Only ten songs, and some notes on girls kissing
As a soundtrack while I'm coding, I've been renewing my acquaintance with contemporary pop music. The distribution of depth and superficiality, talent and schlock, doesn't seem to have changed any, at least to my not particularly sophisticated ear, in the last generation, but it's pop music's "plus ca change" quality, it's autophagic endless recycling of themes and tropes, that makes it an interesting social barometer.
Since there are really only ten songs ever (to wit:
One thing that's depressing, in a superficial browse of current music, is the degree of triumphalist misogyny: what the hell is up with "slap my bitch up" as a seemingly non-ironic lyric? Misandry lags; the female equivalent seems to be "I hate you so much right now", despite the fact that a lot of the male artists seem to cry out to be castrated with rusty shears. Meta...phorically.
But if anyone is writing a monograph called "The Queering of America" (and someone should be), surely a datapoint is to be found in the work of one Pittsburgh Slim, entitled "Girls Kiss Girls". It's not Mr. Slim is particularly clever or enlightened, or that the song is all that (though it's sort of catchy, which is pop's most critical virtue); rather, it's that we may plausibly assume that Mr. Slim represents the typical frame of mind of the typical college lad of the day. If the grandfather wore a fur motoring coat, waved a pennant heartily, ogled flappers and swallowed goldfishes, the grandson wishes in his turn to encourage girls to kiss each other, possibly at Spring Break in Florida.
It's not that the fetish is new by any means; it's the fresh-faced innocence of the song's conceit that makes it interesting. It's the song's protagonist's steady long-distance girlfriend who is successfully urged to girl-kissing, to its protagonist's great satisfaction.
Blur's 1994 "Girls & Boys", with its "girls who are boys who like boys to be girls who do boys like theyre girls who do girls like theyre boys", was self-congratulatorily risque and avant-garde, flaunting its progressive nonchalance about gender borders; fourteen years later, "Girls Kiss Girls" is unabashedly sexist and conservative on close to the same territory. As of 2008 (we conclude) the ideal girlfriend of the frat boy with the Heineken babe poster on his dorm room wall is an avowed bisexual.
That wasn't the case in 1988; I'd say it represents a shift of the same kind whereby that same frat boy's ideal girlfriend was sexually experienced, in 1988, in a way she wouldn't have been (or he wouldn't have been able to admit she was) in 1958.
I'm not sure any of this is cause for hope -- the sexual revolution and Stonewall here serve, after a generation's lag, simply to make our hypothetical lad feel threatened about fewer things in his self-indulgent mastery fantasies -- but it's interesting.
Now how long before we get a female artist to cover the song, swapping the genders? (I'd like to see Pink do it. Maybe Madonna, though it is hardly news that she likes when boys kiss boys. If Britney does it, the revolution will be at hand). It would also be interesting to see Tori Amos's (unregendered) feminist deconstruction a la "97 Bonnie & Clyde"...Posted by benrosen at November 29, 2007 10:36 AM | Up to blog