In Defence of Pop & Rap’s “Unintelligent” Lyrics.

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Last week I posted a link to a study by Seat Smart about the most unintelligent songs of the past decade in which the genres of pop and R’n’B/rap/hip hop featured heavily.

Word length and the amount of syllables therein were factors in pushing a song over the edge from unintelligence to intelligence. From the study:

“Country music is full of words like Hallelujah, cigarettes, hillbilly, and tacklebox. Add to that long place names like Cincinnati, Louisville, Mississippi, and Louisiana, and [c]ountry has a serious advantage over the competition.”

Country music coming out on top as the most intelligent genre is laughable; this is the inherently sexist genre that brought you such gems as “Thank God I’m a Country Girl” and Taylor Swift before she found feminism. Just because country originated in parts of America with really long names don’t mean jack. (I tried my hand at some country-esque parlance there.)

Though you wouldn’t think it from the flashy and oftentimes nonsensical rap styles of Pit Bull and Snoop Dogg phoning it in on tracks like Katy Perry’s “California Gurls”, rap and hip hop were spawned in some of the poorest and most downtrodden parts of major cities where their primarily black and Hispanic residents were oppressed and discriminated against and where drugs and crime were rampant. In his younger days, Tupac Shakur rapped about police brutality (“Trapped”, “Changes”), slut shaming, sexual assault and STDs (“Brenda’s Got a Baby”, “Keep Ya Head Up”, “Baby Don’t Cry”), and drugs (“Changes”), while N.W.A. produced songs with similar content.

As is evident in the popular music that the study chose to… erm… study, the rap that makes it to the top 40 charts isn’t necessarily an accurate depiction of the genre as a whole. Take, for example, Kendrick Lamar. I’m not super familiar with his work but I do know that the most commercial success he’s seen came with his recent cameo in Taylor Swift’s (of country music origins) video for “Bad Blood”. And while we all have an opinion on Kanye West, he raps intelligently—although this study would seek to disprove that—about fame, money, racism. (His inclusion on Katy Perry’s “E.T”, making it one of the past decade’s smartest songs, while Perry’s “Wide Awake” with no obligatory rap interlude makes it the 10th dumbest song of the decade should be indicative of rap’s—or at least Kanye’s—value.) This is not to mention the copious amounts of underground and unreleased rap out there.

When it comes to women, Mariah Carey (“We Belong Together” is finally getting its due as one of Mariah’s more artful arrangements) and Nicki Minaj (again, her unreleased stuff is far more sophisticated than “Anaconda” and “Starships”) are topping the intelligence scales while Beyonce makes an appearance in both intelligent and unintelligent lists. That the biggest and best artist in the world today could be described using the word “unintelligent” is a crime. It just goes to show that word length alone doesn’t demonstrate the myriad aspects that go into creating music.

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It’s also interesting that many of the artists who rank high in intelligence are appropriating the music of other cultures, ie. Eminem and Macklemore. (My mother recently said she thought Eminem was the best rapper, despite the high rotation of rappers of colour on my and my sister’s CD players in our youth.) On a related note, Iggy Azalea is nowhere to be found in this study.

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Sure, songs like “California Gurls” and “Tik Tok” may indicate our lowering intelligence as a culture (though, having said that, these are two of my favourite songs to get down on the dancefloor to, so do with that what you will), but artists like Lady Gaga, Beyonce and Taylor Swift (despite what the study says!) who are changing the game would suggest otherwise.

What do you think? Do you agree with the study’s assertions or would you counter them like I have?

Related: On the (Rest of the) Net: 29th May 2015.

Taylor Swift: The Perfect Victim.

Elsewhere: [Seat Smart] Lyric Intelligence in Popular Music: A Ten Year Analysis.

[Jezebel] Country Music Dude: In Radio, Female Performers Are Basically Garnishes.

[The Guardian] Taylor Swift: “Sexy? Not on My Radar.”

Images via Seat Smart.

Music: Top 11 Songs of 2011.

“Born This Way”, Lady Gaga.

Before it was even released, the world knew that “Born This Way” was going to define 2011, if not for its controversial comparison to Madonna’s “Express Yourself”, then for Glee’s 90-minute special dedicated to the anthem. Gaga was accused of racism and plagiarism for the song, which spawned a website in which gay users can upload images and affirmations. Like it or loath it, you’ve got to agree that Gaga has her heart in the right place with this one.

“Friday”, Rebecca Black.

Ahh, the song that you can never get out of your head. While I think “Friday” is the work of a genius (Lady Gaga thinks so, too!) and enjoy bopping around to it, grabbing my bowl, grabbing my cereal, going to the bus stop, choosing which seat to take, I understand that the majority of the world doesn’t feel the same. But for a viral video, you’ve got to give the girl props for permeating the zeitgeist so.

“Rolling in the Deep”, Adele.

I’ve only recently gotten into Adele, but now that I have, I could listen to her voice for hours. Whether it’s “Someone I Used to Know”, “Turning Tables” or “I Can’t Make You Love Me”, as opposed to “Rolling in the Deep”, you can’t deny that Adele was everywhere in 2011. And she was warmly welcomed for her heartbreaking love songs and her alternative look.

“Party Rock Anthem”, LMFAO.

Up until a few days ago when I asked my friend April which songs she thought I should include in this list, I thought this song was called “Shuffling”! No matter; the whole world has picked up on the gist and beat of the song, and that’s all that really matters, right?

“Moves Like Jagger”, Maroon 5.

Another song that I was oblivious to until recently. Rather, I was oblivious to who sung it, even though the vocals of Christina Aguilera were unmissable. My awakening to “Moves Like Jagger” came the night of my birthday party, when a random partygoer likened my moves to being even better than Jagger’s!

“Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.)”, Katy Perry.

The song is somewhat forgettable, but Katy Perry’s “Last Friday Night” was all about the film clip, featuring the aforementioned Rebecca Black, some guys from Glee, Hanson, and Kenny G.

“(Run the World) Girls”, Beyonce.

While “(Run the World) Girls” isn’t by a long shot the best song on Beyonce’s latest album, 4, it was the one that set the ball rolling for total 2011 Beyonce domination. For my money, “Countdown” and “Best Thing I Never Had” are better, but the controversy the song stirred up and the film clip are what make the song rate.

“Somebody I Used to Know”, Gotye.

Until I YouTubed this song just then, I’d never heard it before. But I’d heard the hype surrounding it. While alternative Australian music isn’t really my cup of tea, it does invoke a certain nostalgia of music my parents would play when I was a child, like Cat Stevens and some others I can’t quite put my finger on.

“Super Bass”, Nicki Minaj.

If it weren’t for the Ellen show sensations Sophia Grace and Rosie, “Super Bass” wouldn’t hold such a special spot in my heart(beat running away)! Is that wrong…?

“On the Floor”, Jennifer Lopez.

This time last year J.Lo couldn’t have been less relevant. Whether it’s the calibre of “On the Floor” (one friend is particularly irked by the “Back it up like a Tonka truck” line from Pit Bull!) or her highly publicised divorce from Marc Anthony (how fitting that the title of her latest album should be Love?), J.Lo was back in a big way in 2011.

“We Found Love”, Rihanna.

Rihanna also had a big 2011, and it was hard to choose just one of her myriad of songs from the past year. I have a penchant for “Only Girl in the World”, which was officially released in 2010 but seemed to transfer over into 2011, and there’s also “Man Down”, “S&M”, “California King Bed” and “Cheers (Drink to That)” that were hits last year. And of course, we can’t forget the hullabaloo that resulted from the filming of the video for “We Found Love”. Farmers and Irish fields, anyone?

So which were your favourite songs of 2011?

Related: The Underlying Message in Glee‘s “Born This Way” Episode.

Battle of the Friday Anthems: Rebecca Black VS. Katy Perry.

Beyonce: Countdown to Overexposure.

Rihanna’s Man Down—Revenge is a Dish Best Served in Cold Blood.

Rihanna’s “S&M”: Is It Really So Much Worse Than Her Other Stuff?