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.

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