Coming to terms with what’s in the words
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.