Blurred Lines and Wrecking Ball: or, Songs I shouldn’t like

Miley Cyrus...with added clothing

Miley Cyrus…with added clothing

I have a confession: Over the past couple of days my internal soundtrack has gone like this: Blurred Lines, Blurred Lines, Wrecking Ball, Wrecking Ball, Blurred Lines. Just now, I realised I was a hair’s breadth away from humming “hey hey hey…hey hey hey” as I walked through the office, and last night as I got on my train home it took me a good few minutes before I cottoned on to the fact I was mouthing “all you ever did was bre-a-a-k me” while striding down the platform. Hammers not included. Go ahead, judge me (you already ARE?! Oh.)

Because that’s the thing. Late as I am on the commentary on the most-debated song of the season, Blurred Lines, Miley Cyrus’s newly divisive antics have achieved the same effect as the controversy over Thicke’s misogynistic masterpiece. Namely, that I’ve listened to them, watched the videos open-mouthed and disbelieving, cheered the parodies, and heard each tune far more times than I would have without the fanfare they’re received.

This isn’t a criticism of the “meeja”, giving these things the oxygen they want – that’s the point, that’s how it works, that’s why Miley strips down to absolutely NOTHING while straddling a “wrecking ball”, it’s because she knows people will look. We know this. It’s clearly problematic, but it’s unlikely to change soon. I reckon what’s more worrying is that these things are THERE, and considered genuine artistic decisions in the first place, for the media to pounce on.

I mean, let’s see: the sexism portrayed in the Blurred Lines video – bettered only by the “W T actual F” comments delivered by Thicke et al in defence of it ‒ has been taken down far, far better than I could here, many times, elsewhere, witness here for starters.

For her part, Miley is an on-going train crash, starting with the frankly embarrassing array of hype and video antics surrounding “We Can’t Stop”, the VMA performance with said aforementioned fuckwit, and the most recent outing, Wrecking Ball. If Miley’s nakedness was implicit or even slightly-tasteful, and simply a metaphor for how vulnerable her heart-break had made her feel, then OK, I’d be just about on-board, just about.

But it’s not – it’s gratuitous, invites us to judge her body for its “good bits” and “bad bits” (self-esteem overload!), and the positions she contorts herself into are merely there to shock, expose and grab attention. Yes, it’s working, in the sense that people who talk too much (me, and, apparently, this guy) are writing about it, but at what cost to the portrayal of women in art, media, music – and to a wider extent, societal norms and people’s internalisation of how women (and men, for that bloody matter) are supposed to look or act?

Same goes for the apparently “ironic” Blurred Lines video. I don’t care how “hot” the women are (or how “gangsta” the men).

It’s that age-old idea that women CHOOSING to strip off means its empowering and a celebration of the beautiful female form! But, wait, we’ve been through this – basically (cheat sheet for anyone not paying attention at the back) it’s the fact that women generally do it and men don’t, that it’s difficult to be “ironic” and “post-modern” about something that is still prevalent and often damaging, especially among those who don’t see it as ironic, and the idea that using female flesh of one specific shape to sell and attention-grab, is neither new nor revolutionary.

This isn’t about censoring women’s bodies per se, either – it’s about censoring their exploitative use, imagery, and the prevailing culture that says it’s cool. Sexuality and sex are glorious, fabulous things, as is body confidence, but that doesn’t mean sitting on a wrecking ball with your boobs out, or pratting around in flesh-coloured pants in front of fully-clothed blokes, has anything to do with it. The parodies (Miley, the below and this, What Rhymes With Hug Me?, after a lyric in Blurred Lines) are the best possible outcome for these wastes of film.

Plus, I’ve learned shed loads more than I ever wanted to about the severely disturbing photographer that is Terry Richardson, who directed Miley’s video. So that’s fun!

AND YET.

At my gym, we do a pretty damn great dance routine to Blurred Lines (hence my STILL humming it months after release), and Miley’s is exactly the kind of faux-heartbreak, crappy pop stuff I actually love to listen to, with its catchy chorus and eminently singable, stick-in-the-memory hooks. Also – and I’ve always maintained this – although Miley unfortunately seems more than a little intent on showing us all what she sees in the shower right now, she can actually sing.

SO. Let this be a sort-of truce. The songs – good (if we close our ears to some of Thicke’s grim lyrics, in pursuit of the “yeah yeah yeah” bits that form the main gist, ARGH *hates self*). The videos – dire, objectifying, and, in the case of Miley and the hammer – ever-so-slightly unbalanced.

So here, if only to satisfy my incessant humming and earworms, are the songs (videos not included, evidently). *SIGH* Please don’t hate me.

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