Everybody get up…
I’d like to focus actually on the women in music themselves for this post. Perhaps the most prominent feature of modern pop music is the lyrics, given that casual listeners use them as a homing point to “relate to” the song, or find themselves being unable to escape the genius of that catchy hook that keeps it as an ever-present in their music library. And so, with this in mind, the ‘Women in Music’ in this post are those that are actually portrayed in the lyrical content of certain songs.
It has become an accepted byproduct of rap music that it includes over-the-top, overtly over-sexualised lyrics that subordinate and demean women. It’s become sort of a “funny” characteristic to wittily reel off in a stereotypical assessment of the genre, much in the same way you might make some hilarious comment about tractors and country music. However, lyrics that glorify rape culture and vilify women transcend musical style, and we’re starting to see them permeate mainstream music unashamedly blared on the radio. Now we can browse jeans in Topshop whilst hearing Robin Thicke’s insistence that ‘I know you want it’, and even listen to oh-so-sweet Taylor Swift’s characteristically innocent quip that ‘she’s better known for the things that she does on the mattress’ whilst driving to work.
The recent success of the 2015 biopic Straight Outta Compton goes to show just how firmly instilled are sources of musical misogyny in contemporary society. The film further stapled N.W.A as “rap gods” that continue to be hero-worshipped by hip hop aficionados worldwide. The group have successfully penetrated the mainstream and cemented “legendary” status. However, lyrics such as ‘find a good piece of pussy and go up in it’ don’t seem to go hand-in-hand with universally-loved deities of music. In this lyric, women are commodified as a product to be identified and attacked by the active male musician in a display of wealth, power, and style. Nowadays, members of N.W.A can be found on the big screen amongst colossal treasures of cinema, producing Grammy-winning songs, or as the face of commercial powerhouse products. It seems strange to me that the brains behind songs such as ‘One Less Bitch’ are heralded as untouchables of the entertainment industry, rubbing shoulders with silver screen legends and making billions from headphones, given some of the lyrics that helped make them famous (‘One Less Bitch’ is the story of the protagonist becoming a prostitute’s pimp, realising he must kill her, tying her to the bed (‘he ‘had to let [his] other niggas fuck her first yeah’) and then shooting her – because he’s ‘a real nigga‘, apparently).
One of the fastest growing sub-genres of music in recent times is pop punk. Paradoxical in name, the style can seem sometimes confused, which is often reflected in the lyrics. The whole thing is quite youth-orientated; there are a lot of songs about girls and there seems to be a fair deal of anxiety and identity issues which come out in the music. One band that has ridden this wave with aplomb is Californian outfit The Story So Far. The 5-piece released their first full album, Under Soil and Dirt, in 2011 – a record about the destruction of a relationship of vocalist Parker Cannon’s. It’s kind of an angry ‘I hate you’ letter to her, and it’s angsty and edgy enough for teenagers everywhere to scream words vaguely framed at their ex and feel as though they connect with it.
One song, ‘Mt. Diablo’ asks the implied female recipient to ‘think about who you let between your thighs’. In doing this, the band revert to a banal immaturity, as sex returns to the forefront of a desperate attempt to claim something back from a failed relationship. It appears that for some men, the only way to put things right in their mind is to slut-shame. Cannon recently grabbed headlines for (physically) kicking a female fan off stage, causing Emma Garland to condemn pop punk as ‘an incredibly hostile space towards non-dudes‘. This then prompted an article by (male) John Mason, who opened his piece by calling Garland a ‘malfunctioning […] feminist j
ournalist writer regressive-leftist’, laughing off the outraged as being ‘triggered‘. Point proven I think, John.
There is no condemning evidence showing that misogyny in music can kill your career. The fact that some artists experience great success from lyrics so offensive is disappointing and frustrating. Perhaps it’s time to question the things we’re hearing next time we find ourselves nodding along.
‘Blurred Lines.’ E! News. 4 September 2015. Image. Accessed 7 March 2015.
Cheney Rice, Zak. ‘Here’s the Lesson ‘Straight Outta Compton Doesn’t Want You to Learn’. Mic.com. 12 August 2015. Web. Accessed 6 March 2017.
Foster, Lucy. ‘Music and Misogyny: Why We’re All Listening to Sexist Lyrics.’ Stylist. N.d. Web. Accessed 7 March 2017.
Garland, Emma. ‘The Douchebag Singer of The Story So Far Drop Kicked a Girl Off Stage Just For Taking a Selfie.’ Noisey.vice.com. 12 April 2016. Web. Accessed 7 March 2017.
Mason, John. ‘Noisey.com Writer Decides The Story So Far Frontman is Sexist for No Apparent Reason.’ Iprobablyhateyourband.com. 13 April 2016. Web. Accessed 7 March 2017.
Myint, B. ‘N.W.A: Where Are They Now?’ Bio. 13 August 2015. Web. Accessed 7 March 2017.
‘N.W.A. West Coast rap group – Eazy E. Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, DJ Yella, MC Ren.’ Blindie.com. N.d. Image. Accessed 8 March 2017.
OutlawManzion. ‘N.W.A – One Less Bitch’. YouTube. 30 March 2010. Web. Accessed 7 March 2017.
Pure Noise Records. ‘The Story So Far – Mt. Diablo.’ YouTube. 17 June 2011. Web. Accessed 7 March 2017.
Straight Outta Compton (Film), Dir. F. Gary Grey. ‘ DJ Yella (Neil Brown Jr.) and the obligatory booty shots’. Image. Accessed 5 March 2017.
Trent, Kim. ‘Straight Outta Excuses for Misogyny.’ Detroit Free Press. 21 August 2015. Web. Accessed 6 March 2017.
World Events. ‘”Pop singer” drop kicks fan who flies face first off stage.’ YouTube. 13 April 2016. Web. Accessed 2017.