Can music exist outside its message?
Take Robin Thicke. He’s a handsome dude. Very pretty. Nice to look at. And though I’m saddened he can’t think of anything to rhyme with “hug me,” when his song hits the airwaves, my shoulders start rocking, my head starts bopping, and when that ubiquitous “Hey-hey-hey” comes up, it comes out of my mouth, too.
But I’m conflicted. I like the song, but I can’t stand for what it says.
The song gets me moving, but if I stop dancing long enough to listen, I get a different picture: It’s masochismic, objectifying, and debasing. To suggest it not only encourages but glorifies rape is probably an understatement.
Let’s not even mention the video–it’s worse.
(A few necessary additions to our list of “No, he didn’t”s might include chauvinistic, creeper, and sex in all the wrong places–but I’ll leave that judgment to you. NSFW. 18+)
So I’m listening. Having a good time. Moving with the beat. “Hey-hey-hey.” And imagine someone comes up to me–or a bunch of someones, for the sake of gender-neutrality–and they see me going at it, chiming in, and having a good old time with #Thicke.
What should they think of me? What will they think of me?
Back in March I went on a diversity trip to D.C. and on the ride back home, I was the one in their position: The people up front–thereby in charge of the radio–were playing some of the most sexist, denigrating, and all around disgusting music I have ever heard. I know these people, some of them pretty well, and I know they’re not at all like the songs they were listening to–so how could they listen to them at all?
I wanted to ask about this, but the chance never presented itself. It’s a moot point now.
By no accounts am I a “feminist,” but I do believe in equality: No one deserves to be objectified or abused or taken advantage of. It’s just not needed. I believe in liberation for all people, believe that every individual has the right to pursue their highest potential, and that of course includes women and girls everywhere.
Then comes these blurred lines. Can the music exist outside of its message?
I imagine it’s a double standard of sorts. Can I tell an offensive joke? A Holocaust joke? Whether anyone says I can or I can’t, the truth is I do–but because I belong to the aforesaid victimized classes, isn’t it an unwritten rule somewhere that says it’s okay?
But by that philosophy, only women should be allowed to like this song–and that doesn’t work for me. It just doesn’t work logically.
So say I like the beat, the rhythm, the song as a whole not because of but despite its lyrics. Is that alright? Can I say that? I feel like it’s asking someone to say “faggot” if and only if it’s polite, compassionate, and shared amongst friends. But that’s ridiculous!
These blurred lines feel more and more like a well-defined impasse.
Help me out here: What do you think? Can music exist beyond its message?