Tuesday, May 31, 2005


...I've got a blog, so I get to comment on shit what don't really concern me if 'n' when I damn well feel like it. So shall we?

Anthony Miccio wrote a review of the Ying Yang Twins' single "Wait" in the Village Voice. Two female critics, Jessica Hopper and Julianne Shepherd, responded, not all that kindly, to his thoughts. Anthony attempted a rebuttal. (There's also a discussion about the song, and now the foofaraw, on ILM. My comments appear at the tail end of it.)

Here's what I think: Seems to me that (in Shepherd's view, though I actually think Hopper's critique is stronger) the review connects with the ILM/Voice mindset that (can seem like it) combines what blount called "the old 'art has no duty to anything/one but itself' jig" with a snickering, boys' club embrace of sexual ultra-machismo as rebellious fun (rather than implied threat, which is how lots of women, not just overeducated campus-speech-code-happy women, view it).

My take on all this is that it's all about relative public profile. I don't think "Wait" is exactly misogynist, in that it doesn't express hatred or loathing for women. It is a call for rough sex, and said rough sex may not be as consensual as a few half-phrases are clearly intended to convince the (critical) prosecution that it is. So it's a song written by half-literate knuckle-draggers who are happy to be that because that's what's made them their money. And (I'm trusting the rest of the discussion thread on this, because I don't actually own the Twins' album) this is not the first time they've trampled into potentially misogynist territory, and indeed some earlier examples seem to be worse. In this case, I think it's the creepy whispering (with its obscene-phone-call/stalker implications), not the lyrics on their own, that's making (some) women shudder. If these same lyrics were delivered in the usual crunk bark, I don't think the outcry would be as loud.

At the same time, I think the (commercial/pop-cultural) success of the song is helping draw fire, too. The women linked complain that whiteboy critics who embrace this song, and crunk in general, shrug off its offensive aspects partly out of fear of being called racist. Since I've seen it happen many times online (and even in Spin - one of their articles about the 2 Live Crew court case was called "Fear Of A Black Penis," implying that Florida sheriffs/prosecutors were tiny-dicked white men intimidated/threatened by Luther Campbell's pythonlike manhood, and jeez no of course there's nothing racist/patronizing about that bit of projection), I buy that. But I think that if the song wasn't a hit, nobody would give a shit. Exhibit A: Nelly. The outcry over his "Tip Drill" video was relatively short-lived, because "Tip Drill" was not a hit. (Was it even a single in the traditional released-to-radio sense?) Exhibit B (and here's where we leave race behind, sorta): Cannibal Corpse. What do Julianne and Jessica think about "Fucked With A Knife" and/or "Entrails Ripped From A Virgin's Cunt"? Nothing, I suspect. Because Cannibal Corpse play to a fairly small audience/scene, relatively speaking (actually, they probably sell just as many records as the Twins, or damn close, or did at their peak), and (oops, here comes race again) that audience/scene has no hipster cred with whiteboy critics the way crunk (black, culturally "other") does.


julianne said...

Uh, nice try but no. both of us have criticized misogy content of rock music, emo, punk etc. in public sphere. I don't operate in a closed circle, only responding to critics, because ultimately, I don't give a shit about critics, I give a shit about 17 year old girls who think they have to stay in their abusive relationships because the entirety of American culture tells them they have no worth.

Phil Freeman said...

Fair enough, then. I haven't read your critiques of sexism/misogyny in other musics, so I assumed (incorrectly) that you were unaware of the grotesque sexual brutality in (some, not nearly all or even a statistically significant portion of) death metal. As I hope you can see in the rest of my post, I think you and Jessica are both on the right track here.

Anonymous said...

"In this case, I think it's the creepy whispering (with its obscene-phone-call/stalker implications), not the lyrics on their own, that's making (some) women shudder. If these same lyrics were delivered in the usual crunk bark, I don't think the outcry would be as loud."

It's not the whispering. That's creepy, yeah, but it's the lyrics of this song, and other songs (in rap and other genres), that are offensive. They're violent and, while very few of these songs are blatant about it, they all imply that women are sexual objects and nothing else. And if women get mad about being called bitches and guys 'beating the pussy up," then it's okay, just say you're joking to shut the woman up and it's all good. That's just not cool, and I honestly don't understand why it's popular.

Also, I really don't get why the FCC fixates on people like Eminem, who, yeah, has violent song lyrics but uses them to make a point, instead of crap like "Wait" (or "The Thong Song" or "Milkshake" or any of the other crap out there that is basically just telling girls to put out, 'cause everyone wants them to). Meanwhile, songs like TLC's "No Scrubs" or the Dixie Chicks' "Goodbye Earl" (I don't know any recent examples, which is pretty sad) get a bunch of crap, and guys go and write responses (Sporty Thievz "No Pigeons" & Ray Steven's "Hey Girls, This is Earl") to them that basically make it out like anyone who stands up for themselves against a guy is just a hysterical woman, and isn't she silly?

I'm not saying these songs should be censored, because censorship is bad. But the fact that they're written, and played on the radio, and become popular, all without anyone really calling them on it or saying, "You know, the Ying Yang Twins are jerks and this song is why" or something similar, is really, really sad. Because it shows that no matter how equal we think American society is, it's still okay to be threatening toward women. Heck, it'll just make you popular.

But that's why there are critics. Not to give these people a pass ("But either it's defensible or it ain't; with 'bitch' up to debate, I'm gonna go with 'is.'"), but to call them on stuff like this. Unfortunately, many male critics don't seem to want to step up and say, "Guys, catchy tune but the lyrics are NOT COOL." I'm only seen female critics do it. And, unfortunately, these guys aren't going to listen to women - they are just sex objects, right? So it's going to continue, because guys give them a pass and women aren't worth listening to. And, sadly, girls figure that these guys ARE worth listening to, since they're popular and on the radio, and they're going to take this horseshit to heart.

It's about time critics stepped up instead of worrying about being out of step or not cutting edge enough. If you like the music, then write that you like the music, but if you're just giving these guys a pass because they're inexplicably popular, then grow a damned spine. People will appreciate you more for it.

James said...

hi phil! re: "tip drill" - i don't know if it got as much rockcrit lather but in the, er, larger world it definitely didn't slip by unnoticed. i think julianne mentioned the incident at spelman college. it wasn't a huge hit (i'd like to pretend this was becuz of the lyrics but weak beats, weaker hook probably played a larger role)(note that whisper song has stalled somewhat too - it's not "salt shaker"), but it got club play for sure and definitely got a reaction a reassuring (surprising?) amount of which was women (finally?) saying 'ok, this is bullshit'. one of which was my 17 year old sister who going on and on about nelly (she's a big fan)(he is cute) stopped to note that "tip drill" was 'disgusting and pathetic' and then asked me "why do men do stuff like that?". i didn't really have a response, but i sure as hell wouldn't have hid behind 'just a bit of fun innit' and i sure as hell wouldn't dream that the voice would provide a venue for that copout.