Why catchy isn’t always cool
By Sarah Stubbs
If you’re anything like my sister, best friends, and I, and you were at the Jason Derulo concert last week and you had an absolute blast.
You may have pushed your way through the crowd to get as close to the stage as possible and you might have even sang (or screamed) “It Girl” at the top of your lungs.
I think I would have had an even better time at this concert, though, if I wasn’t so observant, skeptical, and feminist.
Let me explain.
You know how sometimes you don’t realize how vulgar a song is until it’s playing in front of your parents? Or, you sing along with a popular song on the radio because it’s super catchy, not even realizing what the lyrics are saying or thinking about whether you agree with the message or not?
As a fan of hip-hop, rap, and pop music, this is an all too common occurrence for me (Drake’s “Hotline Bling,” anyone?).
The day before the Jason Derulo concert I was sitting in my postcolonial literature class discussing how non-European women were often viewed as exotic and sexually desirable when the European empires were colonizing Africa, Eastern Asia, and beyond. Now remember, European women in western societies were not equal to men socially, politically, or economically, but these women were not being hypersexualized in the extreme ways that foreign women were.
As the discussion went on, I immediately began thinking about the Jason Derulo song “Talk Dirty,” countless other rap songs about foreign cars and foreign broads, and one of my past boyfriends who always talked about wanting a “foreign piece.”
Now that we live in a postmodern society, one where much of the world is decolonized and women are increasingly in leadership roles and taking on jobs that men have historically taken, one would think that all of this hypersexualizing was a thing of the past.
It’s not. It never went anywhere, it just became catchy.
Let’s look at Jason Derulo’s song “Talk Dirty.”
“Been around the world, don’t speak the language / But your booty don’t need explainin’ / All I really need to understand is when you talk dirty to me.”
In this song, Jason doesn’t need to understand the girls that he is… spending time with… as he travels the globe as an international popstar. Their bodies say all that he needs to know. He doesn’t need to converse with them or understand who they are, he just would like to know when they are saying something sexual.
This is so problematic.
We have female artists in the hip-hop world like Nicki, Beyoncé, and Rihanna producing empowering music, yet artists like Jason Derulo, Drake, Kanye, Meek Mill, Lil Wayne, and so many others sell out shows and sit at the top of music charts with lyrics that are blatantly objectifying women.
Songs like “Talk Dirty,” and countless others that are probably too profane to quote in this article, are perpetuating the objectification of women. We are telling young girls that these ideas are OK because we make them popular.
We cannot just be passive consumers and let this happen. We have to think about where we are investing our money, time, and attention.
I’m not saying this makes Jason Derulo a bad person and it doesn’t discredit the fact that he is an amazing performer. “Talk Dirty” is just one convenient example in modern pop culture. This is much bigger than him.