British Indie Rock band, The Wombats.
On the cusp of releasing their latest album, British indie rockers The Wombats’ latest single is getting a fair spin on Australian radio. It should be just another catchy tune from the lads who brought us ‘Let’s Dance To Joy Division’, but when I heard ‘Your Body Is A Weapon’, my heart sank.
The title of the track already had me bracing myself for the worst. And, sure enough – behind the bouncing pop hooks, plainly audible in the yelping vocals – there it was: the plaintive cry of the Nice Guy.
The song is classic Nice Guy-ism: I’m such a sensitive soul; this woman is threatening me with her beauty; why won’t anyone touch my winky, aaahh!The lyrics are a muddle of complaints about social alienation and women who are too hot to love “a creep like me”.
The song’s narrative voice (sung by front man Matthew Murphy) bemoans a feeling of hollowness in a shallow, extortionate world – and then immediately objectifies the woman he’s singing about. “I wonder what you’ll wear tonight/ The shiny black dress with the slit at the thigh.”
This, in itself, is not new. An indie rock dude singing about being intimidated by pretty girls? “Stop the presses!” right? It wasn’t this tired old trope that caught my attention; I was bothered by the language that lyricist Murphy employed.
The final refrain of the song repeats many times: “Someone protect me from the one I love”. The male voice sings about an unrequited crush on the woman he may very well be stalking, and then calls for protection from her.
Interestingly, the song lyrics were changed during the recording of the album. Originally the song was inspired by a male paparazzo Murphy saw lurking outside an event, trying to get photos of a One Direction member.Murphy says he wondered about this man’s life – “maybe he’s fallen in love with a pop star at some point” – and wrote a song about a tabloid photographer’s relationship to his quarry. However, the consensus was that the song felt “a bit creepy, lyrically,” and so the band altered the song to its current version.
It sounds to me like Murphy ditched what was potentially an interesting exploration of the relationship between paparazzo and celebrity (and a male celebrity, which would have been a fresh angle). Instead, he reverted to the tired old trope of a desperate young man stalking a beautiful woman and consequently blaming her for his feelings. Which is apparently much less creepy.
Maybe it’s because I know that every week in Australia another woman is killed by a man who claimed to love her – the sentiment of this song just doesn’t wash.
‘Your Body Is A Weapon’ co-opts the language of domestic violence to garner sympathy for a stalker. I sometimes wonder if (white, privileged) men walk in an entirely different world to women – a world in which the threat of violence is so mythologised and removed from real life, that it becomes an easy analogue for any time they’re not getting what they want.
Even more disturbing is the song title, which identifies the woman’s body as the ‘weapon’ from which the male singer presumably needs protection. This weapon of hers is completely predicated on him gazing upon her, and she is not in control of where he gazes, so the agency still lies with the man.
In a sense, he’s holding this so-called weapon himself. If a song called ‘Your Body Is A Weapon’ were sung by a woman about a man, it would carry very different connotations. If a woman was singing “Someone protect me from the one I love,” I doubt we’d feel okay dancing to it.
This is a disturbing example of lyrics that subjugate women being popularly accepted. The Wombats felt that a song about a male stalker’s anger at a woman’s body would go down better than a song about tabloid culture. As a result, I turn on my radio and hear the phrase “Someone protect me from the one I love” blithely sung by an oblivious white dude. This song betrays a complete ignorance of the culture in which we live, when that dude can somehow paint himself as the victim.
One woman every week. Don’t forget. I can’t.