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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Musical Misogyny

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This may be old news, but I recently heard the song “Talk Dirty” by Jason Derulo for the first time. While I loved the beat, I couldn’t help but feel very conflicted. It’s a sexist, racist song, but I can’t help but dance along. While the music video’s fetishizing of Asian women made me uncomfortable, I still listened to the song again. It got me wondering whether it is hypocritical of me to listen to this song, as well as other songs that convey the same messages. Just like “Blurred Lines” by Robin Thicke, this song reached very high on the Billboard Hot 100, which means that like me, others are listening to it. However, I am unsure as to whether I can appreciate a song simply for its composition, or whether its lyrics should make me stop listening.

Some of my favorite songs, like “Hometown Glory” by Adele, have swear words. While I don’t swear all the time, I see their use of swearing as an artistic move. That being said, I don’t actively listen to songs that contain sexist and racial slurs. However, whenever I hear people complaining about Eminem’s lyrics, I often think they are be- ing ridiculous. If you don’t want to hear what he is saying, don’t listen to his music. I know that sometimes this can be unavoidable, but there will always be artists who make you uncomfortable. There will always be artists who say and do questionable things…art is an open platform for that very reason. While I don’t see being offensive as a form of creativity, we cannot tell artists to stop pushing the envelope. We live in a culture where being shocking is a sales tactic. If you don’t want to listen to an artist, don’t buy their songs. Individuals cannot say what is right/wrong in terms of art, but we can set our own boundaries.

When Chris Brown committed domestic vio- lence against Rhianna in 2009, I assumed that people would stop buying his albums. However, he has had 2 albums make it to number 1 in the US Billboard 200 after 2009. Although he got heat from the media, many of his fans stuck by him. For me, it was a no-brainer; just don’t buy his music. That being said, I wonder what my favorite artist would have to do for me to stop buying their music. Could I separate the artist from the art? Even if I could, it is right? I said before how the moral boundaries of creativity should be self-defined, but I believe that certain boundaries should be universal. I also know that universal boundaries concerning the moral limits of creativity are always changing, and having these boundaries be stagnant is equally dangerous.

An artist saying something offensive is very different than doing something offensive. Even if you disagree with this argument, what Chris Brown did wasn’t just offensive…it was wrong. That being said, while he acted immorally, that doesn’t necessarily mean that his art is immoral. He happens to have also sung some pretty sexist songs, such as “Fine China,” but this doesn’t mean that every artist’s personal life and professional life are connected. Sinéad O’Connor’s highly questionable 1992 SNL performance where she ripped a photo of Pope John Paul II doesn’t make her rendition of “Nothing Compares 2 U” any less beautiful. Kanye West’s narcissism doesn’t make his songs any less catchy. While I believe that buying a Chris Brown song isn’t the best use of your money, I can’t tell you not to do so. However, I can say that artists are connected to their songs financially. Buying Chris Brown’s songs, as well as songs that promote racism, sexism, and violence, puts those songs on the Billboard Hot 100. The more these songs are listened to, the more the legitimacy of their messages increase.

I find what Chris Brown did to be repulsive. I hate the messages of “Talk Dirty” and “Blurred Lines.” However, I’m also hesitant to tell people not to listen to these songs. I feel that art should be an open platform, and while certain messages should be criticized, people have the right to listen to what they want. If you don’t want these messages to be considered okay, then you can let your opinion be known by not buying certain songs. I realize that the songs might be catchy, but I can’t complain if I am listening to them. Hypocrisy also isn’t a good message to be sending.

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