Tuesday, August 11, 2009

From "Lollipop" to Now: Which Generation Has The Better Message?

As is the case on many a day, this post is inspired by a video. Here's the video in question.

The main premise of this post is focused on the lyrics of the 1958 song, Lollipop, which actually has quite a peculiar and telling racial context which I was not previously aware of until tonight after a little research. I'll sum it up for all link-avoiders. The song was originally performed by Ronald and Ruby, a duo made up of a Black lead singer and White songwriter. The song began to take off and television appearances were booked. Once people found out that they were dealing with an interracial performing duo, they canceled those appearances and the popularity dwindled - pretty much killing the song. Yeah. Wow. Reflect on that and whatnot. Move on when ready.

That's not my problem with the song. My problem is that when I listened to the dated lyrics of the record, I didn't hear much of a difference from the message that pervades rap music AS WELL AS all of popular culture to this day. There's this girl that looks really nice and seems to exist merely for my sexual pleasure and enjoyment. Don't think so? Let's look at the lyrics to "Lollipop."

"Call my baby lollipop
Tell you why
Her kiss is sweeter than a cherry pie
And when she does her shaky rockin' dance
Man, I haven't got a chance"
What's the difference between that and I love to see that sexy b**** in the club shakin' that @$$? What's the difference between that or a song about some dimepiece sliding down a pole and giving a man a lap dance? One of them uses profanity and one of them does not. The message is the same. I'm aroused by a woman and care absolutely nothing about what's in her head or her heart. I just wanna know what's in those pants (and in many but not all cases, "them draws"). Mind you, I could say something here about the reference to cherry pie, which now seems to be a precursor to rock band Warrant's infamous and innuendo-laced "Cherry Pie." However, no one can really predict the future. We can't blame them for that. We certainly can't blame them for Lil Wayne's "Lollipop," either - which featured the infamous "I let her lick the (w)rapper" line. Back to the matter at hand, though. The title of the song is "Lollipop." From the very beginning, the woman is objectified - she's likened to a piece of candy, her kiss to a cherry pie, and the song is all about the pleasures felt and lusts satisfied by her. Yes, the song communicates this idea in a very innocent, nice, and polite way - with no vulgarities and a lot left to the imagination. However, as is my point, the message is the same.

Let me stop right here and acknowledge the fact that the song was covered by a girl group, The Chordettes. The lyrics were altered to make the song about a guy. That version of the song became more popular than the first. It's still objectification, no matter which sex is involved. But doesn't it say something about our culture that for advertisement purposes, the executives and creative minds at work passed on the most popular form of the song to go for the one in which the female is the tasty object?

I've said it before, and I'll say it again. I criticize my generation a great deal. Many older people criticize us as well. Many people have something to say about the messages and images that come from our music and talk about better times before the music got so rotten and the images and messages so devious. Shouldn't we do a little research to see how far back our blame (and the proper damage control) should reach?