Rants

“Forget your balls and grow a pair of tits”: Thoughts on Lily Allen’s comeback single

Speaking as a strident Kate Nash fan, I properly advocate the riot grrrl punk pop movement. I love that Kate has grown up and found her true identity within her art form. It is true that her Girl Talk is worlds apart from her charty, ‘cutesy London girl’ debut album Made of Bricks and this has tended to put people off her; one grows accustomed to hearing various lamentations such as “why has she like, gone punk?” and “I don’t like her new shouting”. But I’ve simply adored following her over the years, charting her development and sort of feeling like I have grown with her as a feminist. I’ve always looked to her music for motivation in times of low confidence and dwindling self esteem – Kate’s music always seems to have the answer to typical, everyday psychological issues that are fairly universal and prevalent but aren’t necessarily recognised as feelings that shouldn’t ignored or stifled.
kate-nash-girl-talk-states-US-tour-tracklist-bio-album-show-live-style-shk

The emergence of Lily Allen’s shiny-new-comeback-feminist-anthem sent me seriously giddy because THIS felt like British feminist music’s first real chance, as far as I’m aware, to finally seep into the charts and align itself with popular ditties, such as that misogynist atrocity ‘Blurred Lines’, in order to challenge and supersede them. It could perhaps even be graced with the massive and diverse audience that Radio One is capable of giving and hopefully start encouraging people to REALLY think about what their favourite tunes are actually saying to them, and whether or not they are messages we want to consider/be exposed to.

The song, Hard Out Here, certainly lives up to expectations. It is a very satisfying listen in that it is both catchy as they come since it conforms to the conventional structure of pop songs (which should get it shitloads of that all important reception). Though not so gnarly as Kate Nash’s brilliant, relevant and downright attitudinal Rap for Rejection and All Talk, Hard Out Here can boast some pretty straight talking as well as exploration of modern social taboo; I especially love the quasi-polite opening lyric “Well I suppose I should tell you what this bitch is thinking.” In fact, the term “bitch” is purposefully over-used throughout the song which kind of makes its use as a weapon redundant and transforms it into a word that is derogatorily defunct. I love the fact that Lily suggests that ANY woman boasting ANY kind of sex life can be labelled a slut in not disclosing her own – she simply sings “If I told you ’bout my sex life, you’d call me a slut”, before asserting that when men boast about their multiple partners, or “bitches”, “no one’s making a fuss.”

There’s also a whole load in there about superficiality and pressurising women into having stereotypically desirable bodies: Lily adopts the voice of the patriarchy, suggesting that women who “aren’t a size six… should probably lose some weight”. This is particularly important since women can’t actually function unless they’re in a relationship or married, so all this face and body fixing must be completed pronto “or you’ll end up on your own”. She does offer a glimmer of hope for women who aren’t “good looking”, promising success is guaranteed if you’re “rich” or “real good at cooking” – essentially Mrs Bennet’s dream daughter. Sarcasm aside, though, Lily also challenges the school of thought that deems feminism futile in this day and age with the resounding middle eight phrase “Inequality promises that it’s here to stay, / Always trust the injustice ’cause it’s not going away”. And she’s got an awful lot of evidence to back it up.

The video, however, isn’t quite the patriarchy-smashing wonder the song portends. Some bits are undeniably fabulous in my opinion; having just had two babies, Lily lies on an operating table in the opening seconds with half a dozen plastic surgeons sculpting her body into something resembling a ‘desirable’ woman again – it’s sickening to think that when a woman choses to become a mother she can no longer transgress that role without having to be surgically reconstructed to some kind of perverted former glory. I also love the direct pisstake of Robin Thicke’s alleged “big dick”; Lily doesn’t need someone of the opposite sex to dance around her proclamations of a “baggy pussy” to promote/glorify it necessarily, she just galumphs around it in a sensible amount of clothing of her own accord as if to say “This is me and actually don’t give a shit.”

lily-allen-music-video

However, I don’t think I’m alone in the qualms I have about the number of extremely scantily clad black woman who surround Lily throughout the video whilst performing highly sexualised dance routines. For one thing these women have obviously be valued by and selected for the video because they have desirable figures which are being exploited by the pointlessly skimpy outfits they’ve been told to wear. This seems to totally undermine what Lily was getting at in the song about the industry being unable to cope with the way motherhood has affected her body and basically writing her off because of it, a contempt which is alluded to at the operating table when her old, tubby, white, male manager asks, disgusted: “How can somebody let themselves get like this?”. If there were allusions to these women going beyond the success they enjoy from being slim and beautiful then there’d be grounds for Lily’s argument that she “don’t need to shake [her] arse for you / ’cause [she’s] got a brain”, ie a woman’s beauty and intelligence can co-exist. However there is none of this, the video portrays the stereotypical pop music spectacles of semi-naked women, alcohol, indefinite money and a gold plated kitchen. The inclusion of a token, white, larger women also holds absolutely no significance or moral/social stance since she’s only on the screen for about half a second, illustrating that even in a feminist video only physically perfect women are deemed worthy of representation. Popular, patriarchal culture still prevails, unfortunately.

I can appreciate that the video does attempt a satirical representation the treatment and perception of women in popular culture, but perhaps Lily is aware that details of her video are questionable, particularly as one of her lyrics is “If you can’t detect the sarcasm / you’ve misunderstood” – sounds to me like she’s trying to cover her own back…

You can watch the video for Hard Out Here by following this link:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E0CazRHB0so

Kate Nash’s Rap for Rejection:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sw0Nvav6VRY

Kate Nash’s All Talk:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wj1sN9YxGew

Advertisements
Standard

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s