Katy Perry intrigued and enticed us this summer with her sultry, bi-curious hit single, “I Kissed a Girl,” and in turn launched her career as an up-and-coming sassy girl rocker in the tradition of Pink, Ashlee Simpson, and Avril Lavigne. And we lapped it up: the song’s got a great hook, Perry’s sort of fun and sexy, and the coy, independent sexuality she exudes in “I Kissed a Girl” comes off as oddly progressive—Perry’s protagonist in the song isn’t a lesbian; in fact, she isn’t even questioning her sexuality at all. Instead, the song is simply about acknowledging the inherent sexiness of women in general, and celebrating the freedom of some exploratory, same-sex canoodling. Nice.
I mean, yeah, the song is obviously a record company marketing device to titillate male listeners into buying her record, but it’s certainly no T.A.T.U.—a group conceived for the sole purpose of toting their lesbianism against a flimsy musical backdrop. No, Perry’s song is spunky and assertive, has legitimate credibility as a catchy, radio pop hit, and apparently has enough cred amongst the teen rap/rock superstar set to attract the likes of Gym Class Heroes frontman Travis McCoy (the two became engaged last June—omg! They are so in love!). What Perry may have lacked in terms of substantive content in her songs, she more than made up for with her larger-than-life presence and style when “I Kissed A Girl” first started to hit the airwaves last season.
Arguably, this credibility went completely to shit upon the recent release of her second single, “Hot N Cold.” Before I continue, a little context: now, here at Modern Jackass, in a desperate effort to offset the fact that we’re a bunch of short, balding, soft-like-Michael-Bublé, malcontent curmudgeons, we spend a lot of time at the gym. And because the Crunch in Ft. Greene plays a lot of terrible remixes of top forty jamz, I’ve oft been subjected to this “Hot N Cold” business while, ya know, doing mad reps. So that said, over time I’ve become quite familiar with the lyrics to the track, to the point that I can definitively say that I think the first line of the song effectively offsets any tinge of forward-thinking that may or may not have been present in Perry’s lead single.
The lyric in question? You change your mind like a girl changes clothes. I mean, really Katy Perry? You bust onto the scene, getting all sexy, mercilessly wielding your unapologetic, take-no-prisoners brand of sexuality in the faces of helpless, unsuspecting frat boys across the nation, and then you drop this? By falling back on such an archaic stereotype as her leadoff couplet, Perry effectively negates the fiery independence she was able to garner on the heels of “I Kissed a Girl’s” success, and is instead absorbed into the ranks of pop music’s generic and indistinguishable.
For an artist who is supposedly so averse to her men giving her any bullshit, why release a single in which she equates the indecisiveness of her protagonist’s significant other with the hackneyed cliché that women can’t pick out an outfit? Isn’t that being preemptively defeatist? It’s just sort of like conceding a discrepancy in gender-related rationale: you’re worried about the outcome of this relationship; I’m worried about what I’m wearing. Right from the start of “Hot N Cold,” this lyric puts the protagonist on the defensive—yes, she’s calling out some dude for changing his mind, but can we really trust her to be a credible narrator in this matter of the heart? I mean, what shoes does she have on? Of course this guy’s changing his mind—his lady friend is too busy preparing for their date to actually enjoy it once they’re out on the town. Fucking chicks, man.
This shit just gets annoying. It often seems that, in order to be a successful female pop musician, you either have to be Britney Spears or Melissa Etheridge. And just when it seemed that Katy Perry might be forging some sort of light hearted, pseudo-intriguing middle ground, her second single has definitively driven her into the ranks of the panty-less paparazzi elite, a class of female pop icons whose success stems from appealing to a traditionalist, male-centric sexual paradigm instead of via the actual content of their albums. Boo, I say. Where’s Jenny Lewis when we need her?