Top 40 Misogyny

There is so much talk about misogyny in music lyrics and videos. I have to admit that I jumped on that bad wagon too.  I have to be honest that there was a heated debate in my house last week between an educator, a poli-sci/native studies student, a director of homelessness initiatives, and a high school student. I was shocked to hear that the high school student was on board with the misogynistic debate and not because she isn’t a critical thinker, but only because I can remember her father and I banning Fergie’s “London Bridge” because it was too overtly sexual for her 10 year old brain.

At any rate, in the spirit of our discussion, I thought that I would analyze some of the songs that are currently on the US Top 40 Pop Music List (from top40-charts.com).

  1. Blurred Lines – Robin Thicke
  2. Get Lucky – Daft Punk
  3. We Can’t Stop – Miley Cyrus
  4. Radioactive – Imagine Dragons
  5. Cruise – Florida Georgia Line
  6. Can’t Hold Us – Macklemore, Ryan, Lewis & Ray Dalton
  7. Treasure – Bruno Mars
  8. Cups (When I’m Gone)– Anna Kendrick
  9. Clarity – Zedd
  10. Same Love – Macklemore & Ryan Lewis

Only three out of the ten songs can be considered to be misogynistic. The criteria that I used to analyze these songs was simply if the lyrics objectify women and only look at women as sexual objects or objects of beauty.

Blurred Lines – Robin Thicke featuring T.I. & Pharell Williams

It has a sexy beat; people seem to be talking about it and it made number 1. The video I do not get and only because it has a couple women walking around being ogled by Robin Thicke and Pharell. I guess the video itself could be misogynistic as it’s objectifying these women. And literally these women are just walking around trying to be sexy and have no other purpose in the video. But what about the lyrics:

But you're a good girl
The way you grab me
Must wanna get nasty
Go ahead, get at me

So, do these lyrics prove misogyny? Well, I think they do. Let’s face it, sex sells. Women are often objectified because we are seen as being weaker and easier to take control of by way of our sexuality. I can guarantee that just watching Thicke and Pharell dance without beautiful women wouldn’t have been as popular. And haven’t music videos progressed to a point where a story is told and that’s what the song is about. This video is like a bad porno film with the intent to only show gratuitous sex. There is no point to the video and therefore no point to the song. I like a good story people and clearly this song does not have a working plot.

Get Lucky - Daft Punk featuring Pharell Williams & Nile Rodgers

This song gets you moving and grooving while driving. It’s the kind of tune that makes you want to roll down all the windows and let the wind blow your hair all about while you mouth the lyrics while remaining highly flirtatious by making eye contact with unsuspecting drivers in other vehicles.  Here is what you and Daft Punk are yelling going down the road:

She's up all night 'til the sun
I'm up all night to get some
She's up all night for good fun
I'm up all night to get lucky

The lyrics go on to say that “we” are up all night to get lucky. So both men and women are up all night for some thunder down under? Well ya of course we are. But are women and men supposed to only have a one-night stand? This song does not show the progression of a relationship, but rather is indicative of the summer fling ideal. And sure summer flings are good and all, but remember what happened to Danny and Sandy in Grease…summer lovin’ having some fun…they ran into each other later and it was awkward. I would say that Get Lucky has misogynistic tendencies.  It doesn’t portray women as anything other than someone to have sex with because after all “she’s up all night for good fun”. And why would she be up all night otherwise? It can’t be so she can get to know the guy that’s been flirting with her all night can it? I’m starting to think that Daft Punk and Robin Thicke could learn something from one another. Too many mixed messages and blurred lines apparently. 

Cruise - Florida Georgia Line

So what is it about some men that can’t look past the initial exterior of a woman? Surely there is more to a woman than the way she looks. And surely men want to sing songs that help to bolster the way women are portrayed in pop music. Well Florida Georgia Line in Cruise says this:

Yeah, when I first saw that bikini top on her
She’s poppin’ right out of the South Georgia water
Thought, "Oh, good lord, she had them long tanned legs!"

Oh, and here I thought this song might have some hope for the male / female relationship and the respect of women. Ughh…bikinis and popping out of the water. Are we to imagine Bo Derek in 10 or Halle Berry in Die Another Day emerging lustfully out of the water? Yes, yes I think that’s the image Florida Georgia Line is going for here. Totally misogynistic.

Ironically all the songs I indicated as misogynistic are from male musicians. None of this week's Top 40 female artists’ songs are self-deprecating or looking at themselves as sexual objects.  I was impressed and surprised. I think it would be hard to be a female artist in the music industry where sex sells and producers and managers want you to sell yourself in that way.  But I think this dialogue needs to continue because Top 40 music is a reflection of society's acceptance of how women are portrayed in mainstream music.

Also, our youth listen to and emulate the musicians they adore and if women’s sexuality and outer appearance are the only valuable parts of us then why should we become anything but that image? What’s the point?

~Jennifer Ward

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