’s a little known rule when it comes to identifying pop music sexism: the catchiest songs are usually the most offensive. Jason, bless him, manages to undermine my entire languages degree by reassuring me that it doesn’t matter whether or not he understands what I’m saying as “our conversations ain’t long … but you know what is ;)” [winky face my own]. It’s a high tempo romp around the world that disregards women’s need to talk, express themselves, be appreciated for anything other than their bodies, or even have names (“Chainz” has got his lucky girl “saved in my phone under “Big Booty”), but at least he manages to show an admirable lack of xenophobia.
Verdict: I love this song, but it’s so sexist, I have tell myself that I like it ironically.
Is Lady Gaga: Do What U Want (ft. R Kelly) sexist?
Current position: no. 12
Lady Gaga, sometimes described as a feminist icon and generally an advocate of liberation and gay rights, has incomprehensibly united with R Kelly on her latest single. The title sounds awful, but it is possible to argue that her lyrics aren’t quite as bizarrely sexist as they seem: “do what you want with my body” she says, because “you can’t have my heart and you won’t use my mind”… she could be being a bit defiant in the face of the objectification of celebrities in print…? She could be! But then R Kelly steps on the stage, somebody we’re all confused how we feel about since the court case, and tells Gaga he will “do what I want, do what I want with your body! Do what I want, do what I want with your body!” What about what she wants, Kelly?
Verdict: No, R Kelly, no.
Is Pitbul: Timber (ft. Ke$ha) sexist?
Current position: 2
Ke$ha and Pitbull. Excellent.
Incredibly catchy chorus: check.
Instructions to do dance moves that are inappropriate in public places: check (“Face down, booty up! Timberrrrr!”)
Assuming a woman wants to sleep with you when she tells you she doesn’t: check (“I’m slicker than an oil spill. She say she won’t, but I bet she will.”)
Verdict: creepy as hell.
Is Kid Ink: Show Me (ft Chris Brown) sexist?
Current position: 32
Well alarm bells are already ringing because Chris Brown is out and about. Actually this song just seems like some straight forward hip hop where Chris promises to give me (the listener) “what you need”, clearly expecting whichever female he’s ogling at to bow down to him with reverence as soon as she hears what he’s saying. It includes a nice touch of objectification: “Go on the floor like a doormat”. Great.
Verdict: reasonably creepy
Is Katie Perry: Roar sexist?
Current position: 19
Katie Perry, what a babe. Apparently, people tried to shut her up but now she’s broken free and transformed into a series of empowering animals. I like this song because she describes herself as a lot of things that could traditionally be seen as ‘masculine’: “I got the eye of a tiger, a fighter, dancing through the fire, cause I am a champion and you’re gonna hear me roar.” She tells us a harrowing tale of being downtrodden (“I guess that I forgot that I had a choice, I let you push me past the breaking point”) but she came out fighting.
Verdict: excellent jungle sound effects and empowering lyrics make for a top anthem for boys and girls.
Is Beyonce: Drunk in love (ft. Jay Z) sexist?
Current position: no. 10
Beyonce has recently ‘come out’ as a feminist and says one of her main aims is to empower women. Everybody has to admire her, if simply for her ability to dance for so long like a machine. Unfortunately she let Jay Z spit some verse on her new release, and he claims he might have to serve some time once he’s had sex with his wife because he will “beat the box” like Mike Tyson did. Mike Tyson is a convicted rapist, but the facy Jay Z then says “In ’97 I bite” suggests he’s referring to whenTyson bit off Evandey Holyfield’s ear. Then he quotes a scene from Tina Turner’s biographical film, where her abusive husband forced her to eat cake then beating her. This article
talks about the song quite well.
Verdict: get Jay outta there.
I have obviously chosen a range of offensive songs for this summary, but these are also the songs chosen to be given ample airtime by publicly funded BBC Radio 1. In many ways a publicly funded radio station probably shouldn’t be promoting songs by sexists, nor should it be normalising sexist attitudes that trivialise the gravity of domestic violence and the importance of sexual consent. I suppose for Radio 1, catchy chourses and high production values actually are able to polish a turd (the turd being the sexist slurs).
Any other sexist songs I should add to the list? Comment below! 🙂
Related posts: Sexist Songs: Christmas Edition
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