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.
Jessie J is a new addition to the pop music scene, though much more ‘fresh’ in Australian than in her homeland, the U.K. Working for many years as a songwriter for the likes of Chris Brown and Miley Cyrus, Jessie J is the soul-devouring she-beast responsible for the painfully catchy ‘Party in the USA’. She was given the same boost afforded to Florence & The Machine and Ellie Goulding (less of a boost there) by being awarded the Critic’s Choice BRIT award. In late 2010, she released her first single Do It Like A Dude. Yeah. That’s the name of it.
I’m going to allow myself a slight diversion here to talk about how preposterously terrible Do It Like A Dude is.
Her irritating inflection and the baffling lyrics make for a pretty intensely bad song. If you want some kind of ‘women are just as good as men’ anthem, I don’t think you’re going to go looking for the song that has the lyrics “Grab my crotch, wear my hat low like you”.
Fortunately she avoids those things in Price Tag! Well, okay, maybe she just avoids the irritating inflection. Because the lyrics to this song…eh. Standing alone, they’re just fine. However, the context in which they’re being presented morph it into something insipid, hypocritical and ironic. Allow me to break it down for you:
Seems like everybody’s got a price
I wonder how they sleep at night
She begins with a valid point. How DO rich people sleep at night? Why do we sell ourselves out just for financial gain? Already Jessie J.’s latent anarcho-communist tendencies are coming to the fore.
Why is everybody so serious
Acting so damn mysterious
Got shades on your eyes
And your heels so high that you can’t even have a good time
Yes! Finally, someone said it! Why do people feel the need to dress up just for the sake of being ‘different’? Why can’t people just dress in casual clothes and act like normal human beings instead of obscuring their identities in an obfuscating cloud of consumerist trappings? Why must we buy into, year after year, the patriarchy’s societal diktats that we must dress as the person we wish we were, not the person we truly are? I mean, Jessie J is a shining example of this exact thing!
It’s not about the money money money
We don’t need your money money money
We just wanna make the world dance
Forget about the price tag
She’s right. What kind of self-respecting music artist in this day and age would charge for, or seek to make a profit from, their music? What Jessie J is giving us is a musical gift, a paean to true human freedom and artistic integrity! In what kind of pathetic world are we living in which human bonds cannot be formed over a mutual rejection of consumerist culture? Jessie J knows all about it, as you can tell by the fact that you are not allowed to watch either of her videos on my blog without clicking through to YouTube so they can get the advertising revenue!
We need to take it back in time
When music made us all unite
And it wasn’t low blows and video hoes
Yes! All these women acting “slutty” in rap music videos are actively regressing the cause of feminism the suffragettes fought so hard for! I’m so glad Jessie J has the courage to stand up to those misogynist rappers!
And in the end, it’s not like Price Tag will cost you $2.19 when you purchase it from iTunes. It’s not like Universal Music Group, who owns Island Records – Jessie J’s label – made US $2.1 billion in the last quarter of 2010. Jessie J is just keepin’ it real Radiohead style, letting people download her music for free. Because who cares about the price tag? It’s not all about the money money money.