The "blurred lines" of provocative summer hits

My sister thinks I have a problem. She thinks that I can’t enjoy pop culture because I can’t seem to watch, listen to or read something without analyzing its potential social impact.She’s right––I can’t listen to a song without thinking over the sociopolitical ramifications of its existence. This brings me to Jason Derulo and Snoop Dogg’s recent summer smash hit, “Wiggle.” I’m going to assume that everyone has heard the song “Wiggle” because it is everywhere. Like death, taxes and Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines,” it is completely inescapable. You remember “Blurred Lines,” right? The song that praises the blurred lines of sexual consent due to intoxication and the burden that comes with it? Or maybe you’re like my sister, and you’ve only heard “I know you want it, I know you want it, but you’re a good girl,” but never thought about how disturbing that actually sounds. Hopefully, now you will. “Wiggle” is surprisingly my favorite pop song of the year. I consider “Blurred Lines,” however, to be a sexist, rape apologist piece of pop drivel. Here are the two key differences between these songs: intent and awareness. The brilliance of “Wiggle” is that from the moment it starts, Derulo and Snoop Dogg know what they’re dishing out. Derulo holds no pretense of being clever or particularly original; if anything, he revels in his sense of cliché. Wanting a girl to “wiggle that big fat butt” is a sentiment dating back to Sir Mix-a-Lot’s old-but-classic “Baby Got Back” (and probably even older). No one involved with that song thinks they’ve written the next Phil Collins’ “Against All Odds.” They’re not even going to try to pretend it’s a love song. The song starts and ends as a joke about being sexy. Thicke takes “Blurred Lines” very seriously, however, even if it isn’t necessarily apparent in the song’s lyrics. As seen in post-controversy interviews, Thicke attempts to hide rape-apology behind love. He claims the song was actually for and about his then-wife Paula Patton. This takes the song out of a slightly comedic context and puts it into a league with other serious love songs. Thicke unintentionally––or perhaps intentionally––elevated his song into an area of higher criticism. If he wants the song to be seen as a love song for his wife, then his questionable objectification stops being humorous and starts being dangerous. Now, I’m not claiming both songs don’t have their fair share of sexist lines; in fact, I would say both highlight a culture of objectification and misogyny. Thicke chose to view his song in a more serious light, allowing the issue to become more detrimental. This is what separates the fun romp of “Wiggle,” from “Blurred Lines,” an explicitly dangerous hit.