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.  

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