Yes I am late to the game of discussing this song, and yes I am also late to just updating this blog in general. However to the first point; I had to take some time to dissect my thoughts and feelings cause they were mighty conflicted at times. And to point number two; well life just got a little busier than usual and I needed all the down time to just be lazy and recharge. And now that I am up to at least 63% charged and not devoting my mind to a book (seriously the last two books in The Maze Runner series were like crack and ate up so much of my time) I’ve allowed myself to put together my thoughts towards “Summer’s Biggest Hit”.
Now all cards on the table; I loved the song the first time I heard it. I thought this is a super catchy tune that is easy to dance to. Which probably is part of the explanation as to why it is one of the most popular songs of the summer and used in numerous advertising, it catches people’s attention and gets their head bobbing or toes tapping. But then I started to see comments right away so I went back and listened very intently, looking up the lyrics as well to make sure I was not miss-hearing anything. And I cringed…like an actual physical cringe shoving my head back away from my screen.
I am sure given my openness to admit I am a feminist and not be silent about gender issues this shocked not many in my life. However what I saw in the media, the instant backlash from many different sources surprised me. Our culture and society has such a way of brushing issues like this away for a catchy beat or a snazzy look to it, so to be reminded that our views and thoughts are shifting and evolving as generations like mine and the immediate ones surrounding grow up was like fresh air. All of that being said I want to just spit out my personal relation to the song and lyrics and “controversy” but rather I’d like to put forth evidence of why I feel the way I do about the song.
I am basing this off the lyrical content only (cause the video is a whole different level of awful and problematic I don’t even want to touch it because I likely will just key smash and tell you to watch ‘Killing Us Softly’ or ‘Dreamworlds 3’ or ‘Miss Representation’ to get my frustration).
The most repeated phrase from the song (literally it is said 18 times), “I know you want it” is alone enough to prove that this song is problematic. The idea that this man knows what a woman wants and is willing to not only say it but state it to the woman without asking is so troubling, not to mention implies he doesn’t care. Whether or not she “wants it” is apparently irrelevant or not of importance to the man, eliminating her choice, thought, or opinion in the matter relegating her to nothing more than an object.
The familiar “slut vs. angel” trope is in full force here as well. Using words like “good girl” and “animal” throughout the song it brings forth the idea that a woman must be either, but in an ideal man’s world she would be both. It’s not an original concept by any means but to revive it and keep it alive allows young women to further feel they have to fit a box to be accepted or deemed worthy of a man. Plus it enforces in young men too that on the outside you should want your woman to appear angelic and innocent but hopefully she is also a little dirty and naughty…for just you of course.
Not to mention that the use of the term bitch throughout the song. It’s meant to be a compliment…I think. One line states, “You the hottest bitch in this place” so yes I understand it is meant to say “I happen to find you to be the most attractive woman in this location” but a “real man” could not say it so simply and honest, it must be toughened up to be spoken aloud in front of his boys. So naturally we slip bitch in there to remind everyone, especially the woman, of places we belong in.
Speaking of bitch, there is all this talk of hair pulling and other acts that demonstrate a woman is something to be trained or claimed (i.e. an object yet again). For a song that has the line, “let me liberate you” it sure seems to have limitations on that freedom. Which, also apparently is a thing a woman requires a man for, cause that is never a thing a woman could do on her own in the very least.
But I do think this song has small (like very, tiny speckles) glimmers of meaning well. It just happens to get totally lost in the vernacular and presentation. On the surface what I think the song is meant to say is our narrator sees how stifling this woman’s last man was, not allowing her to do her and that our narrator would definitely be down for that. He recognizes all the positives in this lady and wants to show her he is interested in celebrating those positives and allowing her to be whoever she is, that he doesn’t want to confine her to the “blurred lines” of society and the expectations. I genuinely believe that is the message Robin Thicke, T.I., and Pharell are trying to get across in this song. However they let themselves get stuck in the constructs of what “masculinity” looks like and they allowed the lyrics of this song to be offensive and demeaning.
I am not here to condemn anyone who likes the song, especially since I still find myself unable to stop my body from jamming a little when I hear the tune, but I just hope that people are aware of what the song is saying and why some people are really put off by that message. It’s more about being informed and knowledgeable about the implications than anything, going forth blindly benefits nobody.