Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Katy Perry is a Comedian, But She's Not the First Singer to Make Fun of the Male Libido

Katy Perry's first big song was "I Kissed a Girl," which was basically a parody of the male fantasy of his completely heterosexual girlfriend making out with another woman (preferably in preparation for the inevitable three-way that must follow).

I think it was a parody, anyway. I didn't see how it could be serious. I didn't really like the song enough to examine it further. You can watch the video if you're so inclined:

Katy Perry - I Kissed A Girl
Uploaded by Nile-On. - See the latest featured music videos.

"I hope my boyfriend don't mind." Yeah, right. That's a funny line, but the song isn't for me. Maybe if Richard Thompson did a version of it.

Anyway, Ms. Perry has released a new CD called "Teenage Dream" in which she is depicted on the cover nude, lounging on a bed of cotton candy.

Tell me she isn't joking. She must be, right? Yes, she is. She is having another laugh at the expense of horny men. The lyrics to the songs on this album bear witness to that, as someone at New York magazine almost manages to say, before finally completely missing the point:
Awfulsome. Where awful and awesome meet, rub up against each other, and birth something new — something simultaneously good and bad. Katy Perry's ecstatically, enjoyably, endearingly hollow album Teenage Dream, out today, is full of lyrics that embody this term — awful lyrics that after repeated hearings (and, there will be repeated hearings!) begin to earn some admiration for being so brazenly, so straightforwardly, so bravely ridiculous.
If she's trying to be "hollow," then is it so "brave" to be "ridiculous"? Not really. She is making a point about popular music: Pleasingly constructed woman singing about sex. But not just sex. Ms. Perry's songs actually represent the apotheosis of the female flattering the male. She doesn't just want sex, she wants the menage-a-tois suggested in "I Kissed a Girl" ("Last Friday Night"). She wants the man to dominate her ("E.T."). She wants the man to think that she's an experienced woman, but that she's never had a man like him before ("Hummingbird"). And of course, she has an entire song devoted to how amazing the man's penis is ("Peacock"):
Oh my god no exaggeration
Boy, all this time was worth the waiting
I just shed a tear
I am so unprepared
You've got the finest architecture
And oh the rainbow looking treasure
Such a sight to see
And it's all for me.
I don't care who you are or think you are, you want to hear a woman tell you things like that when the pants come off, especially the first time.

Here is the song. Be warned: It is catchy, although not necessarily in a good way.

If it is possible for anything to be a single entendre, then this song qualifies. I get the joke. It's impossible not to get it. I even think it's funny. It's as funny as anything Ms. Perry's husband or boyfriend or whatever he is comedian Russell Brand has ever done (and, yes, I think Russell Brand is funny).

But I still don't want to listen to it. The music, which is oh so important to a song, is grating and irritating to me. It's the sonic equivalent of fingernails on my face.

Happily, there are plenty of other songs in the "making fun of male libido" subgenre that I can enjoy.

Back in 2001, a young woman named Carly Hennessy (who would later cause a minor scandal on "American Idol" as Carly Smithson) released a record called Ultimate High, which was basically the same thing. A series of catchy parody songs in which Ms. Hennessy sang about how much she wanted to have sex. The fact that Ms. Hennessy was actually 17 at the time, and singing about how she couldn't wait to give her BF a BJ, made it mildly distasteful to some people (maybe that's why it only sold about 100 copies?), but that was kind of the point:

They were taking a male fantasy of the young, virginal-but-kinda-corrupt woman that has been co-opted by our culture and carrying it toward its logical conclusion. The video above is for the BJ song, "I'm Gonna Blow Your Mind." But the best song on the CD is one of the least subtle, "Young Love."
Gonna have to come on strong
if you really wanna get my... young love.
Get it? She's "young" (in the song she says she's 16), and she's got some "love" to give. (The song is helped immeasurably by the fact that the music is catchy in a good way.)

Men had been singing about the temptations of younger women and girls for years. In "Room Service," KISS sang,
In my home town, I'm hangin' 'round
With all the ladies treatin' me real good
A sweet sixteen lookin' hot and mean says
I wish you would
In "Seventeen," Winger sang for both his male narrator and the female lust object,
I'm only seventeen (seventeen)
I'll show you love like you've never seen
She's only seventeen (seventeen)
Daddy says she's too young
But she's old enough for me
Chris Rea's "Fool if You Think it's Over" parodied the idea a little bit, but still had a genuine dirty-old-man feeling, perhaps owing to the smoothness of his adult-contemporary-friendly voice. Well, that and the fact that his narrator suggests he's going to get the 17 year-old object of the song drunk:
I'll buy your first good wine
We'll have a real good time
Save your crying for the day

Gary Puckett's narrator struggled with his desire for a "young girl" in the song "Young Girl":
Young girl, get out of my mind
My love for you is way out of line
Better run girl,
You're much too young girl
You will note that his narrator at least partly blames the "young girl," telling her she had "better run," which of course brings to mind the great Beatles song "Run for Your Life"
You better run for your life if you can, little girl
Hide your head in the sand little girl
Catch you with another man
That's the end'a little girl
That is undeniably a parody, which brings us back to Ms. Perry. She's obviously mucking about in a subgenre of pop music that includes many against whom she pales by comparison. Including of course Britney Spears, whose "Oops! I Did it Again" is the modern masterpiece of the subgenre:

I think I did it again.I made you believe
We're more than just friends.
Oh, baby;
It might seem like a crush,
But it doesn't mean
That I'm serious.
'Cause to lose all my senses...
That is just so typically me.
Oh, baby; baby.

... I did it again.
I played with your heart.
Got lost in the game.
Oh, baby; baby.
... You think I'm in love.
That I'm sent from above...
I'm not that innocent.
She really didn't mean to make the dirty old man fall in love with her. She's so innocent she didn't realize she was "playing with his heart."

But, wait -- did he actually fall in love her? Did it go beyond just "lust" for him? This song is seriously and hilariously twisted, as the object of lust actually crushes the man in question, and piles insult onto injury by ironically declaring, "Oops! I did it again."

Teenage Dream cover pic source.

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