Georgia Michael on tour in the Netherlands in 1988. Photo: Rob Verhorst
Last month Eminem was the latest rap star touring Australia targeted on the basis of his misogynistic lyrics. A petition drafted by Melinda Tankard Reist asked for him to be refused a visa, lamenting that there has "been just too many misogynistic rap artists granted entry into Australia", such as Snoop Lion (nee Dogg) and Tyler, the Creator.
Now, I'm not about to defend any of those artists, but when we single out hip-hop, we give a free pass to all the other genres of music where sexist lyrics are rife. While explicitly violent lyrics may be the domain of rap, an astounding number of pop and rock songs are derogatory towards women. One common feature in white pop music is the older man lusting after under-age girls. As we all know there is a word for men "having sex" with young girls and that word is rape.
With that in mind, here is a list of the creepiest "love" songs in white pop history. Most of them are still played on radio and many of them are regarded as classics. I have left out obvious outrage-baiting songs (such as Ted Nugent's Jailbait) but what makes the following songs disturbing is precisely that they are so earnest.
Evie (Part 1: Let your hair hang down): Steve Wright (1974) / The Wrights (2005)
Oh look, I know this song is an "Australian classic". I know Steve Wright was "Australia's first international pop star". I know it's a sad, tragic tale because he loses little Evie in Part 3 when she dies in childbirth. But you know, I just can't get passed these lyrics:
You got the body of a woman, the way you move it like a queen
You got the face to raise a riot, and still you're only 17.
Steve Wright was 26 when he first sang these lyrics. The Aussie "supergroup" featuring Bernard Fanning, who named themselves in his honour were mostly in their 30s. Eew.
Father Figure: George Michael (1988)*
I honestly don't know what George is going on about in this song. But I think that he is maybe telling his much younger lover ("Sometimes love can be mistaken for a crime") that their affair has to end but rather than cutting her* loose forever, he will just assume the role of her absent father instead?
*This song is so steeped in patriarchal imagery ('Put your tiny hand in mine'), I'm just going to go ahead and assume it's written about a girl.
You're Sixteen (You're Beautiful. And You're Mine): Jonnny Burnette (1960) ' Ringo Starr (1973)
Let's allow the Sherman Brothers-penned lyrics do all the talking:
You're my baby, you're my pet. We fell in love on the night we met. You touched my hand, my heart went pop. Ooh, when we kissed, I could not stop.
Burnette was 26 when he recorded his version of this unapologetic ode to patriarchal love ownership. Ringo Starr was 33. Enough said.
Young Girl: Gary Puckett and The Union Gap (1968)
Our 28-year-old hero is heartbroken, having just discovered the "woman" he is madly in love with is but a mere 'baby in disguise.' An inconsolable Jimmy implores the young girl, whose actual age is never revealed, to please just leave his house already before he loses all control and has sex with rapes her anyway.
While the chorus admits that the singer, being the presumably more responsible adult is "way out of line", the verses blame the entire affair on the girl. This child has, you see, hidden "the secret of her youth" and "led [him] to believe she's old enough to give [him] love."
Oh sure, we may laugh. Until we remember that just last year, a 41-year-old rapist was given a lenient sentence after the judge decided that the 13-year-old victim was "predatory in all her actions". Also, this song went all the way to No.2 in the US. You would almost think we had a rape culture or something.
If you really want to feel your skin crawl, watch the end of the video, where the girl gives Jimmy one last, forlorn look before literally skipping away down the street.
Into the Night: Benny Mardones (1980)
Still, I guess we can give old Mr Puckett some props for showing a little restraint, which is more than I can say for this charmer. 33-year-old Benny is just so sad and angry, godammit! For some reason, the parents of his 16-year-old obsession want him to "leave her alone". Clearly, they must be, "fools" who "don't know what love is".
The song, which Marones later claimed is not above sexual love but … something else, is one long serenade to statutory rape. "If I could fly, I'd lift you up, and take you into the night. And show you love like you'd never seen." Like she'd never seen? She's 16 years old. Do these men think girls pop out of the womb fully sexually realised?
The shot of Benny singing at the kid through her window is surely one of the creepiest images ever captured on video. Also, they make out at the end. Seriously. Congratulations, Mr Mardones. You are officially the worst.
My Sharona: The Knack (1979)
Oh I bet you didn't know this song was about lusting after a teenage girl did you? Well, read this line and weep: "I always get it up for the touch of the younger kind." Sharona was a real girl, though she was 17, so not illegal in some places. But still creepy. She and the lead singer went out for about eight years.
Seventeen: Winger (1988)
Like Young Girl, this song is all about blaming the victim. "She says she was 19, I swear!" That doesn't stop the singer from lusting after her though. "Daddy says she's too young. But she's old enough for me." And because girls are possessions, he also compares her to a "magic mountain" and a "leather glove".
Seventeen: Foreigner (1980)
Ah, 17. That magical age where older men can ogle you but not creep everyone out quite as much as if you were a mere one month younger.
Christine Sixteen: Kiss (1977)
She's been around, but she's young and clean
I've got to have her, can't live without her.
Apparently, some radio stations refused to play this when it came out, while others would only play it at night. Because advocating for statutory rape is OK as long as young people don't hear about it, I guess?
Stray Cat Blues: The Rolling Stones (1968)
I can see that you're 15 years old
No I don't want your I.D.
You look so restless and you're so far from home
But it's no hanging matter
It's no capital crime
Yep, the great Rolling Stones once sang about "seducing" not one, but two under-age kids: the girl, or "stray cat" as Jagger likes to call her, has a friend who is "even wilder".)
And with that, it's time to erase my recent browser history and take a shower.