Required Listening: Pinkerton by Weezer, “Honey Bunny” by Girls and “Low” by Flo Rida featuring T-Pain.
When it comes to misogyny in music, there are clear-cut heroes and villains. In the villainous corner we have the horribly sexist, breast- and butt-obsessed purveyors of party jams. Among their ranks they count R. Kelly, 50 Cent, Kanye West, Pitbull and Flo Rida. These villainous beings are no better than the Vikings of yore, raping and pillaging the fine women that populate the modern club scene, treating these poor souls like objects. They are a scourge on society and are valiantly combated via the guerilla methods of the RIAA: “Parental Advisory” stickers are emblazoned upon their albums, which lie motionless in the now-abandoned abodes of record merchants throughout the country.
Luckily for concerned parents everywhere, there emerges another type of rock star: they are bespectacled, sensitive and meek. They are beacons of fine pop songwriting that does nothing to offend the politically correct sensibilities of the modern family: bands like Weezer do nothing to threaten or devalue the sexuality of your daughters. Or do they?
Anybody who has given a serious listening to Weezer’s sophomore record Pinkerton would tell you two things: Firstly, it’s an underappreciated rock record that is jam-packed with top notch tunes. Secondly, Rivers Cuomo has a serious problem with the female sex. And I’m not talking about the failed romantic flings that made Rivers such a lovable underdog in the first place; Rivers treats the women in his songs with a profound disrespect that speaks to his complete lack of understanding of modern sexual politics. “Tired of Sex” has Rivers dismissing a slew of female companions — Denise, Sharise and Louise, too! — because he is, as the song implies, “tired of sex” and, by relation, tired of women. He vainly stalks a half-Japanese cellist throughout the entirety of “El Scorcho” and imagines a seventeen-year-old fan touching herself as she listens to his music in “Across The Sea.”
And in no way is Pinkerton an isolated incident on Cuomo’s part. Their breakthrough, self-titled album featured a song called “No One Else,” in which Rivers shares his desire for a girl who will “laugh for no one else” and who “never leaves the house.” His version of misogyny was of the Leave It To Beaver-approved variety: Women are to please their man and mind the house when he’s away, or else!
“But James,” you, the thoughtful reader, asks, “Those records are almost twenty years old. How about you give some relevant proof that such covert sexism permeates through the lyrics of modern, nice guy-type rockers?” Have you heard the new Girls record, Father, Son, Holy Ghost? Album opener “Honey Bunny” has frontman Christopher Owens complaining that he wants a girl who will overlook his obvious flaws (for instance, his “bony body” and “dirty hair”) in order to take care of him when he’s crying and pleasure him sexually. Or what about “nice guy” Ben Gibbard? Death Cab for Cutie’s “I Will Possess Your Heart” may have one hell of a bass line, but it’s another stalker song. Perhaps the “nice guy” tag is a little misleading?
And the aforementioned villains? Those guys are getting a bad rap! Flo Rida and T-Pain on their landmark release “Low” are not putting down women. In fact, they are celebrating feminine independence. The “shorty” in question is brandishing “apple-bottomed jeans” as a way to express her sexuality in public, something that would undoubtedly offend “nice guy” Rivers Cuomo, but instead, turns on the clearly enlightened duo of Flo Rida and T-Pain. By making “the whole club look at her,” she is seizing the spotlight from the men who dominate society and is establishing herself as a fierce, independent entity. As Flo Rida moves in to dance with her, she takes his money, further subverting societal roles and taking power from the man in the relationship. But Flo Rida understands: he may have lost his money, but he is happier in a society where women are free from sexual limitations and are able to truly express themselves. While Cuomo wants to enslave women, Flo Rida wants them running free!
Perhaps my smarm is not appreciated here. After all, sexual inequality is a serious problem even today. Women make 77 cents to a man’s dollar and so on. But I feel that it needs to be understood: there is a distinct difference between sexuality in music and misogyny in music. And, no, this is not all a big setup to ultimately absolve Tyler the Creator for his sins of misogyny (sorry dude, but when you write a song and call it “Bitch Suck Dick,” you’re pretty much on your own when people start criticizing you about it). I just believe that, in a world where political correctness is apparently king, we need to draw lines for what we accept and what we reject.
I hardly believe that songs about men lusting after a woman’s body in a club setting are inappropriate; it’s what happens in the setting. What really is inappropriate, though, is excusing nigh-sociopathic behavior towards women by saying that the songwriter in question is “sensitive” or “misunderstood.” A confident, well-adjusted and sexually mature individual can approach a woman and compliment her looks. These “crushes” that manifest themselves as stalker-stalkee relationships are not only indicative of romantically immature individuals, but of an unrealistic worldview where the right girl will love you unconditionally. So, to all those sensitive songwriters: grow a pair and ask her out, instead of passive-aggressively fantasizing about her. Your fans, and all of womankind, will thank you for it.