March 3, 2009

Let's Be Real, Usher

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I don’t intend to rant about our hooking up culture, the idea of “friends with benefits” (has anyone besides parents actually ever used that term?), or how nobody dates anymore. All I want to do is point out that the music we listen to endorses this culture — a culture in which when two people are attracted to each other, they are expected to hook up, not go on a date. Please don’t be like, “What! I don’t do that.” I’m not saying that everyone does it. I’m also not saying that people didn’t randomly hook up in the ’80s, or the ’60s, or the 1800s for that matter. I’m just saying that today, the music we listen to adds to this culture.
I have yet to find a song that encourages our hooking up culture more than “Beautiful,” by Akon. He goes on and on about this girl — she’s “so beautiful, so damn beautiful,” and “Where’d you come from, you’re outta’ this world, to me / You’re a symbol of what a beautiful woman should be.” But then, what does Akon say? He doesn’t say “I want to date you,” “I would like to get to know you,” or even “I want to kiss you.” He says, “I wanna get with you.” Well, I don’t know about you girls, but that one will win my heart any day.
I’m really not trying to hate on Akon. I promise you I have nothing against him. I enjoy dancing around like an idiot to him just as much as the next person. Just so you don’t find out later that I’m a hypocrite, I will admit that I actually listen to Akon about two or three times a week because my roommate usually picks the music when we’re getting ready to go out, and guess who her one and only love is? Yup, Akon (it used to be Chris Brown until recent events). But really, this just proves that I’m not trying to place blame on anyone. I’m just saying that we seem to have become entrapped within a vicious cycle. We randomly hook up, then songs come out that encourage these hook ups and then we hook up more because the songs make it seem like everyone’s doing it.
Of course Akon is not the only one who’s doing it. Let’s see. There’s “Cookie Jar,” by Gym Class Heroes. At least in this one, though, there’s at least some effort to refrain from what is always so tempting: “I want be faithful / But I cant keep my hands out the cookie jar.” Then there’s Usher, who is “Lookin in your eyes while you walk the other side,” while what he really wants is to “make love in this club.”
Apparently though, it’s not just the men that are all for our ever-exciting hook up culture. In “Lollipop,” Lil Wayne lovingly croons, “She said ‘he so sweet, make me wanna lick the wrapper’ so I let her lick the wrapper.” So generous of Lil W, isn’t it? He even elaborates, “Man, she ain’t never had a love like mine/ n’ man I ain’t never seen an ass like hers.” These two seem to be meant for each other, and I wish them good luck. I really do.
Then there’s Flo Rida’s “Right Round.” In this one, a man and a woman, him and Kesha, switch off expressing such sentiments as “You spin my head right round, right round/ When you go down, when you go down down.”
Even some of our female frat party music providers add to our random, often ruthless hook-up culture. Lady Gaga, for instance, is especially blunt: “And after he’s been hooked I’ll play the one that tore his heart.”
I’m not blaming it on boys or girls, the musicians or their fans. I’m just saying that the music is definitely influencing the culture, and the culture is definitely influencing the music. A friend of mine even went so far as to point out that the beats of the songs we love to listen to when we’re out on the town, as well as the words, encourage hooking up — like the beat of a song will be fast, then slow so you can hook up, then fast so when you realize you are getting slobbered on by a stranger you can run away.
Really, I think we’re lucky to have this music. We can just blame everything on it — like “Oh sorry (insert your sorority sister’s name here), I couldn’t resist hooking up with that guy you like because “Beautiful” by Akon was playing!”
So thank you, Akon. One day, maybe our children will think of you as having influenced their parents’ generation to the extent that we think of Bob Dylan as having influenced our parents’ generation. As much as I enjoy rocking out to you every weekend, though, I certainly hope not.