One of the things I impress upon my family is how cynical the entertainment industry is towards women. They pump out nonsensical media for women at such speed and volume that one experiences it as a single Cacophonic Phenomenon. As a man, you want to just ignore it and get about your business, or your play, or whathaveyou… I advise against that.
One assault that is common in women’s pop music is the “stream of contradictions”. It’s those songs where the earnest woman sings a bunch of antonyms, seemingly-opposing ideas, or hypocriticisms–boom, boom, boom–one right after the other. Here’s a famous example. (I apologize for what I’m about to do to you.)
I’m a bitch, I’m a lover
I’m a child, I’m a mother
I’m a sinner, I’m a saint
I do not feel ashamed
I’m your hell, I’m your dream
I’m nothing in between
You know you wouldn’t want it any other way
You can read all the lyrics here.
The first thing I want to point out is that last line; which I bolded. Meredith Brooks isn’t just speaking to the man in her life. She’s setting an expectation for all men towards all women, and discouraging all women from seeking sanity. This is accepted because men do often find women confusing, and because women are easily confused. Men underestimate how bewildered and blundering women are as the go through the world. Part of the way they fake understanding is by this pretense of mystery-in-contradictions; such as Brooks describes. The truth is just confusion and lack of boundaries.
The second thing I want to point out is that the song was super popular. In its heyday it seemed like it was on everywhere, all the time. From Wikipedia:
The song steadily rose on the Billboard charts, eventually peaking at number two for four weeks, only behind “I’ll Be Missing You” by Puff Daddy and Faith Evans featuring 112. It debuted and peaked at number six on the UK Singles Chart on 27 July 1997 and stayed in the top ten for four weeks. The song was also a big hit in Oceania, where it reached number two in Australia and four in New Zealand. It ranked at number 79 on VH1’s 100 Greatest Songs of the ’90s.
And, just to underline my point about the widespread acceptance of confusion masked as mystery-in-contradiction, here’s the next paragraph from Wikipedia:
“Bitch” was also used in the 2000 Nancy Myers film What Woman Want, starring Mel Gibson and Helen Hunt. The scene is arguably the most memorable part of the film, as Mel Gibson is seen dressing in womans’ tights and wearing make-up singing to the chorus of the song. From this point in the film the character is able to “hear” what woman want.
There you have it: Only when a man deliberately confuses himself as much as possible can he “hear” what women want, i.e., be pleasing to women. Right. Did any woman suspend that disbelief? Mel Gibson…the guy for whom People magazine invented the “Sexiest Man Alive” award.
This came up today when I was cleaning the music library on my laptop. Over the summer I had backed up all the phones in the house to my iTunes account; including importing everyone’s songs into my library. My wife and daughters, like everyone, get music here and there; free downloads from Starbucks, or copying a coworker’s CD, etc. And they’re girls, so they like girly music and they get music from other girls. While during a long lull of waiting at work, I listened to the songs to see if I wanted to keep any of them. That’s when I came upon this song.
If you save yourself for marriage
You’re a bore
If you don’t save yourself for marriage
You’re a whore-able person
If you won’t have a drink
Then you’re a prude
But they’ll call you a drunk
As soon as you down the first one
If you can’t lose the weight
Then you’re just fat
But if you lose too much
Then you’re on crack
You’re damned if you do
And you’re damned if you don’t
So you might as well just do
Whatever you want
For her oeuvre to foolish peers Kacey Musgraves was awarded performances at both the CMAs and the Grammys in 2013, and CMAs’ Song of the Year in 2014.
“Now, Caldo,” you say, “these songs are nearly two decades apart. This does not a trend make.” My friends, the mystery-in-contradiction is everywhere in the top playlists of every English station, and have been; particularly since the 1990s. There are many previous instances, but it really took off with the rise of Tori Amos, Meredith Brooks, Liz Fair, Something Apple-whatsherface, and all the rest of the Lilith Faire crowd. And it goes on through The Dixie Chicks, KT Tunstall, Taylor Swift, Katy Perry, Kacey Musgraves…
What does the music industry get from women’s confusion? Money. It turns out that confused, vain, and nigh-amoral consumption ‘bots are
addicts repeat customers.
Be forewarned: There’s a common bit of advice “Once you see it, you’ll see it everywhere.” It’s the same with the Cacophonic Phenomenon and the mystery-in-contradiction, but it’s more like “Once you make out the words, you can’t ignore them.” Listening to the radio stops being background noise and becomes reports of a horrifying, nearby, war. This knowledge can feel like a curse, but the alternative is more tragic because the Cacophonic Phenomenon is a kind of hypnotism, or snake-charming.