Sting. Photo: Reuters
Since the explosion of female-centric websites, much has been made of the egregious misogyny found in hip-hop, from the criminally violent fantasies of Eminem, to the glamorised brutality of Kanye West. Many women writers have described the cognitive dissonance they experience over these songs.
More recently, the mindless chauvinism of dance hits have been called into question, generating appropriate outrage. The extraordinary douchiness of Redfoo, the "rapeyness" of Rick Ross and Blurred Lines - the list is as long as a model's torso.
It might feel otherwise but this is not a sudden phenomenon. Just this month, music writer (and WOC) Lauretta Charlton wrote an article for NYMag simply titled Brown Sugar is a dirty song about slavery and sex and I love it.
But what of the supposed "nice guys" of music? The suburban lyricists your dad listens to? Surely these well-meaning folk with their lovely guitars and bass synths have a more sophisticated understanding of heteronormative sex and gender? I mean, they're radio friendly! GUESS AGAIN, GANG!
Here now, a list - of my favourite easy-listening tunes and their horribly gross lyrics.
1a) Don't stand so close to me- The Police
Sting? I love him. I love his voice, his talent, his frosted tips. Sure, he's pretentious, but that's part of his singular essence. It's just that .... he wrote this song about a teacher who finds himself in the precarious position of having a "bad girl" student develop feelings for him. Rather than play, I don't know, the role of responsible human, Sting projects culpability onto the child. It's SHE who is standing so close to poor old Sting. He even compares the sexual tension to Nabokov's novel, Lolita. Yeah, Humbert Humbert was a paedophile, dude.
1b) Every breath you take- The Police (again)
This hurts me to say but Sting's a two-time offender. It's widely known this is a song about stalking. "Can't the guy play a character?" I pleaded to my own brain. "Well, sure," I answered back. But just like scoffing down a tasty Vindaloo curry, I knew my justification would end in tears, probably on the toilet. Apparently Sting "didn't realise at the time how sinister it [was]". It's just plain spooky how creepiness and lack of self-awareness seem to mesh so well together.
2) Breakfast in America- Supertramp
"Take a look at my girlfriend / She's the only one I got/ Not much of a girlfriend/ Never seem to get a lot".
Supertramp, ah, you ring-bearers of nostalgia! What have you done? There's so much classic "nice guy" self-hatred going on, deflected neatly onto the lady-friend. Look, Roger, nobody has a gun to your head. If you think you can do better, you should probably explore your options. Good luck, yeah?
3) Get outta my dreams, get into my car- Billy Ocean
I can well remember dancing my little heart out to this song at the primary school disco. Which is kind of ironic, considering its obvious 'stranger danger' motif. But it's the abundance of male entitlement that grips me now.
"Hey Cinderella / Step in your shoe/ I'll be your non-stop lover".
Actually, just on that that shoe thing - does Billy even understand how sex works? Oh, it's about the car? Then why is the car conflated with his penis? I've Googled this and found no clear answers.
4) Coward of the county- Kenny Rogers
Kenny! Country music's Santa Clause. Age has not wearied him, nor his tight face. And, like my own father before me, I remain a huge fan. For those unaware, this is a song about the gang rape of a woman known only as Becky. Except it isn't. The focus instead is on how one man - Tommy - loses his honour because he takes revenge on her rapists. Becky's trauma and injury is but a vehicle through which men can empower their own sense of ownership over women. Tell me, what happened to Becky? Do you care, Kenny-Santa? Or do you only worry that TOMMY HAS LOST HIS PRECIOUS REP?
5) Easy lover- Phil Collins
It's no sin to warn other bros about a woman who will "play around and leave you", just as it's no sin to belt out this song apropos of nothing while tipsy in a cab one time in your youth while the driver quietly puts on earphones to block out your screeching voice. My point of contention lies with the title. And these niggly little lyrics:
"You're the one that wants to hold her/ Hold her and control her/ You'd better forget it/ You'll never get it".
It appears the "easy lover" has found fault within this small male community because she sleeps with whomever she wants and they can't seem to control her. Yeah. That must be really tough, guys.
So, what can we conclude from this, apart from the fact that we have a rich history of low expectations of male music artists? I think Clementine Ford put it best when she wrote about the Nice Guys of OK Cupid, a tumblr which, as she described, "highlighted how sex is seen is something integral to men's identities but peripheral to women's".
It is, to quote Johnny Diesel, a "crying shame" that in the music industry, this misogynist world view is not only amplified, (huh) but celebrated - often, I'm ashamed to say, via my own interpretive dance moves.