Thursday, July 12, 2012

Rape Jokes and the Humorless Feminist

"How many feminists does it take to screw in a lightbulb?"
"Not funny."

My friends are really really fond of that joke.  I can't explain why because--and I see the irony here--I just don't find it funny.  I guess the idea of the "humorless feminist" is deeply planted in the minds of the American public--we don't find anything funny, everything offends us, we're uptight and buzzkilling and we hate comedy and testicles.  I'm here to tell you that's bullshit.  There are a number of entirely offensive comedians and movies and TV shows that I find hilarious: Chris Rock, Eddie Murphy, George Carlin, the occasional episode of South Park, plenty of guys that just talk about dicks all the time.  I get it, it's comedy and if it's done cleverly and correctly it's funny.  I even sit through the occasional episode of Tosh.0.  Well, I used to, anyway--no longer.

Many of you may have heard about this already, but if not, allow me to explain.  Now, here is the whole story according to the Tumblr account, half of which is entirely ignored by the Huffington Post article.

A woman and her friend were trying to decide what to do one night and her friend suggested they go see a comedy show.  They decided that it sounded like fun, and there were several comedians performing that night.  Dane Cook was the only one they recognized, so they went deciding to give the people they hadn't heard of a chance.  One of those people was Daniel Tosh--who it would be easy to have never heard of if you hadn't seen his show--and they quickly discovered they'd made a mistake.

So apparently Tosh asked the audience what they wanted him to talk about (this is according to the comedy club manager, who may very well be entirely clueless) and the audience responded "rape!" which is...a whole other thing that needs to be talked about.  So after Tosh goes on and on about how rape is hilarious this woman got upset, which is entirely her right, and called out that she didn't ever think that rape is funny.  It wasn't that she called him a douche while she did it or told him that his face is stupid or walked up to the stage and threw a baseball at his crotch.  That was all she said.

He proceeded to--depending on which source you believe--either talk about how hilarious it would be if she specifically were raped by five guys RIGHT THEN, or say that she sounded like she'd been raped by five guys.  Either way...well, come on, let's think about this.

I made the mistake of reading the comments on that Huffington Post article.  DO NOT MAKE MY MISTAKES.  There are a few points at play here and I want to address them all.

I want to get the First Amendment thing out of the way here before anything else because I'm sick of this "it's a free country!" argument.  No one, including the woman who was told it would be hilarious if she was gang-raped, is claiming that Tosh should be put in jail for what he said.  He had every right to make jokes about rape, she had every right to stand up and say something, and he had every right to respond.  But the First Amendment doesn't come without consequences, and she had every right to go out and tell whoever she wanted about what happened.  I don't want this guy to have to pay a fine, go to jail, or even have his show cancelled because of what happened.  But I have every right to criticize him for saying what he said, and so I will.  He can go right on ahead and keep making rape jokes but I'm going to keep on finding him disgusting for it.

I have seen many people--including people I know--say that he should be free to say what he wants and she knew what she was getting into by going to a comedy club and heckling him.  That still DOES NOT MAKE IT OKAY.  Is it less bad than if this exchange had happened on the street?  Maybe.  But he still told a woman it would be funny if she got raped, and there is nothing funny about that.  She went to the show--as is said in the article--without knowing who he was.  I don't think "oh, it's a comedy club, he can say the most offensive thing he wants" excuses the fact that we, as a culture, condone that kind of behavior from stand-up comedians.

I'm going to Aaron Sorkin out here a bit for a second, so just bear with me.  Prepare for dewy-eyed optimism about how we're better than this.

When did we get to the point where just saying the most "edgy" (read: offensive) thing you can possibly think of is comedy?  With no context?  I mean his bit appears to literally have been "haha rape is so funny."  No, it isn't.  George Carlin has been brought up a lot in the discussion about this incident, and I'll agree with what he said about any subject being funny if you put it on its head and put it in a context of social criticism.  Since when were we all just playing to the lowest common denominator and yelling "Dead babies!  People falling over!  The Holocaust!  Rape!" and suddenly it's just comedy? 

There are rape jokes that are funny.  I'm going to post a video of one below.  Please be so kind as to skip ahead to 15:45 in this video.  End at about 17:30.

Now this joke is funny because it turns the societal expectation on its head.  He talks about how absurd it would be if he, as a man, had to worry about being raped all the time and how unlikely the circumstances would be if he were raped.  That is societal commentary, and it's still funny.  It's not just "HAHA RAPE!" and that's the joke.

Which brings me to another point.  The Daniel Tosh incident--and male comedians making fun of rape in general--is a male privilege issue.  Yes, it is.  Rape can be hilarious to you if you don't have to worry about it all the time.  You can make jokes about it without having to be concerned with the reality of it.  Saying to a woman that it would be funny if she got raped or that she only thinks a joke isn't funny is because she got raped is actually scary.  It could actually happen.  That woman could really have been a rape survivor.  And that's what truly makes it gross.

Now, are there off-color female comedians, too?  Absolutely.  Someone in the dreaded Huffo comments brought up Lisa Lampanelli, who I am personally not a fan of at all, and how offensive she can be.  And you're right, we should not get a free pass for being women just like men shouldn't get a free pass for being men.  Comedy continues to be an old boys' club, unfortunately.  Adam Carrolla was kind enough to point out just how un-funny women are--in another statement of hilaaaarious racism and sexism--a few weeks ago.  There is a LOT of sexism in comedy, from the fact that women and rape are the butt of so many jokes to the fact that female comedians often get stuck talking about tampons and how much dating sucks if they want to sell at all. 

I am sick of hearing that women--especially feminists--are not funny or that we're entirely humorless.  I don't find things funny that I can relate to in no way, shape or form and that's what so much of male-centric comedy is, especially when it involves rape.  I cannot FATHOM finding the word "rape" funny when it's just tossed out there.  Because that joke isn't for me, it's for all the frat guys who want to feel edgy and guffaw at something that doesn't require them to think.  Why SHOULD I find that funny?  It wasn't intended for me. 

Daniel Tosh released a half-assed "apology" over Twitter and I'm sure his fanbase will not change at all because they didn't care in the first place.  I know I won't be watching him again.  He has made it clear that I am not his desired audience, and I don't find him funny anymore at all after that.  I want to be optimistic enough to believe that this will at least start a conversation, but I doubt it--this frat boy culture is apparently pretty powerful and lucrative, so I'm not hopeful for too much examination.  I just want to say that I do find lots of things funny--even farts, and even jokes about boobs, and even swearing and penises and on a rare occasion or two even Dane Cook.  But when women, and feminists especially, are the joke, how are we supposed to laugh for the ten millionth time?  It gets exhausting.

And a word of advice to comedians:  If you can't pull off the rape joke, just don't even try.  It just comes off as sad.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Some Blog News

First of all, I'm glad I've got some new readers!  However you guys got here, thanks for checking out the blog and giving it a chance.  I hope you stick around.

Second of all, I have made a decision about the Pop Music Project.  I will be continuing to do it--quite intensely, in fact--but I will be moving the project to a separate site.  I will be putting up the archives of posts over to that site and I will continue to update it with new analyses of songs as I go back through the years.  This will allow me to go back to concentrating on feminist news, issues and events on this blog without distraction.  You can find the Feminist Pop Music Project blog here.

I will be putting up a new post here tomorrow, and all of the Pop Music Project posts will be on the other site along with new material from 2006 that I am working on at the moment.  Happy Interneting!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Pop Music Project: 2007

I realize now that 2008 was a turning point for pop music.  It was truly when vapid dance pop entered the Top 100.  I consider that a bad thing, and I am hoping that euro-style dance music is on its way out now in 2012.  On the other hand, I am now even more happy to be going backward instead of forward.  2007 had some good pop music and, more importantly, some very interesting pop music.  Let's get right down to it.  I want to start off with something I'm still trying to make up my mind about.

Good/Bad Song: Big Girls Don't Cry by Fergie

2007 marks the fifth year that I've listened to the Top 100, which means I have listened to 500 pop songs, a stunning percentage of which are breakup songs.  Some of them are bitter, some of them are self-loathing, some of them are desperate.  Very few have been "well this is over so I have to take care of myself" songs.  This is.  Which is especially refreshing coming from a female singer.

I hope you know, I hope you know, that this has nothing to do with you
It's personal, myself and I, we've got some straightening out to do.

I really like that she acknowledges that she might have problems herself that need fixing and that not everything is about her relationship or the person she was in a relationship with.  On the other hand, then we get to this.

And I'm gonna miss you like a child misses their blanket
but I've got to get a move on with my life.
It's time to be a big girl now,
and big girls don't cry.

Uhhh, why not?  Look, I know our society has a much larger problem with the impression that men can't be emotional, but I don't think this is the time to try to flip that stereotype.  Women DO cry.  Men do, too.  And both of those things are okay.  You know what people who tell themselves not to cry and bottle up their emotions end up doing?  Shooting people.  Don't shoot people, Fergie.  Cry if you need to.

Then there's also the really weird bridge that's a whole metaphor about kids being friends in the schoolyard and the line "we'll be playmates and lovers and share our secret worlds."  The phrase "playmates and lovers" should NEVER exist ANYWHERE.  Just pointing this out.  Onward!

Bad Song: Before He Cheats by Carrie Underwood
I like being back in 2007 because it's finally back to a time when I was actually listening to pop radio.  And yes, this song was on my iPod when I was sixteen.  You want so badly to agree with this, because who doesn't love an angry revenge song?  There was a good example of the revenge song in 2007--actually the number one song of the year--and that was "Irreplaceable" by Beyonce.  This...well, Before He Cheats is actually about just being fucking crazy.

We start off with a little slut-shaming...

Right now he's probably slow-dancing with some bleach-blonde tramp
and she's probably getting thirsty,
right now he's probably buying her some fruity little drink
'cause she can't shoot whiskey

...and then we go to Crazytown.

I dug my key into the side of his pretty little souped-up 4-wheel drive,
carved my name into his leather seats,
took a Louisville Slugger to both headlights,
slashed a hole in all four tires,
maybe next time he'll think before he cheats.

Yeah, look, that's not sweet revenge.  That's jail time.  Seriously.  I am a big fan of Donald Glover and he has a bit about how every guy has a crazy girlfriend story, but women don't have crazy boyfriend stories because if they get a crazy boyfriend they're gonna die.  I want you to pretend that it is a man instead of a woman singing those lyrics.  Still cute and fun?  Nope, then it's scary.  It is STILL scary when it's a woman.  It's okay, ladies, for you to be all "I hope when he's fucking his next girlfriend he's thinking of me!" or even to kick him out of the house if he cheats on you.  It's not okay to destroy his personal property in a really threatening way.  I'm going to conclude this PSA now.

Good Song: U + Ur Hand by Pink

I am writing this post as I listen to a bunch of frat boy jerkoffs party in the alleyway next to my apartment.  I am seriously considering putting my laptop in my window facing outward and blasting this song at them.  Hell, I wish I could walk down the street blasting this song all. the. time.  This song is so great it makes up for all of the "hitting on girls in clubs" songs that infiltrated the charts in 2007.  Check this out.

I'm not here for your entertainment, you don't really wanna mess with me tonight,
just stop and take a second, I was fine before you walked into my life
'cause you know it's over before it began
keep your drink just give me the money
it's just you and your hand tonight.

She's going into a club to have fun without being hit on, groped or ogled.  Newsflash, guys: We don't dress up and go out just so guys will stare at us.  We want to have fun sometimes without your assistance.  We don't need a supporting cast.  I especially like this line.

You know who you are, high-fiving, talking shit, but you're going home alone, aren't you?

Damn straight they are.  There need to be more songs like this, seriously.  

Bad Song: Girlfriend by Avril Lavigne
I don't think I can properly articulate just how much I loathe this song's very existence.  Everything about it is terrible.  It is terrible musically, lyrically, and ideologically.  I'm going to make this quick because if I think about it for too long it will get stuck in my head and it'll take me three hours' worth of Tom Petty songs to get it out.

Avril doesn't like your girlfriend.  She thinks your girlfriend is "so whatever" and that, with her magical powers of description as one of her key assets, she could make a much better girlfriend.  "Because she's "damn precious" and "the motherfucking princess."  Now doesn't this girl sound charming?

She's talking to a guy here and she's literally telling him to leave his girlfriend for her because he's "so delicious" and she knows he likes her because he looks at her sometimes.  And, because she's fifteen years old she tells this guy that his girlfriend is "so stupid."  And then she threw spitballs at her, I can only assume.

Look, why does it have to be a contest?  Why did you have to tear down his girlfriend for a whole song instead of saying "that guy that I like has a girlfriend and I don't like her so clearly I should back off"?  This is high school level crap and it leads to the same crap happening between mature, intelligent adult women.  And that is bad.  And truly, truly annoying.

Good Song: Like A Boy by Ciara
I went on for quite awhile about the failings of If I Were A Boy by Beyonce back in 2009.  I pointed out that she scratched the surface of something but didn't bother to follow through.  This song follows through on the premise that Beyonce's song set forward.  The fact that this song by Ciara came out two years earlier only makes the failings of Beyonce's song that much more inexcusable.  

The problem with Beyonce's "If I Were A Boy" mostly came down to the fact that it treated gender differences as if they were a difference in the way men and women loved.  The verses were about actual differences in privilege but the chorus was all gender essentialism: "Men don't understand how to love women", etc.  This one is all about switching roles, about treating people a certain way and ating a certain way vs. actually being a certain way. 

The difference is especially stark because the two songs are basically about the same thing: men treating women badly in relationships.  But this song is more about expectations than accepting the way it is because that's how it always is.

Wish we could switch up the roles
And I could be that...
Tell you I love you
But when you call I never get back
Would you ask them questions like me?...
Like where you be at?
Cause I'm out 4 in the morning
On the corner rolling
Doing my own thing

I wish there would be more songs like this.  Not necessarily because I think they're right, but because at least they open up the conversation and lend some kind of variety to the narrative.  This isn't whiny at all, it's frank and honest and not wrong.  It's a different perspective, and there's nothing wrong with that.

Bad Song: Smack That by Akon and Eminem

I don't usually do in-depth analyses of club songs on this blog because it's pretty pointless to do it.  I just can't find a club song that's not both somewhat offensive and really, really boring.  But this is a special case.

I think my favorite anecdote about this song is the time my mother--who is a teacher--told me that she was in the principal's office at her school and a parent who was in the office's phone rang.  This song was her ringtone.  Keep that in mind now.

This is a song about spanking a girl.  Straight up. 

Maybe bend you over, look back and watch me
smack that out on the floor,
smack that, give me some more,
smack that 'til you get sore

If you're a lady who's into spanking, more power to you, I don't object.  But keep in mind he has not EVER SPOKEN TO THIS GIRL EVER.  He wants to speak to her expressly so that he can take her home and spank her.  And not just a couple times.  Until she's sore.  Ugh.  And, for some reason, Eminem's verse is about taking a stripper back to his place.  What is it with the strip club thing?  Someday I will find out, I swear.

Good Song: Runaway Love by Ludacris and Mary J. Blige

I'm just gonna put this up front, Ludacris is kind of a gross rapper.  Maybe this song seems so great in contrast to all of his other songs, but I think it's genuinely pretty cool even on its own.  Is it a little Dateline-sounding?  Sure.  But I believe that these could be real stories.  And they're all about girls.

This song has three verses, each of which is devoted to the story about one little girl.  The first has a mother who's a drug addict and a prostitute whose clients abuse her nine-year-old daughter.  The second is a girl whose father is abusive and whose only friend dies is a drive-by shooting.  The third is a girl who has a tough home life so she takes drugs and ends up pregnant by an older boy who doesn't want anything to do with her.  They sound melodramatic, but I guarantee these are not impossible or even unlikely situations.  The fact that this song was made by a major rap star and was a hit is really really awesome.  And yes, I do cry every. single. time I hear this song.  Seriously, every time. 

Bad Song: Rockstar by Nickelback

I swear this wasn't one of my selections just because I hate Nickelback, though it definitely helps.  This song is the rock equivalent of every rap song about being rich and famous.  And this song just exacerbate the biggest problem I have with those songs.  In brag songs, women are just objects like cars and expensive bottles of booze and jewelry.  They are accessories that men use to accentuate and show their wealth.  Here, it's worse.

And we'll hang out in the coolest bars
In the VIP with the movie stars
Every good gold digger's
Gonna wind up there
Every Playboy bunny
With her bleach blond hair

Sure, this song is also about buying a bunch of stuff, but it seems to also be about buying women if the kind they expect to pick up are gold diggers and Playboy bunnies.  In the second verse he even emphasizes that he's going to "date a centerfold who loves to blow my money for me."  Uhhh, why?  Do you really just want a girl who wants you because you're rich?  Why is that a perk?

Women are not perks to being famous, music stars.  We're people, we have likes and dislikes "and not just those printed next to that centerfold's picture).  Give us a break.  It gets old fast.

Good Song: Beautiful Liar by Beyonce and Shakira

This is an incredibly honest song, I think.  It's about two women who find out that one guy has been dating both of them at the same time and telling them both the same exact thing.  So they do their best to reconcile what they believe their relationships were with the reality.  And they realize that they are angry at each other though they shouldn't be, and that they both feel ashamed.  But at the same time, they come to the conclusion that it isn't worth it to be ashamed or angry.

Let's not kill the karma
Let's not start a fight
 It's not worth the drama
For a beautiful liar
Can't we laugh about it (Ha Ha Ha)
 It's not worth our time
 We can live without 'em
Just a beautiful liar

I'm not always all "The men aren't worth it, sisterhood forever!" but in the case of some guy committing to two girls at the same time it's time to say screw him and not get pissed at the other girl he was with.  Thanks for not advocating girl-on-girl crime, Beyonce and Shakira!

Good Song: Face Down by Red Jumpsuit Apparatus

Yes, I had more good songs this year than bad songs.  Isn't that exciting?  Anyway, this song is fantastic.  I talked about Eminem and Rihanna's domestic abuse song in 2010.  That it it was somewhat good and bad.  This one is just straight-up good.

In this song, a man is talking about a girl who he likes and cares about who is being abused by her boyfriend.  There's not much else to say.

Do you feel like a man when you push her around?
Do you feel better now as she falls to the ground?
Well I'll tell you my friend, one day this world's going to end,
as your lies crumble down a new life she has found.

He is tearing this guy APART telling him that someday his girlfriend is going to realize what an asshole he is, and she's going to leave him and be happy without him.  I love that.  I think it's really awesome.  A little paternalistic?  Maybe.  But this song would work if a man OR a woman were singing it.  I think that this is a perfect sentiment for a song like this.

I'm gonna wrap this up here.  2007 was actually a pretty good year.  I'm glad to see that things are getting better as I go further back.  I hear that someone may have brought sexy back in 2006, so I guess we'll find out.

Some General Thoughts on the Billboard Top 100 Songs of 2007
  • There were 29 songs by female artists or male/female collaborations this year.  However, seven of the top ten were by female artists.  This is bizarre.  That is a shockingly low number in the Top 100 and a shockingly high number in the Top 10.
  • After doing 2007 it is clear that 2008 was a highly transitional year for pop music.  There were a lot of songs in the 2007 top 100 that could be classified as "rock" but in 2008 most of the rock songs were replaced with dance pop and it has remained that way ever since
  • Gwen Stefani's solo stuff is terrible, which is a shame especially since one of No Doubt's songs was the entire impetus for this project.
  • This was the year "Make It Rain" became a thing.  Gross.  Ten points from 2007. 
  • I will give one hundred dollars to the first person who can explain to me what "Welcome To The Black Parade" by My Chemical Romance is about. 

Saturday, June 9, 2012

The Pop Music Project: 2008

I like looking for themes throughout all of the hit songs in one year, and 2008 hardly made this difficult.  2008 was apparently the year of the stripper.  There were so, so many songs about guys watching girls sliding down poles and "making it rain" on them that I am beginning to wonder what the cultural catalyst for this was.  It's not a particularly happy trend, either, and I'm going to cover that in this piece.  In fact, in many ways 2008 was the epitome of seeing women--and women seeing themselves--as sexual objects and not people.  On that note, I would like to get right to one of the most controversial hits of 2008.  Unfortunately, this one terrible song launched a whole terrible career.  Fortunately, this is the last time I will ever ever have to cover her on this blog.  But sure as hell she's going out with a bang.

Bad Song: I Kissed A Girl by Katy Perry

In this lovely little gem, Katy Perry talks about getting really drunk and kissing another girl.  I, in theory, have absolutely no problem with this notion.  If we simply looked at this on the surface and heard the lines "I kissed a girl and I liked it!" it would be fine.  Experimentation is good, figuring out what you like is good.'s when you look deeper...

This song is about the male gaze, plain and simple.  There are plenty of women out there who think that they are taking their sexuality into their own hands by making out with other women in front of their boyfriends or guys that they want to hook up with to turn them on.  And that's the problem--it's to turn on the GUYS, not the girls actually participating in the single-sex tonsil hockey.  Katy Perry projects this perfectly-manicured image of the good girl gone bad: the sweet, innocent angel who went to a party, got too drunk and ended up locking lips with a random hot girl.

It's not what good girls do, not how they should behave
my head gets so confused, hard to obey.

She's a good girl gone bad!  And she's gone bad by kissing another girl!  How taboo!  And sexy!

No I don't even know your name, it doesn't matter,
you're my experimental game, just human nature.  

She was just taking a TOUR of Gay Land, guys!  She was just visiting, so what difference does it make if she makes out with one of the locals without even knowing their NAME?

I kissed a girl just to try it,
I hope my boyfriend don't mind it.

Now this is the thing that truly drives me crazy about this song.  These "experimental" girls, the ones who make out with girls just randomly without necessarily any attraction because they think it's edgy or that guys will find it hot, they look at these women they're making out with as objects.  They don't look at it as cheating on their significant other because it doesn't count.  Why not?!  If you made out with a guy it would be cheating.  They're still people that you had physical, sexual contact with in a way that goes outside the supposedly monogamous bounds of your relationship.  It makes no sense that your boyfriend WOULDN'T mind it!  Unless you guys were having a threesome, you kind of fucked up.  

Am I all for pop songs about homosexuality becoming a thing?  Sure I am!  But this is not one of them. This is actually kind of mocking the idea of being bisexual in a creepy way.  

Good Song: Love Song by Sara Bareilles
Yes, I just love Sara Bareilles, she's amazing and this was her biggest hit.  It came in at number 7 on the Hot 100 of 2008, and that's pretty damn good for a song like this.  Sure, it's poppy, but it's piano-heavy and the lyrics are, well, maybe a little more strong-willed than I've gotten used to seeing on these charts.

I'm not gonna write you a love song 'cause you asked for it, 
cause you need one, you see
I'm not gonna write you a love song 'cause you tell me it's 
make or break in this
if you're on your way, I'm not gonna write you to stay
if all you have is leaving I'mma need a better reason to write you
a love song today.

Here she is talking about being in a relationship with a man who cannot see her for who she is, who guilts her and manipulates her into trying to want to be with him despite him metaphorically suffocating her.  My favorite line in the whole song is in the bridge and it summarizes the whole point perfectly:

I believe there's a way you can love me because I say
I won't write you a love song 'cause you asked for it.

She believes he can love her for being strong-willed, for having opinions, for recognizing problems and standing up for herself, for not being obedient.  That might seem like a no-brainer kind of deal but you'd be surprised the messages a lot of pop songs send out about simply trying to please and cater to a significant other (Destiny's Child I'm looking at you).  But it IS possible to love someone for saying no, for not doing what you want all the time.  And if a guy treats you badly, why should you write him a love song?  If he's basically saying "do this--even if your heart isn't in it--or I'll leave you" why should you try to keep him from walking out?  Unless it's something like not shooting his dog.  Then that's reasonable.

I'll admit I'm a bit biased on this one, as I've mentioned before I love Sara Bareilles and she is probably the pop artist from the past few years whose full body of work I'm most familiar with.  So I can put this song in context.  But seriously, Little Voice as a full album was fantastic both musically and lyrically.  I highly recommend it.

Bad Song: Sweetest Girl (Dollar Bill) by Wyclef Jean, Akon, Lil Wayne and Niia
Of course, a year can't go buy without me including at least one song that Lil Wayne was in some way involved with. This song brings up a whole new issue: prostitution. I said before that this song was the year of songs about strippers, and strippers are included here too except instead of glorifying stripping the way a lot of the hits in 2008 did this one denigrates them.  This song's hook is about money, and how everyone has to get it, and blah blah blah the same way so many rap songs are, but the verses here are different.  Somehow, the guys rapping this song seem to hate prostitutes but love pimps, which is just so incredibly insulting to me.

See pimpin' got harder 'cause hos got smarter

Seriously? I feel so bad for pimps.  SO BAD.  Especially since this line comes at the beginning of the second verse when the first verse was all about a woman who got treated badly by her pimp.  I'd like to say right here that I think prostitution should be legal. There are a lot of reasons for that, though chief among them is the fact that legal prostitution would mean safer prostitution.  If it were legal we wouldn't need to worry about pimps, or at least not pimps that beat, rape, and steal from prostitutes.  This song is basically about the madonna/whore dichotomy: "this girl used to be so sweet and smart back in high school but now she's a prostitute! So gross!"  And that's not cool.  I get that it's saying that money corrupts people and makes them do unhealthy things, and that's a valid point.  Opponents of legalized prostitution aren't wrong in that prostitution is not the chosen career or dream of most women and that it is inherently objectifying in some respects. But a lot of the economic pressure to become a prostitute would be alleviated if it became legal, did not have to be underground and would be open to the free market.

And you know what?  If a woman genuinely wants to be a stripper or a prostitute, more power to her!  If she enjoys that, why do we have to be giant assholes about it? Why do rappers talk about how much they want to fuck strippers but then turn around and call them immoral?  It's a fucking ridiculous double standard and this song is a perfect embodiment of it.

Good Song: Touch My Body by Mariah Carey
I'm not a huge fan of Mariah Carey.  Yeah, she has a great voice but she's typically a little too Lisa Frank for me--sunshine and butterflies and "boy I'm gonna love you forever once you come along".  But this song is kind of awesome.  Again, it's a woman taking control of her sexuality--she wants this guy and she wants him NOW, and this is exactly how she wants him.  But that's not the part of this song that makes me grin from ear to hear.  This is:

If there's a camera up in here then it's gonna leave with me when I do, I do,
If there's a camera up in here then I best not catch this flick on YouTube, YouTube
'cause if you run your mouth and brag about this secret rendezvous, I will hunt you down

It's just the sickeningly sweet but totally murderous way she sings "I will hunt you down."  In an era where naked peephole videos of attractive female sportscasters and celebrity sex tapes are released without the knowledge of the women involved, this is a pretty spot-on set of lines from a famous woman.  There were a couple songs by women this year that had the "keep this shit secret" line thrown in--Please Don't Stop The Music by Rihanna comes immediately to mind.  Oddly enough, we saw the opposite from male performers.  This year Usher had a HUGE hit with a song called "Love In This Club" that was literally about FUCKING IN A CLUB.  It's a really interesting divide, and a very apparent one.  More power to Mariah for being like "hell no, keep your mouth shut, not everyone needs to know my business."  Is it a little prudish?  Sure.  But when you type "Erin Andrews" into Google the very first autocomplete result is "peephole video", so I can hardly blame her.  

Bad Song: Crank That by Soulja Boy Tell 'Em
I'm going to teach you some things today that you may not have wanted to know.  Because this song contains some terminology that...well, isn't in the mainstream.  So let's take a trip to Urban Dictionary!

If you were curious as to what "Superman that ho"  means, I suggest you click on that link.  I may swear and I may talk about sex on this blog but I refuse to outright post that shit here.  I also looked up "Bathin' apes" and found out that it's just a type of shoe, so at least that's not something disgusting.

This song would not have made it onto this list if it weren't for the fact that literally 2/3rds of the lyrics are either "Superman that ho!" or "Supersoak that ho!"  At a certain point you just start hearing those lines get repeated in your nightmares and you wake up covered in cold sweat.  Or maybe that's just me. But seriously?  It's just so fucking gross.  

That's all I really have to say about that.  I would like to give a shout-out to my friend Bob, who points out that this song has an "awesomely minimalist beat".  That's true.  With other words over it, this beat is awesome, which I know because there was a song that came out THE SAME YEAR that sampled this beat and was actually pretty decent.  

Good Song: Just Fine by Mary J. Blige
This song is just straight-up positive.  It's got a peppy beat and everything about it just just "everything is great and I'm amazing and I don't care what you think because life is amazing!"  And I can get behind that.  Even when things suck, if you feel this way you'll be okay.  

I especially like the line "I like what I see when I'm lookin' at me when I'm walkin' past the mirror."  Good!  More people should!  More people should genuinely just relax into who they are and actually ignore the haters instead of just talking about it all the time.  This song is solely about one person: the one singing it.  It's not "My life is fine in comparison to yours!" or "look at how much better than you I am!"  It's just about her.  And I think that's really cool.

Bad Song: Mrs. Officer by Lil Wayne and Bobby Valentino
So this is a song about literally fucking the police.  My first question is about the title: "Mrs. Officer"?  Is the cop you're having sex with married?  Why not "Ms. Officer" or even "Miss officer"?  Anyway, I digress.

There are not a lot of female police officers, as it's still considered a pretty masculine job and that's a big issue.  So why we gotta objectify female police officers?  This song assumes that all female police officers just pull guys over so they can find men to sleep with.  Not to mention that being a police officer puts a woman in a pretty dominant position, and here Lil Wayne can't deal with that so he has to talk about cuffing this woman and dominating her sexually.  It's kind of a novelty song, but seriously, I just don't get why it couldn't have been a different profession.  

Not to mention this:

And I beat it like a cop
Rodney King baby, yeah, beat it like a cop

Rodney King jokes are not funny.  Police brutality is no fucking joke.  And beating women is really not funny.  Maybe it's especially because of Lil Wayne's smug delivery of these lines, but it's really really not okay at all.

Good Song: Piece Of Me by Britney Spears
I do not by any means think that Britney Spears is a good role model.  She's got problems, and she always has.  But a huge contributor to those problems is her treatment in the media--she came of age in the spotlight and that could screw up anyone.  I give her credit for confronting that in this song, pointing out how insane the media is towards her.  This song was inevitable--she was making a comeback when it came out after a few years of crazy and not addressing it would have been a strange move.  But she did it the best way possible by pointing out the double standards and sensationalism that had brought her to this point.  

I especially like that she points out that tabloids always labeling her as too fat or too thin is unfair.  I like that she puts a human face on celebrities that have to deal with the hassle of paparazzi.  I like that she takes how oversexualized the media and her PR people made her and turned it on its head.  But I especially like this.

Guess I can't see the harm in working and being a mama
and with a kid on my arm I'm still an exceptional earner

Working moms get a lot of shit, and I like that she just called out people who act like that's the case in this song.  Now, do I endorse most of the things Britney Spears has done?  No.  Do I think she could maybe have taken some more responsibility in this song?  Sure.  But there are a lot of parts of this song that can be extrapolated to fit the experiences of a lot of women, and that's a step in the right direction, especially for Ms. Spears.

I'm gonna wrap this up here.  This was a pretty mundane year as far as music and controversy went, and continuing on would just be redundant.  

Some General Thoughts on the Billboard Top 100 of 2008
  • There were 38 songs in the Top 100 that were either by female artists or male/female collaborations.  There were 4 songs in the Top 10 that were by female artists.  This is a new low so far in my adventures through the Top 100s of every year.
  • I graduated high school in 2008.  My graduation/prom song was Good Life by Kanye West and T-Pain, and it came in at number 79.
  • There were lots of love and break-up songs this year that involved injury metaphors. "Bleeding Love", "Suffocate", "No Air"...I think this is kind of a weird trend.  Fortunately it was contained within this year of pop music.
  • I realize now that there are so few rock songs on the Top 100 for good reason.  Rock music--or pop rock, at any rate--means something completely different now than it did in the '90s.  Bands like Nirvana, Blind Melon and Sublime would be considered indie by today's standards.  They have been replaced by dull rock bands like Nickelback, 3 Doors Down and Linkin Park.  I can't wait to get back into the '90s and into some better rock music.  Perhaps I will be proven wrong.
  • God help me, I love Taylor Swift.  I just can't help it.  Go listen to "Our Song" and tell me you can resist that.  I will tell you that you have a heart of stone.

I've done some peeking ahead into 2007 and it's much more interesting, so I hope that's something to look forward to.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Pop Music Project: 2009

2009 was a year full of breakup songs, which is appropriate because I would like to break up with 2009.  There was much, much more bad than good, so this list might be a little skewed.  Musically, this year was interesting, but lyrically it was anything but.  Let's just get going because I have plenty to say.

Bad Song: Don't Trust Me by 3OH!3
I admit I'm a little biased with this one.  Yes, it's a gross song in general, but there are really two lines that just get me every single time I hear it.

I vividly remember the first time I heard this song.  I was in my mother's car--pretty much the only place I heard pop music before I started doing this--and at first I didn't think it was bad.  The lyrics were interesting, it was catchy, I could bob my head to it.  And then this happened.

Shush, girl, shut your lips
do the Helen Keller and talk with your hips

and I wanted to rip the radio from the console and throw it off the side of Mt. Washington.  Understand that I take offense to this on two levels.  First of all, as a woman--"shush girl, shut your lips?" No thanks, asshole--and as a disabled person.  I am blind in my left eye and have limited vision in my right, and as I grew up I saw Helen Keller as an inspiration.  Not to mention the fact that Helen Keller could speak, an incredible feat considering she was blind and deaf.  This line popped up everywhere on the Internet and has stayed the main thing associated with Helen Keller by douchebags everywhere.  And it makes me just as angry today as it made me that first time.
Of course, the rest of the song was even more misogynistic.  "Don't trust a ho, never trust a ho"?  Was this song engineered to ensure these guys would never get laid again?  This song is the epitome of douchebro culture.  Well, at least I thought so.  We'll see later on in this list if that's true.

Good Song: Miss Independent by Ne-Yo
Now for a palate cleanser.  There are a few hit songs by women titled Miss Independent, and that's fine, but this is special because a man wrote and performed a song about how much he loves a woman because she can do things for herself.  Progress!

Her favorite thing to say, don't worry I got it,
and everything she got best believe she bought it,
she's gonna steal my heart, ain't no doubt about it,
you're everything I need...
She got her own thing, that's why I love her,
Miss Independent, won't you come and spend a little time?

He talks about how he loves that she's the boss and that she doesn't need his help.  He even says that he looks at her and he's proud!  I think this represents the attitudes of more than a few men, and it's great that there's a song for them.  It could be said, of course, that it's sad that this song had to exist in the first place, but at least it's something, right?  

Bad Song: Blame It by Jamie Foxx and T-Pain
You know what's a dick move?  Getting a girl drunk to have sex with her.  If you can't get girls to sleep with you unless they're falling-on-the-floor wasted, the problem is you.  I like to call this one the Date Rape Song.  

Now here's a thing that is important to distinguish: there is a huge difference between drunk sex and rape.  If you have consent before you start to drink, or if your partner is lucid enough to give consent, whatever.  Not to say that anyone can't change their mind about consent midway through.  If they are so absolutely plastered that they're nearly unresponsive, that's rape.  There's no two ways about it.  Especially considering, legally, someone intoxicated over the legal blood alcohol content threshold cannot actually give consent.  If you are intentionally getting someone drunk to have sex with them when you are not certain whether they would have consented before, you are committing a premeditated rape.  And maybe I'm taking this seriously, but I should!  This is a HUGE problem with our culture, especially with young people, and this song is only furthering the impression that alcohol is the way to get a woman to fuck you.  Real men--and women--don't need to get someone plastered to seduce them.  Let's look at some lyrics.

Fill another cup up
feelin' on your butt--what?
you don't even care now, I was unaware how fine
you were before my buzz set in.

Ew, right?  And he also talks about how this girl says she usually doesn't, but he can tell she wants it and is just saying she won't have sex with him because she doesn't want to seem easy.  Which is kind of slut-shaming AND rapey.  There is something wrong with just about every line of this song so I strongly recommend you read the lyrics.
Good Song: Womanizer by Britney Spears
Don't think for a second that I'm saying this is a GOOD song--musically it isn't fantastic at all, and most of Britney Spears' songs are terrible from a feminist perspective.  Though I still don't know how to feel about the one about threesomes.  But anyway, this one has some awesome lyrics.

Lollipop, you must mistake me for a sucker
To think that I, would be a victim, not another
Say it, play how you want it
But no way I'm never gonna fall for you, never you, baby
Womanizer, woman-womanizer, you're a womanizer

This is a song about a woman who runs into one of those guys who thinks he's got game and calls him on his shit.  I love these songs!  And this is a fairly cleverly written one, too.   All those guys who think they can get in your pants with a smooth line and a smile?  That's not typically how it goes, fellas.  And as we can see from the previous song, getting women super drunk isn't the correct course of action either.  Maybe if we all just tried to be genuine we wouldn't need these songs anymore.

Bad Song: Good Girls Go Bad by Cobra Starship and Leighton Meester
Apparently 2009 was the year of the douchey frat boy.  This is a song about seducing innocent girls and turning them "bad", because sex is a naughty naughty thing that you shouldn't do unless it's with this guy.  I especially like the touch of having a woman sing a verse on this song indicating that he was right, she just wants to "go bad" with him for one night.  Nice!

I know your type, boy you're dangerous
you're that guy I'd be stupid to trust.
But just one night couldn't be so wrong,
you make me wanna lose control.

Someone that you can't trust isn't just someone who can make you "go bad", or want them, they're someone you could be putting yourself in a dangerous situation by being around.  And this guy, who refers to this woman as "Daddy's little girl" is definitely creepy.  He's in it for the game, not for the interaction.  This is the guy who's standing at the bar leering at every person thinking that he has the touch to make any woman want him.  Guess what?  You don't have the magic, dude.

Bad Song: Every Girl by Young Money
Like I said, good songs were hard to come by this year.  And I hate to keep picking on Lil Wayne because there are so many rappers that say terrible chauvinist shit but this is just beyond anything else I've heard so far.  There is not a single line in this song that is not reprehensible.  

I mean, the chorus is "I wish I could fuck every girl in the world."  No joke.

I refuse to post long excerpts of lyrics from this song because, frankly, I don't want to have half that stuff on my blog.  Let's just say that Drake implies that every girl is into nothing but partying and fashion, Lil Wayne says that he's going to "filet mignon that pussy", and they're both really really into group sex.  And watching girls have sex with each other.  And there is a line that is seriously just "pussy pussy pussy".  And Drake says that every time he considers settling down his girlfriend brings over one of her hot friends and he reconsiders.  Another of the rappers on this track says that his idol was Wilt Chamberlain, and another says that hoes are "God's gift like Christmas."  But my favorite is probably at the very end..."And Hillary can Rodham too."  

All I'm gonna say is that these guys will never meet their goal of fucking every girl in the world.  They will always come up one short because I would not touch these fuckers with a ten foot pole.  

Bad Song: I Love College by Asher Roth
Story time.  I live in the most college-y neighborhood in Pittsburgh and right across the street from me is a house so full of douchebags I'm convinced it must be an unofficial frat.  It seems to be a perpetual party and on most Friday and Saturday nights there are young men and women streaming in packs down the street going to this house.  One night I was sitting on my porch when a group of young ladies walked past the house across the street and I heard one of its residents yell "Hotties drink for free, fatties keep walking!"

My boyfriend had to hold me back, no lie.

And maybe that's what upsets me about this song.  It isn't so much the song as the people it represents.  Am I having fun as a college student?  Hell yes.  Do I drink plenty of beer and go out and buy cheap takeout late at night?  Fuck yeah.  I love that, too.  But I don't drink and smoke weed every night and make it my aim to get guys naked every time I'm anywhere.  Is it good that he "learned the lesson" to not have sex with a girl if she's "too gone"?  Yes, but why did he need to learn that lesson and not just know it because he's a decent human being with common sense?  I mean, he got into college after all even if he clearly isn't learning anything (as he says himself in this song).  And why are you wearing two condoms?  You know that actually increases the chance of them breaking or slipping off, right?  

My point is that this song represents a creepy and problematic culture that has sprung up.  it's a culture full of date rape, underachievement and Dave Matthews Band.  College IS a time to have fun, but it's also a time to feel out who you are and who you want to be.  Maybe I just don't get this, and maybe I'm humorless.  But I've seen too many people hurt by guys who hold this kind of attitude to enjoy this version of postsecondary education.  

Bad Song: Diva by Beyonce
I wrestled with this one for a really long time.  In one way I totally want to groove to this song.  I want to jump up and down to this.  Because she's a woman and she's making a brag song like a guy!  Good, right?  Well.

Diva is the female version of a hustler
Not so much.  Now, I'm all for equal.  Not so much for separate-but-equal.  If I'm a woman and I want to be a hustler I'm gonna goddamned call myself a hustler because I don't need another name for myself.  I don't need to play the same games and do the same things to be equal, I just need to d my thing because that's what male privilege gives men the ability to do.  She does standard brag song stuff in here--talks about how much money she has, how many records she's sold, and how badass she is.  That's okay.  And then there's the line where she says a guy can't hit on her unless he has "a six-pack in the cooler."  Meaning, of course, his abs.
Listen ladies, we don't need to do exactly the same stuff that the men do to play the game.  We don't need to take the crappy parts of brag rap songs and spin them on their head.  It's a nice little exercise but it doesn't do anything but perpetuate some negative parts of our culture.  While I give this one a hesitant thumbs-down, I do it nonetheless.  

Good/Bad Song: If I Were A Boy by Beyonce
I came across the Male Privilege Checklist the other day, and I thought of this song.  Is it true that if men were women we would be able to roll out of bed in the morning without going through a complicated beauty regiment in order to be considered attractive?  Yep.  Is it true that men are not judged to nearly the extent that women are when it comes to promiscuity?  Hells yes.  Is it less acceptable for women to be unfaithful in relationships?  You bet.  And these are all really good points.  Buuut.

If I were a boy
I think I could understand
How it feels to love a girl
I swear I’d be a better man.
I’d listen to her
Cause I know how it hurts
When you lose the one you wanted
Cause he’s taken you for granted
And everything you had got destroyed 
It's a love song.  Really?  This could have gone so many places and instead you decide to stereotype the entire male gender and assume they are incapable of actually loving a woman correctly?  This hurts everyone because it, again, gives the impression that women are the loving, nurturing gender who are always hurt and that men are callous and insensitive and only in relationships for the sex.  This helps no one.  And it's such a shame because a song like this is really, really a great thing.  We need songs like this--things that turn gender roles on their heads.  But for a purpose other than talking about love and just for the purpose of being critical about the world we live in.  Sorry, Bey, I'm usually on board but this wasn't a great year for you.

Some General Thoughts on the Top 100 of 2009
  • 41 of the top 100 songs were by female artists or male/female collaborations.  6 of the top 10 were by female artists or female/male collaborations.
  • I realize I only featured nine songs for this year but guys, this was just a terrible year for music.  Maybe not terrible as much as mediocre.  There were plenty of bad songs to choose from--as you noticed--and barely any good.
  • This was a HUGE year for Lady Gaga, and I might have to do a post on her alone because I'm still trying to make sense of her lyrics.  I know a lot of people think that her songs have some deeper meaning but I'm not sure that's true.  I also don't think she's as empowering as a lot of people think she is.  But, like I said, a different post for a different day.
  • Taylor Swift had another two hits that were on utterly different ends of the spectrum in 2009.  There was "Love Story" which was a song where she compared her relationship to Romeo and Juliet (not great role models).  The refrain was "It's a love story, baby, just say yes."  Then there was her other hit, which talked about love not being Hollywood and full of white horses and knights in shining armor.  I'm getting mixed messages here.
  • There was a song called "Birthday Sex" this year.  No lie.
  • A lot more rock songs were in the top 100 this year than in the two following it, which is interesting and I suspect will be a continuing trend as I go further back.
  • I realize doing this in reverse chronological order is going to cause a few hiccups here and there but it seemed like the best way to do it.  I will have to straighten some things out in the end but I'm going to do one or more wrap-up posts at the end of this whole thing so we'll examine everything then.
2008 was a big year!  I started college, Barack Obama was elected President and Katy Perry kissed a girl--and she liked it.  We'll see if it was a better year for music.  For now, it was nice knowing you, 2009, but I'm moving on.  

Friday, May 11, 2012

The Pop Music Project: 2010

2010 interesting year for pop music.  The highs in 2010 were higher than those in 2011 but the lows were definitely lower. There isn't a whole lot of variety in my choices this time around, and I apologize for that, but honestly the majority of rap songs made in 2010 were run-of-the-mill brag songs with a few misogynistic lines thrown in.  Not that that's a good thing, but there were enough standouts in other categories that I ended up avoiding the rap hits.

Good/Bad Song: Love The Way You Lie by Eminem and Rihanna
BEFORE YOU LISTEN TO THIS SONG: I am throwing up a TRIGGER WARNING for strong language about physically/emotionally abusive relationships.  If you struggle with that kind of stuff, I recommend you skip this part of the post. 

 I think it really says something that this song happened at all, and especially that it was so successful.  For those of my readers that don't know, Rihanna is a very successful pop singer who was brutally beaten by her boyfriend and fellow pop star Chris Brown in 2009.  Photos of her battered face were plastered over tabloids everywhere.  It was truly tragic.  Eminem, on his end, publicly admitted that he was physically and emotionally abusive in the past to significant others.  So there's nothing disingenuous or postering about this--these are two people that have been in these relationships and these positions.  It's admirable that they wrote and performed a song about it.  This could really be a PSA in a song, and that's fantastic. It brought light to something that isn't always spoken about, and that's really amazing.  Especially because it's so shocking:

I just want her back, I know I'm a liar
if she ever tries to fuckin' leave again
I'mma tie her to the bed and set this house on fire.

Now how can you hear that and not see how fucked up it is?  Unfortunately, not everyone saw that.  In some ways I guess this song could be seen as glorifying abuse if you take the chorus without context (when you're in the throes of an abusive relationship, you DO think that you want it and that the person standing there hitting you and calling you names just does it because they love you so much).  However, this is NOT a relationship situation to strive for.  In some small way, I have been there--I have been in an incredibly emotionally abusive relationship and it is very much how this song sounds, and just as damaging.  
But when this song came out I was seeing it pop up on Facebook and Twitter, lyrics from the chorus with little hearts after them.  I don't know if people thought this was supposed to be a happy song--I don't know how--but it looked that way.  I know that people develop their own interpretations and artists can't be blamed for that but it does factor in when determining whether this song was a net positive or negative for awareness.  I guess we can just hope that it opened a few peoples' eyes, and go from there.  Onward!

Good Song: Rude Boy by Rihanna
So Rihanna had a good year. In 2011 she would release a bunch of vapid pop hits and one song about S&M that would come off far too fake to be empowering, and more for shock value than for actual enjoyment.  But this song is an honest-to-God awesome sex anthem.  This song is basically saying "oh, you think you can do me right?  Okay, let's see it."  She's going after what she wants, she's gonna take control if she doesn't like what you're doing.  And that's pretty badass.

I like the way you touch me there, I like the way you pull my hair,
if I ain't feelin it I ain't fakin' oh no.

You go girl!  After listening to songs full of rappers talking about how they can lay it down like no one else it's nice to see a female artist call them on their bluff.  This is a good anthem for us ladies, we SHOULD demand quality from guys who brag and we SHOULDN'T have to fake it to preserve their ego.  We SHOULD take control if that's what we want.  I'm totally on board with that sentiment.  
Bad Song: Sexy Chick by David Guetta and Akon
I cannot find a single lyric in this song that I don't want to tear apart, so I'm just gonna go bit by bit here.  

Yes I can see her, 'cause every girl in here wanna be her.
She's a diva, I feel the same and I wanna meet her.

Again with the everyone-else-is-jealous thing.  As it turns out, girls don't spend all of their nights out looking at other girls and hating their guts.  Some women actually are okay with themselves the way they are.  But that's fairly mild, right?
They say she low-down, it's just a rumor, I don't believe 'em.
They say she need to slow down, the baddest thing around town.

Well, the people saying those things are assholes and need to mind their own business.  And why is that pertinent anyway?  I don't even know what it means that she's "low down", but I'm assuming from context that it means she sleeps around.  And isn't that what you're looking for after all, you creeps?

She's nothing like a girl you've ever seen before
Nothing you can compare to your neighborhood whore.
I'm tryin to find the words to describe this girl without being disrespectful.

Well, it looks like you've already lost that battle.
The way that booty movin' I can't take no more
had to stop what I was doing so I could pull her close
I'm tryin to find the words to describe this girl without being disrespectful.

Once again, looks like you lost before you started there.  I'm pretty sure "respectful" went out the window when you started talking about the way her booty moving.  And if you hadn't, you definitely did with...
Damn, you's a sexy bitch.

Yeah, that whole respect thing?  Just don't bother.  You're disgusting.  
Good Song: King of Anything by Sara Bareilles
Dear God do I love this song.  I must admit that I love Sara Bareilles in general, both musically and lyrically--she wrote a great song called Fairytale that you should check out all about how she doesn't WANT a fairy tale romance because that's all bullshit.  This song makes me want to scream out the lyrics.  It's all about her telling a guy to stop trying to rule her life, make her decisions for her and tell her she's wrong.

Who cares if you disagree?
You are not me, who made you king of anything?
You dare tell me who to be?  
Who died and made you king of anything? 

She talks in the bridge about how she's tried to always make everyone happy and it's hurt her so she's done doing that now.  Awesome.  I think a lot of women can relate to this, not just with their significant others or their friends but even just random people in the world.  And it's about time someone put it into song.  
Bad Song: Blah Blah Blah by Ke$ha and 3OH!3
This is a song by all the douchey pop artists with unnecessary punctuation in their names.  Ke$ha (you have no idea how it pains me every time I have to type that) had a big year in 2010--her anthem for people who brush their teeth with whiskey was the number 1 song of the year and she had four other songs in the top 100.  This was the worst of them.  Maybe it's because of 3OH!3, who you will be hearing about in the 2009 list, but Ke-dollar sign-ha herself kind of makes this one terrible.  It is basically a song about how a guy is talking too much and she just wants to fuck him but he won't shut up.  

Don't care where you live at,
just turn around boy let me hit that,
stop bein' a little bitch with your chit-chat
and show me where your dick's at.

Typically I like to know a few things about a guy before I peg him (as the second line there would imply she wants to?) but I guess Ke$ha isn't all about that.  It gets worse in the second verse where she declares "I wanna be naked and you're wasted."  Is it just me or does that come off a little rapey?  Anway, onto 3OH!3 here...

You be delaying,
You always be saying some shit
You say I'm playing,
I'm never laying the bitch
Sayin' "blah, blah blah"
'cause I don't care who you are
In this bar
It only matters who I is

The sad grammatical battlefield that is this verse aside, Jesus Christ does this guy sound like a jerk.  He's accusing her of being a tease which...well, Ke$ha is many things but I wouldn't say that's one of them.  NOT THAT THAT WOULD BE A BAD THING ANYWAY.  Also saying that it doesn't matter who she is and only matters who he is...well, okay, I think the two personas in this song deserve each other.

Good Song: According To You by Orianthi
This is another song I just want to pump my fist to.  It's about a girl who's with a guy who does nothing but put her down all the time, and then she finds a guy who thinks she's great for who she is.  And at the end she turns it on the first guy.

According to you, I'm stupid, I'm useless, I can't do anything right...
but according to him, I'm beautiful, incredible, he can't get me out of his head.

 This is great because I can guarantee, ladies, for every person out there who doesn't appreciate you there's one that can appreciate you for exactly who you are.  And you should absolutely not settle for the former.  
Bad Song: Today Was A Fairytale by Taylor Swift
I hate to pick on Taylor Swift, it feels like picking on a kitten poking its head out of a basket full of flowers.  She had a song that came out in 2010 that I actually quite liked.  And that's because that song was not an entirely unrealistic portrayal of relationships.  This, on the other hand, is flat-out ridiculous.  I mentioned earlier that Sara Bareilles wrote a song called "Fairytale" about how fucked up the idea of those stories are.  Well, this is the opposite of that.

Today was a fairytale
You were the prince, I was a damsel in distress,
you took me by the hand and you picked me up at six.

You don't always need to be the damsel in distress.  Relationships last because neither person needs saving--you are your own individual selves and that nurtures and deepens your connection..  THAT IS GOOD.  It's good to work out and have problems, that's what makes us human.  Looking at everything as a perfect storybook is only going to make it harder someday when you see what comes after the happy ending.  And giving the expectation that everything is going to be perfect all the time is just as unhealthy as believing love isn't possible.  It seems that Taylor Swift has matured somewhat in the past two years, and I can only hope that continues.
Good Song: Mine by Taylor Swift
So this is the song of Taylor Swift's that I liked from last year.  This is a semi-mature love song.  There are real-life problems here!  This couple has bills to pay, they have fights, and that scares this girl because her parents split and she is afraid that love "never lasts."  And this guy convinces her otherwise.  They have a fight, she expects him to end it, and he doesn't!  Imagine that!

I'll admit that I'm probably a little biased because I'm pretty sure I'm in this relationship right now.  And this song isn't perfect--"You are the best thing that's ever been mine" isn't the best line in the world, and the love-conquers-all message might be a little dubious.  But there's stuff like this.

Flash forward and we’re taking on the world together,
And there’s a drawer of my things at your place.
You learn my secrets and you figure out why I’m guarded,
You say we’ll never make my parents’ mistakes.
But we got bills to pay,
We got nothing figured out.

Yes, that's realistic.  And it's not totally chaste the way Taylor Swift songs are--she has a drawer at his place.  This seems like a functional young couple.  Again, we don't see what happens after the happy ending and there's a chance that this couple would fail.  But at least this is a pretty realistic portrayal for a happy love song, and it's not inane or overly sappy.  That's a step in the right direction, Taylor Swift.
Bad Song: Hey Daddy by Usher
This is so gross.  This is a song about Usher meeting a girl--or being in a relationship with a girl, it's hard to tell with these songs sometimes--and just wanting to do her all the time.  He wants her to literally wait around for him to get home so he can have sex with her.  And when he GETS home he wants her to say "Daddy's home!"  I mean, seriously, it literally says that.

And I won't knock or ring no bells
You just poke that bottom up in the air
I'll get you hot, I know you oh so well
And when I'm walk in, all that I wanna hear
Is you say Daddy's home, Daddy's home for me
And I know you've been waiting for this love in your day

He also does some of the standard "I can sex you like no one else can" stuff, and then there's this:

Poke it on out poke it out right there
I'm a fall back let you work that chair
Do that damn thing all I wanna hear

I had to use my imagination to figure out what he's talking about here, and I'm going to assume it's a lap dance?  I really don't know.  Besides being incredibly degrading, this song completely infantalizes the woman he's speaking to in a way that is not only pervy but really insulting.  He asks all the ladies in the club to yell "Hey daddy!" and...I haven't been in a lot of clubs but I think that's the last thing most women in them want to yell.  This song is the opposite of an aphrodisiac.  This song is your partner rolling around in dog crap before they try to seduce you. 
Some General Thoughts on the Top 100 of 2010
  • 43 of the top 100 were by female artists or male/female collaborations, and 7 of the top ten were by female artists or female/male collaborations.  
  • It's interesting that the majority of the soft rock/country hits in 2010 were relegated to the bottom fifth of the list, whereas in 2011 they were sprinkled throughout.  Hopefully this is a sign of progress.
  • Here's the thing I don't get about brag songs (I am seriously looking at you, Drake): if you're all bragging about being the best, doesn't that mean that no one's the best?  And don't you guys get bored with MAKING these songs by now?  
  • There is a song by Miranda Lambert called "The House That Built Me" that seriously made me cry.
  • 2010 was a big year for Lady Gaga and after looking at her lyrics I think that they may be sliding on the side of not-so-feminist if anything.  
I am going to try to tackle 2009 in one big chunk tomorrow, so there might be a new post this weekend.  We'll see how it goes.  All I know is, 3OH!3, I'm coming for you.