31 March 2011

Modal Nodes: Ke$ha, Dev and the Dance of the Trashy Girl Goes On

Quite a while ago I made a post about Ke$ha and GaGa and the budding rise of Trashy Chick Pop. Check it out here. I mostly passed it off as an interesting ascension from Xtina to "Tik Tok," but now here in March of 2011 we're assuredly in the midst of a Trashy Girl Music Revolution. It's this interesting bend to Pop Music that certainly was a long time coming but these girls are everywhere.

Now, let's first get out of the way the clear double-standard. These girls are certainly trashy for openly exclaiming drunkenness, loving sex and generally appearing dirty and hungover. Guys in any similar condition are considered hilarious heroes. Anyway, not to get horribly preachy (those...those are my two favourite movies), but those are the facts. These musical girls are horribly, horribly trashy. That's not necessarily a bad thing though. But it is a strange movement.

Let's start with Ke$ha. Ke$ha is terrible. She really lacks a lot of talent and her songs are fantastically irritating. Let's examine her latest single, "Blow."



There is this huge sense of misplaced pride and privilege in this track. First there's the completely irrelevant use of James Van Der Beek. Then there's all these spoken lines like "We're taking over - get used to it." What the hell does that mean? It seems like it's intended as this great Generational Statement but there's no real backing here. Who is Ke$ha's main followers? Drunken girls and high school wannabe drunken girls? Maybe add creepy older guys in that mix. Is that who's taking over? Ke$ha...what's the matter with you? The video is nearly incomprehensible and she appears as a crazy person who doesn't value anything beyond her present. She's also hideous. Does anyone else notice that Ke$ha isn't cute at all?

From Ke$ha we've got Dev, whose lyrics don't include the broad accusations and undue proclamations of power that Ke$ha's do (see also, the entirety of "We R Who We R" which places some insane sense of pride and fashion on ripped stockings, glitter and mindless dancing - along with a proclamation that "the world is ours." I'm calling Shenanigans - you can't exclaim to be taken seriously then exonerate sleeping in cars and dressing down. It's not even hypocritical, it's just moronic) but retain all of the drunken trashiness. If you're not familiar with Dev, she's the chick from "Like a G6," and you may know her as the chick from "Backseat" and her own "Booty Bounce." She has the same very sexual themes in all her tracks but especially in "Bass Down Low," it's almost as if Dev is purposely trying to get a rise out of her listeners. There's this sense that girls can make up for lack of singing talent by grabbing attention through slutty or wish-fulfillment lyrics. Dev really isn't a great singer, uses a lot of Auto-Tune and really isn't that hot, either. She's able to grab attention and distinguish herself from the Pop Mob by going the super-trashy route. Also does anyone notice Ke$ha really just talks through "Tik Tok?"

Now I said earlier that trashiness isn't such a terrible thing on its own. It's not like it's a lifestyle unfamiliar to rock stars and the fact that it's the girls getting hammered isn't in itself a negative. In fact, it's pretty hot (which exactly fulfills my point that these girls make up for their lack of singing talent or otherwise physical attractiveness by just following the whore route). The problem is that an artist like Ke$ha has all these songs that proclaim some kind of new order but she is so obviously corporation-generated and targeted towards such a safe demographic that her message ends up incredibly hollow. Dev is much smaller, her songs come across as just this drunk chick with plays into the double-standard of alcoholism for attention.

These ladies by far aren't the only ones in this movement, though. I mentioned Christina Aguilera earlier who I think escapes this kind of negative criticism for a handful of reasons. Firstly, Christina presented herself to us as a very innocuous pop star. Her forays into sluttiness were shocking but we knew it was evolution - there was more to Christina than Xtina. It also helped that she was married by the time "Dirrty" came out, she didn't rely too long on the image and has now built herself into a respectable career. Kind of. But we reach a similar conclusion that even when the woman is dressed as a literal whore she takes control of a song and uses some genuine pipes. Her talent allows her to rise above any singular identity (not unlike Madonna or GaGa. Not including Britney there). Ke$ha and Dev cannot rise above their own images nor do they seem to want to.

I was also thinking about Nicole Scherzinger and the Pussycat Dolls who manage to rise above the level of trashiness with a good amount of class while still being very sexual. Something like "Buttons" is a sexy track that avoids being trashy that is also aided by Nicole's adept voice. I can say the same for Ciara's "Ride", which is the sexiest video ever, but you'd never call a girl being that sexy here trashy. The competent singing helps but it's more the classy outfits, smooth lyrics and propriety that allows them to retain respect. Ke$ha immediately seems not necessarily bitchy but just another ignorant youth playing for High School allowance money. Ciara doesn't give that impression while being no less explicit in her video.

What else should we talk about? I'm pretty sure "E.T." is about fucking black guys but besides sounding an awful lot like tATu, Katy's retaining the classiness from songs like "Teenage Dream" and "Firework." Katy's fascinating because she's clearly just as interested in exploiting her boobs for profit as Ke$ha wants to be and definitively enjoys her youth as much. Through the occasional slow jam though she's able to craft a more respectable image. Can we also please just skip over Britney's miserably out-dated attempt to jump on the bandwagon? We know you're there, Brit, you don't have to use a cheesy pick-up line as your comeback song of 2011.

Then there's ladies like Adele or Florence and the Machine which find success through a fantastic song alone without a lot of the dressings of fame. There isn't a need for the Girl vs. Boy cultural double standard conflict or the grab for attention to break away from the mold to get a big hit. Of course this is working under the assumption that most of the more popular girls mentioned today are really just acting and conforming to a label's image in order to sell records. There's the very real possibility that Ke$ha really is as dumb and trashy as she presents herself (not bloody likely). You have to wonder how a girl with near-perfect SAT scores and supposedly plenty of songwriting experience ends up spouting the kind of trash she does. The only rational explanation is that she's really sold her soul down the trashy road for some sales in a unique niche of the Pop Zeitgeist.

So like I said, it's not as if it's a terrible thing in itself that these girls are acting very trashy. It's a problem when they attempt to exploit a market that pays attention to them (this article included) and they produce songs without much merit beyond rallying some imaginary group of endless partyers and providing fantasies for old or pathetic men. Dev's flow has some good things to it I believe, but I really just hate Ke$ha. Stop talking your songs.

Long live Xtina.

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