Monday, July 21, 2008

Least girl power songs

Classic 50's Sign
Here's a good two parter. Let's start with the negative and then go positive! I've noticed that some pop songs make me feel all like the emancipated post-modern feminist that I am, and other songs... don't. OK, there's a lot of songs that would fall into both categories. By the way, if you listen to pop song lyrics about love really carefully (a practice which I don't recommend), you'll basically never hear the extolling of happy and healthy relationships. It's either clinginess and infatuation, or being free and single. Can you think of a healthy relationship/love song?
Here's just a few where the underlying sentiment reminds me of nails on a chalkboard. The following are decidedly not girl power anthems.

The Ronettes - Be My Baby
OK, this song is damn catchy. It's emblematic of the Phil Spector Wall of Sound style that dominated the early 60s. It was featured on the Dirty Dancing soundtrack. Brian Wilson worships it. But if you listen to the lyrics, they are sosososo bad. Basically the girl is singing that she's willing to give up her life for this dude and follow him around like a little puppy (but they'll look really good while they're doing it). And if I'm correct, this fantasy of subservience (he gets three kisses for every one she gets, do the math) is not even based on a real relationship. She's only just seen him! Enjoy this ode to codependency.

Kylie Minogue - Better the Devil You Know
If you are American, you've never heard this song. If you aren't American, there's no way you haven't heard it 8000 times. See, everywhere in the world except for the USA, Kylie's a pop superstar on the level of Madonna. In Amurrica, she's along the lines of a 2-hit wonder. This is one of her biggest dance songs from the early 90s that never made it stateside.
Kylie sees the Ronettes' masochism and raises them to infinity. While Ronnie Spector is wrapped up in a fantasy about a man she doesn't even know, Kylie already knows she has a craptastic dude on her hands. She's basically like "well yeah, you strayed, and are a sucky boyfriend, but I'll take you back because better the devil you know!" She sings with such innocence and verve, you'd never know how dark these lyrics are. "I'll be here every day, waiting for your love to show"? The clock's a-tickin', girl! On the plus side: Nick Cave was so impressed with this song he asked her to record a duet with him, and thus a cool collaborative partnership (presumably of equals?) was born.

Tammy Wynette - Stand By Your Man
I can't come down on the whole of country music for lack of girl power, since I know quite a few rousing anthems from some other country lasses. But then there's this little ditty. Tammy's had to defend the song basically since its release, derided by the likes of 60s-70s era feminists and Hillary Clinton. Again, I think the lyrics speak for themselves. Her role in the relationship is basically that of the Giving Tree. She provides him with two arms to cling to, something warm to come home to, yadda yadda yadda. In looking for positives here... wow, I never knew hair could be teased so high! Ooo shiny sparkly red dress!

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