29 June 2009
Modal Nodes: Lady GaGa and the Hypersexuality of Late-2000s Top 40
I've thought about the best way to approach this topic for a while, trying to avoid any obvious embarrassment it would inevitably cause me among peers both electronic and factual, but this entry was bubbling around my brain and way too zeitgeist-y to let go. I'll just say it now:
I listen to a lot of pop music. Mostly between watching Michael Bay movies. I crank out Top 40 stations constantly out of my car and track which songs are doing well and which may be slipping to an extreme measure. This means these days I pound out a shitload of GaGa and Black Eyed Peas for one thing, which I both adore and despise myself for. Let me explain some of this rationale here:
For a very long time I thought absolutely that all modern pop was dead. I isolated myself towards not listening to any songs that came out roughly since AC/DC's Back in Black. This meant almost virtually only classic rock, primarily a ton of Beatles, Zeppelin, Doors, and Stones. To me this definitely remains my favourite genre of music, and has huge rotations in my personal playlist, but I've slowly eked out to give modern pop a chance.
And I mean the poppiest of pop. No modern rock at all (I despise musicians who try desperately to be like the legends of the 60s/70s and fail much more than those who would rather accept and revel in their own crapulence). This primarily grew out intrigue with an issue of New York Magazine from May 27, 2008 that was jokingly attempting to track the hot Billboard songs of summer and name a winner. My acceptance of the world of pop is essentially fueled from this inane desire to find the hottest summer jam (It was Leona Lewis' "Bleeding in Love." C'mon).
Naturally then, coming into this summer to see who would be in the running for the renowned title of Hottest Summer Jam, I was priming myself with a ton of Lady GaGa, Flo Rida, and Lil' Wayne. After heavily, heavily inundating myself in this kind of music, I started picking up on the rampant, raw sexuality striking to all three. These guys, in addition to many more who have been climbing the summer ranks are all so insanely blatantly, even needlessly sexual, that I feel like some barriers may have been broken here. Let me explain:
Sex has always been everywhere, I mean, GaGa's Disco Stick isn't much different from 50 Cent's Magic Stick back in 2005, but there tends to be an absolute ton of hypersexual tracks vying for Jam-worthiness this summer. GaGa is ahead of the game right now, although "Poker Face" has been fading, "Love Game" is surging ridiculously, both of which are extremely sexual, "Love Game" much more so, which is obviously from its frank and postured nature. Even going back to "Just Dance," GaGa has a brilliant tropildactic nature to her songs, demanding to be a loose, throw-away model who revels in her sexuality, and to some extent the pro-feminism controlling position it puts her over men. This is in high contrast to the Britneys and Christinas of the early half of this decade, who would drool in sexuality, but publicly deny it in some vain attempt to maintain a wider massive appeal or in a Promise Ring-like conspiracy to sell sex to adolescents. GaGa doesn't give a shit, lives in the moment claiming drunken party fouls ("Where's my keys I lost my phone"), more concealed sexual advancement ("Bluffin with my muffin") and finally the struggling plea to just forget consequences and get it on ("Don't think too much just bust that kick, I wanna take a ride on your disco stick"). Again, it's not like this has ever happened with one hypersexual artist (ELVIS) but almost everyone in the game for Summer Jam 2009 has this level of ridiculous sexuality.
Declining in popularity, but a strong forerunner about a month ago was "Sugar" by Flo Rida ft. Wynter. You might remember it as that shitty song that sampled Eiffel 65. Anyway, the whole song is a clever metaphor of sexual oral seduction, replacing a girl's lips (labial and oral) and in general her whole body as a scrumptious little morsel to fuck the shit out of. The first notion is the obvious "My lips like sugar" chorus, but further than that, Flo says "Bottom and top lip, 'bout to have a sugar feast/Level with our trip, I'm a lip bitin' beast," which to me is a clear indication of rug munching. Couple this with his notion to "...wrap you out of those clothes, you my treat, my treat" it becomes clear that the whole body is meant as a lickable, fuckable pleasure. Riding of this very clear idea now, we can move on to the playful analysis of lines such as "Hey, I've got a mouthful of cavities," "Can't help my interest, candy addiction," and of course, "Ain't your mama slirp, stickin', usin' my tree/Like taffy but classy, get at me." I'm not actually quite sure what that last one means actually, but you're getting my point at the lack of any kind of veil towards the sexual intent of this very mainstream attempt at pop hip-hop. Also sorry for the shitty quality of video, for some reason the music vid for sugar is hard to find on Youtube, and one I could embed was even harder.
Let's move on to a little more blatant attempts to chronologue sexual conquest in popular song. If you have turned on any Top 40 station in the past week this should have immediately popped into your head upon reading this post's title. I speak of course of "Birthday Sex," by Jeremih. This is one of those songs you first hear and think 'what the fuck is that.' It is so transparently about having sex on your birthday and that sex being awesome that it is both immediately striking and addictive. There is no metaphor or similies to being "like sugar" or like a "disco stick." The whole thing is just literally a descriptive narrative of the endeavour, the only metaphors per se being "1-2-3, think I got you pinned/Don't tap out...fight until the end" and "First I'm gonna take a dive deep into the water/Deep until I know I'm pleased." Now, I'm a pretty frankly sexual guy most of the time, but if I'm at some party talking to a buddy of mine and there's a lull in the conversation that is serendipitously filled by a lyric like that, things are bound to get just a little awkward. This is nothing that really hasn't been covered by Ludacris' "What's Your Fantasy" back in 2001, but with that song you get more the feeling that he's just trying to joke and have a good time. Jeremih actually wants to make love to you. Right now.
Really quick, Drake's "Best I Ever Had" is essentially a huge boast of sexual conquests and aftermath, I cite in the lyrics, "I'll be hitting all the spots that u ain't even know was there/Ha. And you ain't even have to ask twice." There is some notion that is is actually more about love and a relationship, but I think of Drake's verbiage in the title and course, "Best I ever HAD" seems to imply something that he HAS no longer. And since the song has those relationship parts, and he is clearly singing it not out of longing but out of adoration in a current fling, the HAD he is referring to, to me, seems to surely indicate a sexual experience.
The last really blatant Contender fro the Summer Crown comes from an expected place. Oscar winner. Jamie Foxxx's "Blame It" is an absurd song, which virtually gives drunken date rape the same treatment that "Observe and Report" ( 2009) did. "Fill another cup up, feelin' on your butt what/You don't even care now, I was unaware/How fine you was before/My buzz set in, my buzz set in." Literally, looking through the lyrics online, courtesy of a Google search, nearly every line is plea for taking advantage of a drunken whore at a bar. I was going to make a joke here about this being featured prominently on a future NOW That's What I Call Music! album, apparently as it would turn out, the song, along with "Poker Face" are tracks 5 and 3 respectively on Vol. 31, comes out tomorrow. Whoda thunk it.
(On a side note, this is the most bizarre fucking video I've ever seen in my damn life, I mean, it's full of all these absolutely random Hollywood celebs, most out of place clearly is Ron Howard. He even steps out of the limo and kind of shrugs at the camera like "Yeah, I don't know what the fuck I'm doing here either.)
Anyway, my whole critique of "Blame it" along with "Just Dance" and others, are that we used to have these giggly pop songs that were essentially incredibly stupid, but ultimately just all about love and how smooth some chick was. Now all our songs are explicitly about consuming alcohol and having sex. It's just a strange place for pop to go right now.
There are, however, a few songs, some very prominently, on the List of Summer 2009 Dominance that strike through to their wonderful pop nature. Kelly Clarkson's "I Do Not Hook Up" is determinately not about sex, which is a rare show of pride compared to GaGa's effervescent exclamation of sexual exhilaration. How exciting! Although this song is declining in its tracking. Finally, Black Eyed Peas "Boom Boom Pow," which from the lyrics I can best determine that it is a song about letting beats drop from the future, is really about absolutely nothing. There is not one line in that song that makes any sense, which combined with its huge holdover numbers from spring and consistent summer popularity so far (a feat exactly accomplished by "Bleeding Love" last year) makes it my current pick for Summer Jam '09. If it holds out, its assuredly non-sexual nature should render this entire post fruitless. So sexy.