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Music

Not all music needs to be categorized in single genres, and that’s okay

The idea of putting different types of music in specific genres is a disservice to the art musicians make

Back in high school, when my friends and I would talk about the kind of music we liked, I always felt ashamed to admit I listened to pop music. Because of that, I always focused on other genres like indie and alternative music. I didn’t fully understand what those labels meant, but they felt better than saying I liked pop. Looking back on it, these judgements that we make surrounding  genre are odd and limit our enjoyment of the music we consume.

When you tell someone you listen to a specific genre, it may elicit many different reactions. I noticed that when I mention to older family members that I like pop music, they tend to react more adversely than if I were to mention enjoying rock music. One of my aunts said that only rock music should be considered real music. I asked her why and her response was simply, “Well because rock music is better than the stupid stuff on the radio now.” However, when it comes down to the nuts and bolts of it, how do we define the differences between rock and the subgenres it spawned, like alternative rock?

There seems to be, in my experience, a lot of disdain for “mainstream” music. In a lot of ways, I feel ashamed that I like a lot of it. It seems as though people take issue with how successful many artists who get radio play are, as opposed to lesser-known artists. However, it comes off as a value-based judgement rather than an appreciation for the music. In my experience, people viewed themselves as better, or more cultured than the average listener, if they had knowledge of lesser-known artists because they needed to work harder to find the music. I have also heard  people say they are “real” fans because they knew the artist before they became popular either on the radio or on streaming services — I’ve even been guilty of this myself. I realized that putting down popular artists wasn’t a fair way to assess whether or not I liked a specific song.

When I think about the artists that I like, compared to the genres I don’t like, I find myself wondering if I believe the labels as much as I thought I did. For example, I always talk about how much I dislike rap and hip hop, yet I enjoy many songs by Dax and a few by Cardi B. For a while, I was adamant that I didn’t like the music because I shouldn’t like it. I was focused on my decision that I didn’t like this music genre, so I wrote off the music without giving it a fair chance. While I enjoy both Dax and Cardi B’s music their music doesn’t sound remotely the same despite them both being rap/hip-hop artists.

My interest in this topic was sparked while I was watching a YouTube video about two people discussing Semler, a Christian artist and the creation of their album Preacher’s Kid. While the YouTubers share many views that I disagree with and find harmful to members of the LGBTQ+ community, or those who are not Christians, their discussion here was based on music genres. Christian music cannot contain swear words per Distrokid regulations, a site that is used to upload music to platforms like iTunes and Spotify, and Semler has swear words in their songs, yet still classified their  music as Christian.

This got me thinking about the way music genres work, and if their rules could and should be bent. As much as I wanted to be in support of artistic freedom and rule breaking with the music, I find myself being on the side of the genre in this instance. I found myself wondering if there is a rule on what rules can be broken. It brought attention to just how debatable music and the classification method can be. For example, Justin Bieber was not pleased with the Grammy award category that his album Changes was nominated for. He was expecting his album to be nominated in the R&B category, as he felt that he put out an album in that genre. Yet, Changes was nominated for Pop Vocal Album of the Year.

Music genres and classifications are still necessary to a degree. It makes sense to have a system of categorization because it can create a good stepping stone for understanding music and the tropes that come with a respective category. In order to break the rules, you also need to know them, and genres provide just that.

However, there is too much focus on genres.  When Taylor Swift released 1989, some fans were disappointed that she had mostly converted from country music to pop music. There was also a lot of talk about how Mumford & Sons sold out because some of their songs didn’t have the same folk feel as they once did. When genres become the source of the issue, the rigidity they cause ends up being the focus and the actual music is cast to the side.

 

Graphic by Julie Rose Gauthier

Categories
Music

What do women think about Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion’s “WAP”?

We looked at what some women on Twitter are saying about the controversial “WAP” song that’s taken the world by storm.

“WAP” (Wet Ass Pussy) is a song by Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion that has been gaining popularity, and it hasn’t stopped since its release date Aug. 7. Both the lyrics and music video have caused many discussions on social media. “WAP” discusses women’s genitalia and sexuality, in a way that many see as controversial. What are women saying about this song and the impact it has on women in society?

In response to the song, former Republican congressional candidate for California DeAnna Lorraine Tweeted the following: “Cardi B & Megan Thee Stallion just set the entire female gender back by 100 years with their disgusting & vile “WAP” song.” This Tweet highlights a view that suggests this song is not about female empowerment.

There was a lot of interaction with this Tweet, and most of the women were countering what Lorraine said. A Twitter user by the name of highendtheori said “white women have us in the stone ages love, what’s another century?” 

The mention of race relating to Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion is an important thing to call attention to because often, women of colour — especially black women — are held to a different standard than white women. Would this song have the same reception if it were done by white women? The basic answer to this question is no. It seems that white women get more free passes than women of colour, even if their work is explicit. Take a song like “Bon Appetit” by Katy Perry, which is about her essentially being a buffet for any man who wants a bite. There was not nearly as much backlash on that song as there is with “WAP.”

A different Twitter user agreed with Lorraine. MaeDay811 tweeted “Women trying to be promiscuous like men, are not proud females, they are self hating females that want to be men. How is it empowering to women to chase what men do? That’s like a lioness always thinking it needs to swim in order to be strong as a shark.”

I interviewed two women, Michelle Malnasi and Desirae Dawn, and asked how they felt about the tweet and other elements pertaining to the lyrics and video of “WAP.” 

Desirae, when asked about the tweet, said “Sex and sexuality [are] nothing to be ashamed of … what is liberating for one may not be for another. Megan and Cardi are often talking about sexuality and wearing more revealing clothing … Women are allowed to express their sexuality and body as they please with greater freedom than before, they didn’t set anything back, they are just a blip in the evolution.”

The lyrics and the music video are both quite sexually explicit. The video has both women in various outfits that show off a lot of cleavage and other parts of their bodies. There are also statues of women’s busts that have water squirting out of their nipples.

The female body is the focal point of the music video. Michelle was asked how she felt this song and video either helped or hindered the way we see the female body. She said “I’m conflicted about it. While I do see how our cultural climate is constantly objectifying women, she should have the right to talk about her body in any matter that she wants.”

During the interviews, each of the women were asked, on a scale of one to five, with one being not empowering, and five being the most empowering, how empowering they thought the lyrics were. Both women said 4/5. When asked about how empowering they found the music video to be, they both said 3/5. 

Desirae and Michelle were asked if they thought this song was a feminist anthem. Michelle said that she thinks it is a feminist anthem “Because it empowers women and normalizes that we have sexual needs too and that we should be able to sing/talk about it like men do. Yet at the same time if someone else doesn’t see it as feminist I’m not here to say what’s right or wrong.”

Desirae, on the other hand, does not think it is a feminist anthem. She said, “Music is subjective. What may be a feminist anthem for some may not empower or feel relatable to another, however, I do understand how some music [can] become powerful anthems… and [can be] accepted widely by one community.”

Having watched the video a few times, I was able to come to my conclusions about the lyrics and visuals. One of the things that irked me was that the line “There’s some whores in this house” was stated by a man. During Desirae’s interview, when asked about this line she said that she didn’t mind it all that much. Personally, it would have been better if a woman said that instead. I have no issues with the word “whore,” but when repeated by a man, it bothered me. Typically when a man uses the word “whore” it is derogatory and feeds into a negative narrative about women and their bodies. Also, it seems so out of place given how the rest of the song plays out and how female focused the music video is.

Going back to Lorraine’s Tweet, which suggested that “WAP” is actually setting women back one hundred years… overall, I think her message was not well articulated. I believe that she is trying to state that she is uncomfortable with the video, and doesn’t see its empowering nature. In many ways, I can see why a woman might feel that way. However, in using hyperbole, it loses the actual impact it may have had. For me, the video was an embracement of the female body, in a way that I do not see as empowering. I prefer modesty as a means of female empowerment. However, I can see why and understand how women do see this as liberating, and that is great.

Initially, I was able to watch the explicit version of the video on YouTube, but recently I went to try and find it and I was told there was a regional block. However, there was no regional block on the “clean” version. The major difference between the two versions is not using the word pussy, the “clean” version of the song switched “pussy” to “wet and gushy” instead. In a lot of ways, “wet and gushy” sounds much worse to the ear than “wet-ass pussy.” Yet, the explicit images in the video are the same. This bothered me because it seems that the only issue is the reference to female genitalia, and I wonder if we will get to a place where we can talk more openly about the female body.

 

Graphic by @the.beta.lab

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