11 September 2008

girl on girl

There's a pop song annoying me at the moment. I know this isn't an unusual occurrence, lots of pop songs annoy me. But this one annoys me in a vaguely political way.

It's called "I kissed a girl" by Kate Perry. Do you have it over there? You must. It's got a thumpy boring bass line and banal lyrics (big surprise there). When I first saw it while flicking past the music channel I thought it might be a cover of the artful Jill Sobule Song "I kissed a girl". Says Jill:
Genny came over and told me 'bout Fred
"He's such a hairy behemoth, " she said
"Dumb as a box of hammers
But he's such a handsome guy."
And I opened up and told her 'bout Larry
And yesterday how he asked me to marry

I'm not giving him an answer yet
(I think I can do better)
Remember that? It was poppy, sure, but it has a little story condensed into a tight verse-chorus-verse-chorus format. The two ladies chat at home, they're fed up with dead-beat boyfriends, they have a snog. After a moment of guilt, they both express the joy of the private moment.. (And we laughed/ At the world/ They can have their diamonds and we'll have our pearls). The lyrics are clever and funny, and its nice to have girls snogging in the top 10. Yay for all shades of love!

But this Kate bird just seems like a different kettle of fish. Perhaps I'm just being a daggy old prude, but compare the chorus lyrics:
I kissed a girl and I liked it
The taste of her cherry chap stick
I kissed a girl just to try it
I hope my boyfriend don't mind it
It felt so wrong /It felt so right
Don't mean I'm in love tonight

First, who the hell uses "chap stick" in their lyric and expects to be cool? She goes on...
No, I don't even know your name
It doesn't matter/ You're my experimental game
Just human nature / It's not what /Good girls do
Not how they should behave

You're my experimental game? Sounds pretty cold to me.

In the clip, Kate Perry is singing this on a big pink bed, wearing a kind of burlesque-stripper outfit, and after the first refrain she is surrounded by a bevvy of beauties, at one point there's a gir'ls legs splayed out from under the bed. All very debauched and naughty.

So I haven't talked about this little number with any lesbians, or feminist theorists for that matter. Perhaps it's cool for popular culture to allow chicks to be out there sexy and hott in all forms, and if that's wearing a boa and fishnets and talking about how you pashed a bird to get a kick then fine.

And ... If you're going to start on at pop songs and videos for objectifying women, wow there's a rich rich vein there of both grrls and boys doing that. Mostly boys. From Axl Rose screaming turn around bitch I gotta use for you/I ain't got nothin' better to do/ And I'm bored to Ludacris rapping on "Youza ho".. Come on playa once a ho always/And hos never close they open like hallways/An heres a ho cake for you whole ho crew. Women are nameless, treated as a walking collection of orifices, given orders, etc. Charmers, aren't they? And rich, too. So to me there's not much point getting on Kate's tail about that.

But back to these two girly songs. Probably the main difference is that Kate is a product of a "production company" called The Matrix who write and produce songs for pop princesses like Britney and Cristina. Jill was closer to 40 than 20 when her song was a big hit, and she is a real singer/songwriter with five albums out and a diverse, clever and imaginative slew of songs.

Its just that Kate's song and video is all about girl-on-girl in a porn-star way, for attention. Us girls we are so magical/ Soft skin, red lips, so kissable/Hard to resist so touchable /Too good to deny it /Ain't no big deal, it's innocent. Purhlees. Yeh, she gets a kick out of it, but because its naughty, and men are going to dig it too. However, this might be because she didn't actually write the thing, I'd wager some middle-aged song-copy dude in LA did. Is it actually his little disco fantasy, not hers? A bit like Kylie singing "better the devil you know" in the early 90s, I wonder.

At least in Jill's song, all the characters have names. They have feelings too; and there's also something bigger going on. The woman singing the song is telling a story about how she's examining her life and her relationship, and now this exciting new aspect has come into it. The end chorus says "I kissed a girl (and I might do it again)." Aw.

Well of course, in the on-line universe I am not the first to comment on this tacky song. The yanks have been at it for months. The writers at Feminste make the same point, and do it better than me. And the Washington Blade just gets the knives out and calls the lyrics vapid and offensive. I wonder what their benchmark is for Ludacris, then?

And argh - even Jill herself has posted on it... I am so not a hip and up-to-date blogger! After saying she needed extra Novocaine after hearing it at the dentist, she's actually quite nice about the whole thing. She sounds really cool and grown up on her site, if you got this far, check out her fake bio. Funny. Think I'll check out some more of her music, so thanks Katy for the tip-off.

1 comment:

MsBettySue said...

Mmm, Jill's song is just a story, not an attempt to win male approval by tapping into the "can I watch" fantasy?

I'm back, by the way. I have home internet access! It feels like a miracle.