Music today… grumble, grumble

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Warning – I’ve quoted some stuff that is pretty offensive. I’ve chosen not to censor the language.

Earlier this week, my friend Heather sent me this article by Andrea Warner. It was posted on the CBC Music blog.

Misogyny makes a comeback: Kanye, Robin Thicke and degrading women

Before reading this article, I had never heard the three songs that Ms. Warner specifically discusses; Rocko’s “U.O.E.N.O”, Kanye West’s “On Sight” and Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines”. I have since listened to them all and have purposely not provided links.

In “U.O.E.N.O” (meant to sound like “You don’t even know”) Rick Ross sings about drugging a woman’s drink with powdered Ecstasy (Molly) and then raping her:

Put Molly all in her champagne, she ain’t even know it
I took her home and I enjoyed that, she ain’t even know it

Ross issued an official apology which stated “It was misunderstanding with a lyric… I would never use the term ‘rape’ in my records.”

Ahhhh, that clears everything up doesn’t it? It is all just a misunderstanding. If you don’t actually use the word rape, you aren’t talking about rape. So, I guess you can incapacitate someone and have sex with them without consent – just don’t call it rape and you’re good.

Kanye West is no stranger to accusations of misogyny but his latest album Yeesus is like a violent vent. The track “On Sight” has been singled out because most people agree he wrote it about the mother of his new baby:

Black Timbs all on your couch again
Black dick all in your spouse again
And I know she like chocolate men
She got more niggas off than Cochran, huh?

I wonder if his new daughter will have any effect on his opinion of women?

In Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” the title alone sets the No Means No campaign back 20 years. There are some pretty nasty lyrics, “I’ll give you something big enough to tear your ass in two” but the thing that’s most disturbing is Thicke repeatedly whispering these lines into the ear of a naked woman in the video.

I hate these blurred lines / I know you want it
I hate them lines / I know you want it
I hate them lines / I know you want it

Actually Robin… the lines are pretty sharp. Sure, you can make things fuzzy if you squint your eyes at just the right angle, but you calling them blurred doesn’t make them blurred. I’m sorry that you hate them.

Similar to Ross’s apology, Thicke’s explanation just makes things worse.

People say, ‘Hey, do you think this is degrading to women?’ I’m like, ‘Of course it is. What a pleasure it is to degrade a woman. I’ve never gotten to do that before. I’ve always respected women.’

What? Because you haven’t done something before, it’s okay to do it now? “Oh no, it’s okay officer… you can check. I’ve never robbed a bank before, but what a pleasure it is to do it now!” Excuse me while I find my ski mask.

Thicke’s inclusion in this group shows that misogyny is not limited to rap, as is commonly believed (he is mainly R&B/pop). Degrading messages are common in all genres of music – except maybe the female indie folk scene.

I recently read this statement:

“In America, a woman is raped once every six minutes… No one is saying this happens solely because of rap or rock music, but certainly kids are influenced by the glorification of violence.”

Oh wait… that was 23 years ago! Do you remember Tipper Gore’s Washington Post article, “Hate, rape and rap” (January 8, 1990)?

So, what was going on in music back then that Mrs. Gore and our parents were up in arms about? You’ll see it wasn’t just rap.

Turn around bitch, I’ve got a use for you
Besides, you ain’t got nothin’ better to do and I’m bored
– Guns N’ Roses, “It’s So Easy” (1987)

For backstage pass, she goes down
With all of my friends, she goes down
– Motley Crue, “She Goes Down” (1989)

Punch the bitch in the eye then the ho will fall to the ground
Then you open up her mouth put your dick, move the shit around.
– N.W.A, “She Swallowed It” (1991)

Bitches ain’t shit but hoes and tricks
Lick on these nuts and suck the dick
– Dr. Dre, “Bitches Ain’t Shit” (1992)

Smack my bitch up, change my pitch up
Smack my bitch up, change my pitch up
(These are actually the only words in the song!)
– Prodigy “Smack My Bitch Up” (1997)

Slut, you think I won’t choke no whore
‘Til the vocal cords don’t work in her throat no more?!
Shut up slut, you’re causin’ too much chaos.
– Eminem, “Kill You” (2000)

In her article, Warner concedes that misogyny in music is not a new issue but she contends that the intent has changed.

2013 has introduced a new kind of misogyny, a deliberate and task-oriented degradation and objectification of women that’s far more disturbing than the casual, inherent misogyny of generations past.

I honestly don’t know if that is true. What is obvious to me, however, is that sex sells, and unfortunately, misogyny sells even better. Yeesus has received rave reviews calling it “brilliant” and “exciting” (from a female reviewer) and “Blurred Lines” and “U.O.E.N.O” have been at the top of the charts for weeks.

Manufacturers and distributors issue statements that they do not “condone or endorse” the content which they find “violent, sexist, racist and indecent”, yet they continue to release them. In 1990, Cliff Blodget, a partner at Rap-a-Lot, admitted that his research had shown demand for harsher lyrics, and that he urged bands to write them. I doubt this attitude has changed, unless it is for the worse.

Not all kids listen to this music (I didn’t) and not all kids who do will buy into the culture. But when these songs are continually produced and become popular and increasingly mainstream, it sends a message that it’s okay to disrespect women.

So yeah, our parents didn’t like our generation’s music and their parents didn’t like theirs… but maybe they were right. Any thoughts?

Disclaimer– Never have I been, nor will be, described as; all that and a bag of Fritos, off the heezy fo’ sheezy, redonkulus, or poppin’ fresh. I am not down with the kids.

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13 responses to “Music today… grumble, grumble

  1. I popped over here from the link you left on ACOF this morning.
    I’m with you on the lyrics of these songs, and so many others, and that this is nothing new. I also agree with Warner that the intent has changed. Misogyny wasn’t called out publicly in 1993 as it is in 2013, and creators know people are outing douchebags like never before, and to continue to write, record, and produce pieces which are degrading to women and harmful to society, imo, shows an intent to continue to attempt to foster rape culture.

    • Thanks for coming over Melanie, and great comment. There is no way that the music industry cannot be aware of how hateful and hurtful these lyrics are. Even if the artists can somehow claim that they are too ignorant (bullshit) the songs are still going through agents, producers, PR, etc… This is an intentional and informed choice to propagate hate.

      • All for the almighty dollar because people will buy the sound before they understand the words. It’s sad really.

  2. I’m always torn when it comes to this argument. On one hand, I was *never* a fan of Tipper, and any campaign that tries to enforce a particular moral viewpoint always makes me suspicious.
    On the other hand, there clearly are lines that should not be crossed when it comes to popular entertainment, particularly when it comes to children accessing media that is misogynistic, homophobic, racist, etc.
    I’ve never been able to come up with a consistent standard that would satisfy both sides, so I elect to vote with my wallet – music/movies that I find morally questionable simply don’t get my money. However, I don’t have kids, do its a lot easier for me to shrug this stuff off.
    I know my sister has had done interesting dilemmas since the nephew discovered the allure of Scandinavian heavy metal…

    • Yup… Having kids is often the tipping point. How protective do we need to be? The more important danger, IMO, is when these messages become “normal” and “acceptable”. I mean, I’ll look after my own boys… It’s all the other boys.

  3. Pingback: Postscript on Music today | Escaping Elegance

  4. I don’t listen to that kind of music (and I never will), so I had no idea the words of these songs were that hateful and violent. Sickening. I can just imagine what the videos to some of these songs look like. Kind of makes you want for a “Future Shock” situation, so we can all go back to the Bee Gees.

  5. Pingback: Adding my Voice – There are NO Blurred Lines | public HEALTHIER!

  6. SO glad you wrote this! I was planning up to do the same -and likely still will just to add a voice!

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