Just for the record, I have never been accused of being a prude. I was a
teenager when Tipper Gore waged her war on music and campaigned for
warning labels on the covers of albums by Madonna, Prince and NWA.
I rarely complain about the lyrics of a song based on their crassness. But something
about Bruno Mars’ new single pushed me over the edge.
I was driving home one afternoon flipping channels on the radio, and
came across Bruno singing “Gorilla” for the first time. The lyrics caused me
to literally look at the radio dial and give a slight turn of my head, much like
my Goldendoodle does when she hears a high pitched sound or is generally
confused by something.
Maybe it was Mars’ soulful delivery that had me expecting some kind of romantic message. But romance was not on his mind when he belted out:
I got a body full of liquor with a cocaine kicker and I’m feeling like I’m
thirty feet tall, So lay it down, lay it down, You got your legs up in the sky
with the devil in your eyes, Let me hear you say you want it all, Say it now,
say it now.
Okay. I get the fact when comparing this to, say, Prince singing about
Darling Nikki or The Divinyls talking about touching themselves, this current
song is not groundbreaking. But it is the chorus that reached a new level for
mainstream radio that was shocking even to me.
You’ll be banging on my chest, Bang bang, gorilla
.You and me baby making love like gorillas, You and me baby making love like gorillas.
Gorillas? Really? That’s the point where I turned the station, but had I
stayed with Bruno this is what I would have heard:
Yeah I got a fistful of your hair, But you don’t look like you’re scared,
You’re just smiling tell me daddy it’s yours, Cause you know how I like it
you’s a dirty little lover, If the neighbors call the cops, call the sheriff, call the
SWAT, We don’t stop, we keep rocking while they knocking on our door, And
you’re screaming give it to me baby, Give it to me motherf*cker.
Put aside the crassness of the lyrics for a moment. There is a bigger issue
here. The double standard of sexual expression in music is being
communicated in huge bright flashing neon.
We have spent the past few weeks analyzing the downfall of Miley Cyrus, after her performance at the MTV Video Music Awards. Her ever present tongue, affinity for foam fingers,
and nude riding skills on a wrecking ball has prompted commentary on how
women should act in order to be considered a role model.
But what about men? Even though they seem to stay fully dressed in
public while women like Miley are barely clothed, men are skipping the
foreplay and literally comparing their relationships to the mating rituals of
gorillas. And where is the backlash against Bruno?
There was backlash at a middle school in North Carolina, but not for
Bruno. Administrators there weren’t offended by sexually explicit lyrics.
Instead they were up in arms over a love song about same-sex couples. A
social studies teacher at West Alexander Middle School in Taylorsville, N.C.,
was recently suspended for showing his 8th grade students the video “Same
Love” by Mackelmore and Lewis.
Superintendent Jeff Peal told a local paper that it was “inappropriate” for the teacher to show the video to the students.
“At West Alexander Middle School, there was an inappropriate video shown in class, outside the bounds of the curriculum that called for disciplinary action last week,” he said.
An attorney for the school board said officials believed the video was
unfitting for a middle school classroom.
“Everyone has her/his own musical taste, but if a video by Miley Cyrus is
ripped apart, so should one by Robin Thicke. If Eminem can talk about
violence against women, Rihanna should be able to talk about S&M freely.
And when there is public commentary about who our children should be
looking up to, let’s be fair about who we criticize.