|Liz Phair ups the ante: you're not just a firework, you're a SUPERNOVA!|
by Andy Nowicki
Many common themes in popular music have been duly cataloged and commented upon in recent years, with publications like Cracked.com assuming a prominent role in scrutinizing the meaning behind clusters and conglomerations of frequent song lyric leitmotifs.
Yet to my knowledge, no one has reflected upon a particular classification of pop song, nor pondered the significance thereof. I speak, of course, of what could be called the “Wow, You’re Awesome in the Sack!” anthem, a species of pop song which seems expressly the province of female singers, wherein the object of amorous admiration is exclusively men.
I don’t doubt that the sentiment expressed in these songs (specific examples of which will follow) is frequently sincere, but surely there is more going on with this phenomenon than meets the ear. Something must explain the prevalence of these praise anthems of male stamina and prowess beyond apparent female appreciation of these traits in their apparently skilled and studly paramours.
At first blush, in a misandric age like our own, whose popular culture is saturated with “girl power” cliches and accompanying sour castigations of masculinity as something synonymous with vile brutality and/or useless stupidity, one would not expect the existence of popular songs featuring breathy chanteuses gushing effusively over the manly vigor of their stallion-like lovers. Yet such songs are prevalent in every genre of popular music of recent years, from rock to country to soul and hip-hop. Consider the following examples:
--In Liz Phair’s “Supernova,” the sexy, guitar-playing archetypical alternachick can’t restrain herself from waxing reverential over her boyfriend’s cosmically awesome style of lovemaking: “You’re a human supernova, a solar superman…Your kisses are as wicked as an M-16/ And you fuck like a volcano, and you’re everything to me.”
--In Faith Hill’s “The Way You Love Me,” Nashville’s reigning sweetheart ardently wishes that the man who pleases her so thoroughly in bed could only comprehend how great he is: (Of course, given that that man is presumably Ms. Hill’s douchily cocky husband Tim McGraw, such concerns on Faith’s part are no doubt superfluous.) : “Ooh, I love the way you love me/ There’s nowhere else I’d rather be/ Ooh, to feel the way you feel with your arms around me/ I only wish that you could see, the way you love me.”
--In the 70s classic rock anthem “Magic Man” by Heart, singer Ann Wilson seems very concerned with justifying to us her attraction to a dodgy, morally dubious but apparently very dexterous lover: “Try to understand/ Try, try, try to understand, he’s a magic man/ He’s got magic hands.” (Apparently a bit of enchantedness in the fingertip region covers a multitude of sins.)
--And the ladies of Salt’N’Pepa, and En Vogue altogether agree that men who screw well are pretty terrific in “What A Man” (“What a man, what a man, what a mighty, mighty good man!” etc.)
But striking as all of these examples are, the sine qua non of all “Wow, You’re Awesome In the Sack” songs, is surely Diana Ross’s post-disco classic, “Upside Down.” In that delectably catchy, groove-laden track, Lady Di gets down and dirty, revealing a startling and singular truth of female attraction: high-status men who are sexy, good-looking and good in bed can get away with a lot: if not murder, then at least adultery. Addressing her resplendent lover, she portentously announces, “Respectfully I say to thee/ I’m aware that you’re cheatin’/ But no one makes me feel like you do.” After all, when she’s intimate with him, he satisfies her gloriously, turning her “upside-down, inside-out and round-and-round.” You don’t get lovin’ like that just anywhere…if it comes at the price of one’s dignity, so be it!
It isn’t clear Diana’s man is cheating with others, or if he’s married to another woman and he’s cheating with her (as well as others: “You always play the field”), but it doesn’t really matter either way. She still wants him, and forgives him all present and future transgressions, because quite frankly, he juices her loins, floats her boat, and rocks her world.
And here, in truth, is where the linkage to feminism lies in all of the oversexed, man-crazy songs under discussion here. Amongst the swooning sentiment of surrender to a sexy alpha-dog (or “dawg,” in hip-hop lingo), there is also a subtle attempt to affirm the female prerogative to follow one’s bliss, even if it means rejecting decent men for favor of rogues, scoundrels, lowlifes, and liars who just happen to be hot, rich, and successful. After all, a girl’s gotta be happy, right? (We see here how feminism and alpha-dawg-dom are two backs on the same beast.
Also, and more insidiously, we find in the content and message of these songs a sort of duplicitous appeal to all of the hopelessly deluded, starry-eyed but plain-looking, financially struggling, and generally nebbishy beta-dawgs of the world, who themselves swoon to the notion of somehow becoming some gorgeous babe’s fantasy fuck. The male ego renders one spectacularly vulnerable to the notion of being the object of a Liz Phair or Faith Hill-lookalike’s ardor, and this keeps us pathetically engaged with a culture that couldn’t care less about us, which essentially views us as disposable and easily-replaced, which humors us to our faces and mocks us mercilessly behind our backs.
Respectfully, I say to y’all: let’s have some pride. They’re not singing about us, but we don’t have to be in their thrall, either. It’s time to wise up and to man down. Or as one wag has recently put it, be a wanker, not a fucker.
(Originally published at Alternative Right, July 2013)