Com­ing to terms with what’s in the words

Waterloo Region Record - - Arts & Life - DREW ED­WARDS Drew Ed­wards has long been ready to Fight for his Right to Party. He can be reached at [email protected]­

When the first time they ask you if you want sparklin’ or still? Why you try to act like you was drinkin’ sparklin’ wa­ter ’fore you came out here? – Lyrics from “I Love It” by Lil Pump and Kanye West

These are, quite lit­er­ally, the only two lines from this song that I can safely print in a fam­ily news­pa­per — de­spite the fact that it took the top spot on the Canada Hot 100 chart in Septem­ber. The rest of it is sim­ply too pro­fane: it uses five of the in­fa­mous seven dirty words and in­cludes a whole bunch more. This is not a song you can sing along to in po­lite com­pany.

The video has been viewed al­most 350 mil­lion times on YouTube and I think I’ve heard it nearly just as much on the morn­ing drive to my daugh­ter’s high school. She loves the song but, like much of the mu­sic she lis­tens to, it fea­tures lan­guage and sub­ject mat­ter that are, uh, less than fam­ily friendly.

In­clud­ing, ap­par­ently, “Baby, It’s Cold Out­side.”

In ad­di­tion to G-Eazy, Black­bear and Kanye, my daugh­ter also loves hol­i­day mu­sic, to the point where she fires up the Michael Bublé’s Christ­mas al­bum on Oct. 1. One of her favourite tracks has come un­der scru­tiny this win­ter after ra­dio sta­tions across the coun­try banned the song for what some are call­ing in­ap­pro­pri­ate lyrics around the is­sue of con­sent.

We talk about these chal­lenges on a reg­u­lar ba­sis: how does a strong, in­de­pen­dently-minded woman who takes ab­so­lutely no guff from her male class­mates — she al­most punched a kid last year when he jok­ingly told her to ‘make me a sand­wich’ dur­ing a law class de­bate she was win­ning — rec­on­cile lis­ten­ing to mu­sic that rou­tinely ob­jec­ti­fies and de­grades women?

It’s a ques­tion she strug­gles with, just as I grap­ple with my de­ci­sion to “al­low” her to lis­ten to it, though pre­vent­ing kids from ac­cess­ing ques­tion­able con­tent in a dig­i­tal uni­verse is like try­ing to herd foul-mouthed cats. We talk a lot of about con­text, mean­ing and the evo­lu­tion of lan­guage.

When I was in univer­sity, there was a big push to­ward “po­lit­i­cal cor­rect­ness,” when it came to lan­guage. I was con­stantly be­ing asked — and some­times told — to ex­am­ine the words I was us­ing and why. An ex­tremely sim­ple ex­am­ple: use “fire­fighter” in­stead of “fire­man” or “po­lice of­fi­cer” in­stead of “po­lice­man” be­cause it’s more gen­der neu­tral.

There was, and still is, push back against this way of think­ing but I’ve never thought of lan­guage, or the ideas be­hind them, as static. I use “fire­fighter” and “po­lice of­fi­cer” be­cause they are now more ac­cu­rate terms: lan­guage changes to re­flect so­ci­etal progress and that’s a good thing.

Mean­while, my daugh­ter has de­cided to con­tinue lis­ten­ing to “Baby, It’s Cold Out­side.” She did some read­ing on the song’s ori­gins as well as other in­ter­pre­ta­tions that see the tune as a sly sub­ver­sion of “slut sham­ing,” that the only thing hold­ing back the woman in the song from spend­ing the night is con­cern over so­ci­etal judg­ment. It sparked an in­ter­est­ing dis­cus­sion on the way to school.

Much bet­ter than lis­ten­ing to Kanye.

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