It all started in the beginning of March when I was in the car and "I'm Just A Girl" by No Doubt came on the radio. It got me thinking about pop music, and about some of the amazing tunes made by women back in the '80s and '90s that were pretty daring and actually feminist. Then I started thinking about pop music today and a question formed in my head: Do they make pop music like this anymore?
So I decided to empirically answer that question. First, I looked at the Billboard Top 100 songs for every year from 1990 to 2011 and counted how many each year were made by female artists. I made a spreadsheet and everything! Then I decided I was going to have to go deeper and look at content. So I embarked on the sometimes interesting, sometimes mind-numbing, and surprisingly exhausting journey of listening to and reading the lyrics of every single Top 100 song for the past 21 years. I'm going to compile my findings bit by bit here.
I'm going to start with 2011 today. For every year I'm going to post some interesting thoughts, along with ten songs that I feel are exceptionally good--or bad--from a feminist perspective. I'm trying to be objective because, frankly, the majority of the stuff from 2011 is truly awful. There are also a lot of dimensions you could examine in these lyrics, but I'm going to attempt to stick with misogyny, at least in these deeper analyses. So let's get started.
Bad Song: If I Die Young by The Band Perry
Good Song: Fuckin Perfect by Pink
Bad Song: E.T. by Katy Perry
Now I'm going to explain to you why I do not like Katy Perry. This song. This song is...creepy on so many levels. Basically, it's a song talking about a skilled lover and her infatuation with him using the metaphor of being an alien. Unfortunately, Katy Perry takes it too far. And if Katy Perry takes it out of this world, Kanye West takes it out of this galaxy.
The chorus here actually includes the lines "Take me, wanna be a victim, ready for abduction." THE CHORUS. The first verse also includes lines about how everyone is telling her to be afraid of this guy because he's weird and possibly dangerous, but she can't stay away. I have been there, ladies and gents, and that is never a good sign.
But if that's blatantly bad, it gets worse--these are the last lines of Kanye West's verse:
Some General Thoughts on 2011's Top 100
- 44 of the top 100 songs were by female artists or collaborations between male and female artists. Six of the top ten were either female artists or female/male collaborations.
- If you haven't figured this out yet, that really catchy Foster The People song, Pumped Up Kicks? With the whistling and the kinda indie-rock feel? Definitely about a kid bringing a gun to school. We all on the same page with that? Cool.
- I found a Lady Gaga song I like! It's called You And I and it is absolutely nothing like the rest of her work. She has such an amazing voice and she actually uses it in this song.
- Chris Brown is a disgusting human being, both musically and in reality, though I'm sure this isn't news.
- There were a lot of electronic dance jams this year, and that wasn't something exclusive to male or female artists. In both cases they used the opposite sex like props--Ke$ha (I hate typing that) talks about hitting on dudes hard while they drink and almost every male dance jam talks about women as if they are giant asses walking around the dance floor. I kind of hope this trend ends.
- As much as I want to like Black and Yellow by Wiz Khalifa I can't, there are some really terrible lines in there. Could he rep Pittsburgh without talking about how women love him because he sleeps with their best friends?
- I couldn't include this song in the list because I don't think it goes one way or another on the feminist thing, but everyone please go listen to Fuck You by Cee Lo Green. It is an amazing song, I promise you won't regret it.