As the summer of 2013 home stretches into back-to-school shopping, “Dancing with the Stars” handicapping, and an imminent thirst for pumpkins, it’s fair to assess the season’s music offerings. Robin Thicke, Daft Punk, and Miley Cyrus scored the pop hits. Thicke in particular won the summer with “Blurred Lines,” a song we’ve already covered.
“Blurred Lines” stills stings because its overt objectification—chiefly the version of the video with the naked models and Thicke’s snarling use of the word “bitch”—has not inspired the backlash it warrants. It’s a problem. More than the flavorless easy wholesale lifting of the good parts of “Got to Give it Up Part II” it’s just a really ugly party anthem because the song is welded to its deplorable video. Probably the worst offender since “Cherry Pie.”
To that end, we gathered the A-Team and had a roundtable discussion over email for three weeks. And you thought Kendrick Lamar was just going to walk on his lazy rhyming.
Robin Thicke — “GIVE IT 2 U”
The summer’s summer jam winner, Robin Thicke, tries to hashtag his way back into our hearts with the obligatory sunset summer sequel. At least “Blurred Lines” sounds appropriate at weddings.
First Impression: Club song. I get it. It is fun. And if you only hear the “I wanna give it 2 U” lines, you might think, “Aw, He wants to give me his heart and his undying commitment!” Woops. He’s talking about his dick. I will give these gentlemen credit for making a filthy song sound so adorable. Side note: who does Robin Thicke think he is? He knows he is Canadian and Alan Thicke‘s son, right? On the other hand, his name is Thicke. I guess if you get into the hip-pop music biz, you have to capitalize on your phallic family name.
Misogyny Score: 3. If Ol’ RT approached me with this song, I would ruffle his hair, tap him on the nose, and say, “Aren’t you the cutest thing. But seriously, let’s see how big it is.”
First Impression: Similar to most of #Thicke’s new songs, they are easy to move to and great background music. UNTIL YOU LISTEN. Thank goodness most of today’s youth is too busy multitasking to really hear what this song is saying. Because, this is all talk.
Misogyny Score: I give this a mid-range score, like a 5. For the 5 inches that is #Thicke’s penis. Erect. He doth protest a bit too much. How about a man writing a song about how he’s going to actually do something FOR a woman rather than TO a woman? I mean, technology has come a long way and truthfully, I don’t need a man to achieve an orgasm. Even still, most of the lyrics that are offered aren’t about pleasuring a female at all. Nope. They once again (in 2013, barf) become the object of sexual fantasy, without any wishes, desires, needs, HUMAN QUALITIES, or purposes other than to serve the sexual desires of a man. You want to make all my fantasies come true, #Thicke? Then show up, be financially independent, emotionally mature, self-aware, and for fuck’s sake know how to clean a bathroom, be willing to listen and understand, have a good heart and kind intentions and that? That will make my fantasies come true. I can work with a sexual relationship that isn’t clicking. That can go somewhere. But a vapid, dick-swinging idiot who thinks he’s a lothario? No thank you.
My 102-year-old Grammy said two things all the time.
1. “You can’t swing a dead cat in this town without hitting a _______ .” (fill in the blank of whatever there is too much of). Here I’d say “small-dicked men who think they only need to satisfy themselves to satisfy women”. I probably wouldn’t say that in front of my Grammy. She just got hearing aids.
2. She often said of others in bad relationships: “There are worse things than being alone.” And if I were approached by a #Thicke-ish (which I’m just realizing rhymes with “dickish”) idiot blasting this kind of shit from his mouth-hole, I would probably hear that second phrase going off in my head like a bullhorn.
Redeeming Qualities: Aside from the unbelievable catchy, poppy-ness of this song, I don’t find redeeming qualities. I find a disheartening quality: it was produced by Will.i.am. The same man who was moved to create “Yes We Can” has helped birth this females-are-sexual-objects into the world. I feel like he helped men generate a song: “Yes We Can Give It 2 U.” Boo, Will.i.am.
First Impression: DAMN YOU ROBIN THICKE for making another insanely misogynist song that I can’t stop headbobbing to. I’m comforted by the fact that there are some incredibly shitty rap lyrics in the breakdown here, including:
“Lunch with a few mai tais / purples kisses on my tie”
Yes, Kendrick Lamar rhymed “mai tai” with “my tie.” And if you think it’s cheating to rhyme homonyms, then check out the next one.
“Life can leave a dick loved / now you gettin’ this dick, love”
He rhymes “dick loved” with “dick, love.” He didn’t even attempt to rhyme these words with other words that aren’t these words. In point of fact, he didn’t even really make any sense with that thought. I have no idea what “life can leave a dick loved” means. I’m taking suggestions in the comments section. Let’s keep going.
You know what? Let’s not keep going. I don’t even have the energy anymore. I mean, at least Kanye West turns some phrases that make me go “Oh snap!”[ref]”Two hundred thousand dollar purse with no money inside” from “Blood on the Leaves” comes to mind.[/ref] This song just makes me go “Huh?” and then damnably bob my head.
Kanye West — “Blood on the leaves”
The most memorable bit of editing from West’s summer masterpiece, an easy album of the year winner. Yeezus inspired hives of think pieces and Lou Reed love letters. It’s one of the most challenging and towering works of music ever put together, cutting and pasting bits from all sorts of brilliantly unrelated artists.
But so what? It’s still a deeply anti-woman album. Painting them as simple, cocaine-fueled foils and sexual ventures. “Blood on the Leaves” has the audacity to sample a Nina Simone cover of a Billie Holiday song, “Strange Fruit,” that is basically a sacred civil rights piece, and then make it about his spiteful divorce. It’s honest and heavy, but the big question is at what point does the art excuse the sentiment?
First Impression: Ugh. Do not care for Kanye or about him. Yes, that will taint my impression of anything he produces, be it an album or a half-Kardashian. Onto the song: I was less ambivalent about it the first time when it was called “Gold Digger.” “Gold Digger” was catchy, easy to dance to, and had an edgy, radio-editable chorus. I dub this “Emo Gold Digger.” More word repetition–P.S. Kanye, that is not how rhyming works–about evil women trapping men with babies and sleeping around with other, better rappers. ZZZZZZZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. Oh, I am sorry. I nodded off. I must be tired from poking holes in all these condoms.
Misogyny Score: 7. He is not smart enough to be offensive. But any man who bandies about the A-word like he knows anything on the subject should be fucked with, and not in the same way as Jay-Z or Usher.
First Impression: Call me old, but I just do not like these songs that don’t turn into songs until a minute in (this one finally kicks in at 1:08). I can’t tolerate a minute of nonsense before you give me something to listen to.[ref]For the record, this is just as true of Justin Timberlake’s self-indulgent pre- and postscripts in songs like “Mirrors” or “What Goes Around,” as it is for the BS at the top of “Blood on the Leaves.”[/ref] Maybe if I was super stoned in a dim, tapestry-adorned room with candles going I would feel differently, but I’m listening to this song underneath fluorescent lights in a Chicago office building with an empty Potbelly bag and an apple core in front of me. I also, like Oprah, despise such frequent use of the N-word. Despite Jay-Z’s lucid arguments, it doesn’t compute to me how that is remotely OK. In any case, I already don’t like this song.
Misogyny Score: I actually don’t think it’s misogynist. It doesn’t denigrate and objectify all women on generic terms. It’s hating on a single woman who has a long, hateful history with Kanye. That takes the misogyny out of it for me. Like my father always says, “Why hate a group of people based on broad generalizations when there are probably excellent reasons to hate each person in that group individually?” Kanye can hate his ex-wife all he wants. I assume that someday, he’ll hate Kim too. Then he’ll write another version of the song “Perfect Bitch” about her to speak to the other version of the word “bitch” that he will inevitably understand to be true. That’s between the two of them. That song, like this one, will just be a one-way shouting match in the world’s largest restaurant. Not a misogynist manifesto.
First Impression: Like Kat, in order to really love this song, I felt I needed to be sipping a martini on a white leather couch, surrounded by candelabras, draped in a white satin dress, with small drops of blood dripping from my neck, down my pearls and onto my chest from the sexy vampire who after sensually biting me, moves in slow motion, staring at the camera with sinister eyes. <Pauses, makes note for upcoming Yeezus fan fiction.>
Misogyny Score: Low. I don’t feel he’s hating on women, maybe just angry at this relationship, and at the state of relationships. Like Kat, I thought the line about the $2,000 bag with no cash in it was awesome.
Redeeming Qualities: Nina Simone. Though the sample is from a song about lynching. So . . . I’m hoping he really just wanted to take it and use it in a new way, because throwing that in puts my noodle in a twist.
Lana Del Rey — “Young & Beautiful”
Del Rey is a polarizing figure. She has feuded with Lady Gaga this summer. She sings from this fake nostalgic perspective that is super deferential. But she gets some unfair criticism. This is the 2 a.m. broken high heels jam of the summer, from the “Great Gatsby” soundtrack.
First Impression: I was never a “beautiful.” I was always one that got the “cute” tag. Literally no one has ever called me beautiful. I’m not even sure I’ve ever gotten a “pretty.” Don’t feel sorry for me though–there’s been no shortage of “cute,” said of me in various levels of intensity from straight “cute” to “super cute” and everything in between. Here’s the thing: I can be “cute” well into my geriatry[ref]See Sophia, “Golden Girls.”[/ref] while Del Ray has to freak out that she might someday not be beautiful. I think I get the long end of that stick. Or maybe I’m just rationalizing. Is that me just rationalizing? Probably rationalizing. Weep.
First Impression: The misogyny of this song is a little more excusable for me because this song was written specifically for “The Great Gatsby.” Del Rey was commissioned (which seems like an antiquated word, but I’m going for it) to write a song for a soundtrack that Jay-Z encouraged character point of view on. She also worked with Baz Luhrmann on the song. With that in mind, it becomes a sad, specific portrait of Daisy Buchanan who has relied on her youth and beauty and has nothing beyond that; Daisy is fully aware of her own limits, even telling nurses at her daughter’s birth that the best thing a girl can be in this world is “a beautiful little fool.” In that context, to me, it becomes about a woman who knows she is only as valuable as her looks in the context of a culture of disposable excess and worries what will happen beyond that. I therefore love this song.
Riff Raff — “DOLCE & GABBANA”
Houston highroller, RiFF RAFF (A.K.A. Jody Highroller, A.K.A. Jody Bieber, A.K.A. The Neon Alien) has been an Internet pranker for a few years now. But his major label solo album is around the corner. First single, “Dolce & Gabbana” is a favorite of managing editor Ramon Ramirez. But does the spastic tactile imagery justify the offensive clown routine?
First Impression: OK, hold . . . EVERYTHING. Am I pronouncing “Dolce” wrong? Have I been pronouncing it wrong ALL MY LIFE? Holy crap, this is rocking my world. Does some cornrowed riff raff named RiFF RAFF know how to pronounce a word I’ve apparently never once in my entire life pronounced right? Is Guiliana Rancic pronouncing it wrong too? Because I think Guiliana and I are right and he is wrong. I swear to GOD I thought he was saying that “he only fucks with hos who wear Joe C. and Gabbana,” prompting me to wonder if Kid Rock’s tiny, late, lamented sidekick had a lucrative side business I wasn’t aware of. Speaking of Joe C., click this link to be transported to a time when assholes didn’t think they weren’t assholes. They *knew* they were assholes and they had the two-story middle finger bounce house balloons to prove it.[ref]Fashion icon appears Joe C. at the 4:00 mark.[/ref]
Misogyny Score: I would say that “Devil Without a Cause” is every bit as misogynist as Joe C. and Gabbana, except that there is NO ONE rocking harder on that stage than Kid Rock’s thunderous ass-kicking lady drummer. She could reduce RiFF RAFF to dust with nothing but a sidelong glance. Kind of wish she would.
First Impression: Maybe RiFF RAFF is saying, “What I’m really looking for is a self-made woman, who doesn’t rely on a man for her own importance OR fortune, and she chooses to reflect that autonomy in very expensive designer clothing, as she presents a professional yet elegant visage to the world. That is the kind of woman I feel I could be engaged with as an equal in an adult relationship.”
Or maybe he (they?) realized you could rhyme the designer name with “sauna,” which added a great level of excess to their boast. Which feels so tired to me. I get it. You have money now.
P.S. You can’t have those ho’s both buck nekkid AND in designer stuff, even if she got it off the rack – it just can’t be both ways, RiFF RAFF, so pick the way you want to reduce a woman to appearance.
Migos featuring Drake — “Versace”
Paydirt. The first summer cut that is more charmed by the language than put off by it. Fellas: If you want to woo her, walk up to her in the club and whisper “Versace” in her ear 158 times in three minutes and seven seconds.
First Impression: I can’t deny, it’s really catchy to say the name “Versace” over and over again. I find myself repeating that one word chorus a lot since I listened to it. I cannot, however, remember a single other word, phrase or beat from the song. I just lied to you. There were a bunch of N-bombs.
Misogyny Score: Back to lady-hating. Is this song misogynist? I honestly couldn’t tell you. It just did not make a dent. Also, I think Drake is the biggest star I have never heard speak. I just lied to you again. He was obviously speaking on this song I just listened to, but I have no idea which N-bomb dropper he was. I need to go watch some “Degrassi” so I can get a little more Drake-i-fied.
Baths – “Incompatible”
One of the summer’s most well-reviewed indie rock albums once again highlights a troubling sexist default setting among music writers. This is a sensitive guy bedroom manifesto with well-tailored production. But at the end of the day speaks for the spiteful nerd archetype that has been dropping creepy lyrics since Pinkerton. On “Incompatible,” 24-year-old horn-rimmed glasses singer Will Wiesenfeld calls out an ex’s “stupid idling mind.” “I could prod your hurt all night” he sings, “I was never poetic and never kind, scared of how little I care for you” and then Wiesenfeld talks about how his muse nursed “this erection back to full health.”
Main offender: The creepy sentiment on the whole–this dude will take you to his dorm, show off his vinyl collection, and slip something into your Smirnoff Ice.
First Impression: OK, while this wasn’t outrightly offensive . . . And I didn’t mind the song itself (music wise) . . . Hmm . . . Why might a younger girl enjoy this song?[ref]Also, when I say a younger girl I totally would have done the following as a younger me.[/ref]
1. They self-loathe
2. They believe they can change men!
3. They don’t understand why their relationships aren’t working and this seems like it is a real insight to the male psyche that is breaking their heart (not realizing that spending more time with this sick energy isn’t helping them achieve their dreams).
Redeeming Qualities: I could put this music on in the background and clean my house or work on some project for background OHMYGOD is listening to songs like this why I am single? This general female dislike and unwillingness to engage on a vulnerable and intimate level being played in the background of my life. Is this why I don’t believe men are available?
The more I think about this, I wonder if he is writing about her experience but through his failures. SEE?! It’s happening. I’m taking care of him like a lost puppy. A lost puppy that will pee on your carpet, your pillow, your leg, and then expect you to feed it, heal it’s ego, make it whole from it’s mommy issues and then dumps you anyway.
Misogyny Score: A soft 5. Soft because he can’t get it up without help of the woman he couldn’t care less about.
First Impression: I think I developed epilepsy listening to this song. I’m not sure what happened musically. Lyrically, I’m with Lisa. I would have listened to this at age 15, sinking into my bed with 120 Minutes on mute and unfinished poetry littering the room. Then again at age 24, with “Sex and the City” on mute and empty wine bottles in the recycling bag. And for good measure, one final time at age 29, in a healthy, adult relationship, but feeling nostalgic for my dramatic dating days, with “Golden Girls” on mute. I just like that show.
Misogyny Score: To me, this song came off as a pouty little boy who was mad that she broke up with him so he wrote an ode to how he never liked her anyway. Is it misogynist? Eh, a little, mostly because of how he’s defining both the old girlfriend and the new girlfriend by their sexual “heat” and how the new one gives him all the bonerzzz. It just sounds more immature than anything else to me–I could just picture the new girlfriend rolling her eyes in the back of a bar because she got dragged to a show to hear him play a song he wrote about how indifferent he is to his ex-girlfriend AGAIN.
But I also had a hard time hearing, so I could be misunderstanding his lyrics.
First Impression: Okay, so do these guys know anyone who has any good sound recording equipment? Because I couldn’t understand a word they were saying and I’m pretty sure someone pranked their song by double-tracking it with the sounds the aliens make in “Signs.” Is this one of those emo songs? Is this how they all sound? Sheesh. Kids, right?
Lil Wayne — “Rich as Fuck”
In the mid-aughts, Lil Wayne was flexing his rapping ability all over underground mixtapes. He was just as ridiculously offensive, but the technical chops and urban audience gave that element in his game a pass. Now he’s icon status and simultaneously rapping slower, less creatively, and with no ambiguity on his sexual imagery.
First Impression: On my tolerance spectrum, this song falls somewhere between the George Zimmerman verdict and watching someone strangle a puppy. I hesitate to say it but when I hear songs like this, I get a faint sense (completely undeserved, I’m aware) of what it must be like to be black (not even close, I get it). I just do not get why someone hates me so much for the biological cards I was dealt and not for the content of my character (I am deeply uncomfortable with the comparison but feel compelled to bull forward). You wonder “Why? Who did this to them? What happened to make them think about me like this?” Lil Wayne has dehumanized an entire gender and nothing in this song gives me any sense of why. Blame codeine?
Here’s another question. What happened to the adorable will.i.am wannabe Weezy from Jay Sean’s “Down?” The cupid’s arrows he references there turned into an Uzi by the time he did the breakdown on David Guetta’s “I Can Only Imagine” (featuring Chris Brown, gross)[ref]Love this song. Hate myself.[/ref] and I guess now we’re here. Ugh.
First Impression: So, I am confused. Is pussy like heaven on earth? Or is it the derisive name for the fallen bitches–not women–he claims to have killed “like Michael Myers.” I had to look up the lyrics to follow this ditty, and it reads like a to-do list of rappers greatest hits. Cash, check. Murder, check. A variety of plug-and-play hoes, white girl included, check. Weed, check. Master Splinter reference for the purpose of a rhyme . . . OK, you got me there, Weezy. I did not see that coming. The credit ends there. This song slams at my ears the way L.W. slams pussy: sharply, offensively, and I am guessing without consent.
Misogyny score: 11
Gross out score: 12
Anger at having non-ironically used the word pussy more than ever in my life: Infinity
First Impression: I too am torn.[ref]Because I’m a dog lover. And a fellow dog lover usually has a lovely place in my heart. But as he would tear out my heart and take a still-beating bite, I’m going to say that I’ll make an exception.[/ref] While all dogs go to heaven, women are supposed to be on a cock all night like the porch light. Do women go to heaven? I would hope so, after all that that cock sucking and beatings in our pussies that we’re taking from all that pipe! Without any talking to our poor bitch selves, no less. And we get beaten and killed if we make the mistake of irritating the little Mr. Wayne.
I think I’ll cross him off my OkCupid matches.
Chris Brown — “Fine China”
The lead single from Brown’s upcoming album, X. Over four years ago, Brown assaulted his then-girlfriend Rihanna in their limousine on the way to the Grammys. Since, he’s been extra brash and defensive, publicly feuding with colleagues Drake and Frank Ocean. Every time there is a new Brown single it feels jarring because he’s a violent and temperamental dude that writes glossy and thrilling pop music. He even tries courting the girl in this song with “It’s alright, I’m not dangerous.” Other than the back story of its creator, the song objectifies by comparing women to porcelain.
First Impression: This video leaves a bad taste in my mouth, and not morally or metaphorically. I think I threw up a little. Right off the bat, I am intensely grossed out–because that is more visceral than being simply offended–that “fine China” is quite literally referring to a hot Asian lady. I watched most of the video expecting him to “climb her Great Wall” or “lay down her Oriental rug.” Spoiler alert: neither happened. I also have to call bullshit on stating more than once that he is “not dangerous,” yet the video ends with harmless li’l golden-bow-tied Chrissy-poo being backed up by dudes with automatic weapons. Safety factor: The girl’s dad attempts to seem more badass than the “thug” he disapproves of. But real talk: If your golden bow tie is hiding a neck tat, dude, you dangerous.
I also intensely dislike him. I see it as a failure of societal evolution that we allow this violent clown to continue being in the public eye for anything greater than his legal problems. Once you’ve assaulted someone publicly–notice I do not limit this to women, or even to humans, Michael Vick–you give up your rights to collect money from the masses. All that said, this song sounds like a “Suit and Tie,” top shelf vodka knock-off to me. So you can add Timberlake to the list of people who have been hit by Chris Brown.
Misogyny score: 9. For a girl being treated like property by boyfriend, dad, and a continent.
First Impression: I don’t know if you can be more objectifying than comparing a woman to a collector’s piece of inanimate pottery. Chris Brown also makes a lot of use of possessives in what his intentions are for her–when she’s “his”, he’ll be “generous.” Why can’t he be generous now? Why can’t she be independent and deserve his kind treatment? Saying “when you’re mine, I’ll be generous” makes me just think of a woman lying in a pile of furs and diamonds, bored as hell because she’s not allowed out of the house. Then, what happens when she gets old? Fine china may stay the same (as long as you don’t throw it at your lover’s head), but ladies tend to age. There is no line about being generous with your funding of plastic surgery, or even better, being generous with your topics of conversation and shared interests once you get tired of blandly gazing at this girl. It all seems like a very antiquated sensibility–you’re mine, I will care for you, and put you on a shelf so that you never have to worry about making autonomous decisions or ruining your pretty little face.
I’m not sure if we’re also talking about the video in this case, but it’s pretty ridiculous that there is only one female featured in it and she is defined solely by her possession by men; she is simply her father’s property that stepped over the lines of propriety by running around with a no-good thug; that thug will ultimately “save” her from her father by making her “his.” The female is, whenever given the opportunity to speak, simply asserts her devotion to Brown. I wish she had maybe taken a moment to think and said, “Maybe I should live on my own for a while, really consider if I want to be a part of this dangerous lifestyle. Maybe I should pursue a master’s degree.”
Redeeming Qualities: I will say that Brown is a very talented dancer, and I appreciated that the dancing was almost exclusively done by men. Yes, this highlighted the single female in the video as a commodity, but it’s nice to see a video not centered around gyrating curves.
I want to state for the record that I hate Brown. I cannot approve of him personally. I boycott his music when all possible–I change the station if he’s on the radio, I don’t actively seek out his music and listen to it, I will not give him money. I understand that people are capable of change and rehabilitation–I am just not sure Brown has shown himself to be at this point, and do not want to support the glamorization of an abusive man. That said, the song is a catchy, well-constructed pop song musically, and I hope the women in his life make smart choices in the future.
I rinsed my brain out by listening to Ellie Goulding for an hour after this video.
Misogyny score: 9. This lady exists to be a man’s possession.
First Impression: I can’t possibly reconcile how much I despise this man with how much I like his music. Very little makes me more ashamed than how hard I dance when he sings on any David Guetta joint. Having said that, is anyone surprised he is acting a thug and objectifying beautiful, tall Asian bad actresses? I, for one, am not. Lucky for all of us, it looks like Mr. Brown’s not done with the guy who headed up The Dharma Project. This fight is to be continued, at which point, we’ll find out whether Asians with automatic weapons can prevail against black dudes with green silencers and pushbrooms.
Day Above Ground — “ASIAN GIRLZ”
The most distasteful, universally offensive song of the summer was still made by at least 20 different corroborators who thought it was OK. That bass player is somebody’s son, sir. Thankfully, the Internet at-large has made an example out of these hacks and the original version has since been deleted from YouTube. But it’s summer ’13, y’all, and Asian Girlz on the Internet are forever.
First Impression: I respect that actors will take any job because we all have to buy food. But wow. I am surprised this girl agreed to this video. Maybe they told her she was dancing to Nickelback or something.
First Impression: Watching this video makes me appreciate “South Park” all the more, because there’s a way to make shit funny, but this clip isn’t it. This is the kind of thing that 13-year-old boys watch gathered around the lunch table at middle school, high-fiving each other for being grown up enough to listen to a song about buttfucking.
Misogyny Score: I can’t even get into the misogyny score, because: zzzzzzzzzz but: I know they note on the YouTube page in the disclaimer that they have to take this video down that the song is supposed to be satirical, but that word, it does not mean what they think it means. They’re just listing stereotypes. Is that satire? Have I been doing this wrong? That just ain’t good comedy. That’s a list.
Also, the song is musically boring.
Redeeming Qualities: The actress is a really really good actor to manage to look happy with these guys.