Pop music is…a lot of things. Often terrible, but sometimes awesome. Sometimes used to convey messages about important issues, or messages about bitches and hoes (a lesser problem since President Snoop ‘Doggy’ Dogg took all of them in from off the streets). Frequently used for shameless shilling for a product or company, or used to kick dirt in the eyes of the same people. But pop music as a vessel for an R&B and reggae-tinged anti-capitalist jam? This one’s new to me.
As a song, Price Tag is, frankly, unremarkable. It breezes by on a fairly catchy, almost reggae-evoking guitar lick, an infectious vocal hook, some autotuned faux-harmony and a fairly stillborn guest verse from B.o.B. It’s vaguely anthemic in its build, and it’s probably a truer pop song than, say, the recent output of Rihanna or Britney mostly in the sense that it’s not designed simply to make ecstacy-using clubbers’ eye sockets rattle.
So why bring attention to this song at all? Well, it’s chiefly because its core message is so wonderfully ironic that it would make Alanis Morissette’s uterus explode.
It’s actually moderately surprising it has taken me this long to get to Ke$ha since she would appear to be the nadir of the sluttiness in pop I’ve talked so much about, but NOT SO. Read on, fair reader.
For the record, I will henceforth simply type Kesha, because she is really not worth the effort it takes to type any symbol of a currency. When she popped up as a solo artist in 2009 with ‘Tik Tok’, it immediately became an absolute smash, and really stepped into a mostly unfilled void (which she herself rarely has) in the pop music world. Sure, we’re used to hypersexual pop stars by now, and pop stars that love to party, BUT: was the world quite ready for trashbag-pop?
I’m gonna get this out of the way early: I think Lady Gaga is probably the most skilled pop star we have right now. She’s conjured an image and a weirdly cult-like following from a range of fairly obvious influences out of nowhere. Many of her songs are atrocious – Just Dance, Eh Eh (Nothing Else I Can Say) and Lovegame to name a few – but many are average to brilliant pop songs, such as Poker Face and Bad Romance respectively. So obviously there was a mountain of anticipation for her new single (myself, embarrassingly, included). However, those hoping for a newer, bolder Bad Romance were disappointed. What we got was a fairly sub-standard, bland, generic pop song.
It’s no secret that Gaga dabbles in the “weird”. A manufactured weirdness, yes; she’s the hipster of pop stars, like a chick that wears a Peaches t-shirt but says in a university political science class that she “thinks feminism gets us nowhere”. Given that Born This Way (from here on referred to as BTW) is, to say nothing of how similar it is to a certain Madonna song, a pretty normal sounding 3 minute pop song, naturally the video has to be pretty batshit. So yes, you experience Gaga given birth to good and apparently presiding, goddess-like, over a world without prejudice or hatred or war or any of those awful things that only Lady Gaga’s music can stop apparently?
Rihanna, my dear. You’re… I can’t…AUGH.
There are so many things I want to say to Rihanna. In my eyes, she has a lot to answer for. Yes, okay, she was the victim of domestic abuse. And no, she isn’t obligated to become the poster-victim for the whole thing. But I feel like she’s at least obligated not to have songs about how PAIN GETS HER PUSSY WET. It’s like a retroactive statement, “No, hey, guys, really! It’s okay! Yes, Chris Brown hit me and it was very wrong of him but TO BE FAIR, I immediately had multiple orgasms. Dude knows how to use a fist.”
Yes, I do know that it’s just a song and that singing about something doesn’t necessarily become you as a person, unless you’re a stalker like Sting. To be fair on Rihanna, there’s a fine line between enjoying S&M as a sexual practice consensually and being hit non-consensually. But it just feels like a terribly unfortunate coincidence, if nothing else.