Alright, let's get into something here. Some salty language coming, so watch out.
This summer, I decided to watch the video to the Nicki Minaj song "Anaconda." I came away from the experience amazed - amazed that this is what passes for "good" in mainstream pop; amazed that an "artist" decided this was the best use of her talents; amazed that the lyrics and accompanying video were even deemed fit for public display.
What's the big deal? Songs about sex, in varying degrees of frankness and euphemism, have been made since the beginning of time (see Shakespeare's Sonnet 129, Bessie Smith's "Kitchen Man", etc.). And we've come a long way since showing a bare ankle in public was cause for outrage.
And it's certainly not fair to pick on one artist, or one song. Across genres, lyrics have become raunchier, music videos more provocative. Besides - it's not about the lyrics…it's about getting people dancing, right? If I don't like it, I should just stop listening, right?
If you'll pardon my French, I say bull****.
Let's remove all subjective discussion. I won't spend any time on whether I think the song is "good" or "bad" from a musical standpoint. I won't compare it to the Joni Mitchell video I watched last week, and lament the demise of great lyric and melody writing.
Whether artists like it or not, their work influences the people consuming it. In the case of "Anaconda", Nicki Minaj seems to be glorifying the use of her body for sex in return for weapons, drugs and swag. Let's not deny the effect popular culture has on our youth. I'm not saying violent video games lead to violent people; but we would have to have our heads very deep in the sound to deny that pop culture doesn't influence every aspect of our lives - how we dress, how we talk, the foods we eat (or aspire to eat), the cars we drive (or aspire to drive), etc. Look around - young people all over emulate what they see their favourite pop stars doing on - and even sometimes off - the stage.
"It's her body, she can do whatever she wants with it." Okay, what about this idea of empowerment? As a male, do I have a right to be writing about female empowerment, about a women's right to embrace her sexuality? Valid point. I certainly hope that I do. My idea of empowerment doesn't include trading sex for drugs ("I let him hit it cause he slang cocaine"), staying with a partner because of the gifts he/she bestows ("Bought me Alexander McQueen, he was keeping me stylish"), or slagging women with different body types ("F*** the skinny bitches in the club").
"OMG IT'S JUST A SONG TAKE A CHILL PILL." Another good point. The thing is, if it's just a song, why do we need the the raunchy lyrics and video? If it's just a song meant to get people dancing, why even write lyrics at all? Call me cynical, but it seems to me this is just a way to get attention for a questionable artist and a fairly low-end product. And I guess it worked - I'm writing about it.
Aren't I being sexist by choosing a song by a woman? What about all the songs by men which degrade women, and talk about sex, drugs and swag in equally offensive ways? True - this issue has been around for a long time, and exists in a variety of genres dominated by men. And, frankly, lots has been written about it. See, for example, the lambasting Robin Thicke got for his catchy ditty "Blurred Lines" last year. In fact, is it not a double-standard to decry Thicke's lyrics and video, and not do the same with Minaj's (or the so many other similar songs)?
It's my job to judge the music I listen to - there's no way to program a festival without deciding what's "good" and what's not. So maybe that's why my knickers are in a particular knot here. But I also think of myself as an artist - I compose music, I perform music, I strive to affect people with music - and I'm positive we as artists - and the industry on the whole - can do so, so much better than "Anaconda".
Judge for yourself - you can see the lyrics to "Anaconda" here.