A Warning About Popular Love Songs For Young Girls

The love and break-up songs that abound on the internet are aimed almost exclusively at young girls and teenagers, who listen to them over and over again, comfortably installed in the privacy of their bedrooms.

The singers who enter the secret and imaginary worlds are very real for these young girls. They embody youth, beauty, wealth, autonomy and strength of character. They are also a powerful socializing factor in what I call communication violence. This term refers to a form of violence in which verbal messages contradict non-verbal messages, preventing people from making informed decisions.

Parents are rarely opposed to their daughters listening to music, but parents should be aware of some warning signs.

I decode some of these love songs, which may seem harmless at first sight, in a chapter of the book Feminist practices and research on domestic violence, available in French from March 2022. The analysis reveals that the songs combine seduction and violence. They introduce a false understanding of marital love into the minds of young listeners. Through my expertise in popular culture, artistic creation and anthropology, I strive to reveal the greedy underbelly of the music industry, which commodifies pubescent feelings.

Parents may want to consider a short checklist when assessing their daughters’ music listening habits, as they are naïve to the insidious nature of their favorite artists’ songs. The songs of young singer-songwriter Olivia Rodrigo, who won New Artist of the Year at the 2021 American Music Awardsoffer some good examples.

Beware of complacent reviews

Music critics can sometimes be complacent or even superficial in their analysis of popular music. An example of this – and this is just one of many – can be found in a review of Olivia Rodrigo’s single “Deja Vu”. I was very surprised that the reviewer suggested there was nostalgia behind the line:

“You play her piano, but she don’t know/I taught you Billy Joel.”

If you ask the girls, or check the online site Urban dictionary, you will learn that “playing the piano” refers to female masturbation. “Billy Joel” is a low-key way of talking about fellatio using the artist’s initials, BJ.

Beware of this “déjà vu” air of Hollywood cinema

the song video, corresponds to the male gaze often represented by the camera in Hollywood films. The camera observes Rodrigo as a voyeur scrutinizes women’s bodies through a mirror, a screen or a hole in the wall, nourishing a patriarchal conception of the world.

The term “male gaze” was coined by the film critic Laura Mulvey in her essay “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema”, published in 1975a cinematographic practice that she denounces.

Music video for the song ‘Deja vu’ by Olivia Rodrigo.

The first few seconds of the video show a young woman licking a scoop of strawberry ice cream, with a spoon sticking into it. The words Chorus and verse are used strategically and refer to vaginal and anal sex practices. Verse can refer to a man who has no preference for top or bottom when having sex with another man.

But to grasp the implicit message of this video, one must be particularly attentive to the images presented in synchronicity with these two words. A young woman faces the camera (chorus), then another has her back to her (verse). The lyrics suggest that declarations of love can be made by the lover during the transition from penile-vaginal sex to penile-anal sex:

“I bet you even tell her / How you like her / Between the chorus and the verse.”

Beware of harassment justified by female jealousy

The video for “Deja vu” features Rodrigo impersonating his rival. She chooses the same flavor of ice cream, wears the same outfits, repeats each other’s movements and goes to the same places by the same means. This visual script expresses a jealous obsession that seems to be belied by the detached tone of the title’s lyrics: “Have you deja vu?”

Take, for example, the beautiful green “Angie” dress created by designer Molly Goddard. Worn by Rodrigo, or by his rival, the dress is a subtle but clear evocation of the villanelle psycho characterwhich also carries extravagant Goddard dresses in the series Kill Eve.

The bond between Villanelle and Rodrigo is solidified in the scene where Rodrigo, dressed in the Goddard robe, uses a mace to destroy his rival’s image on the screens fueling his obsession.

From this disturbing perspective, it is reasonable to conclude that this song trivializes harassment motivated by female rivalry. Besides, don’t we say that we are “green with envy?”

Beware of pedophile connotations

In another of Rodrigo’s hit songs, “Driving license”, the male gaze imposed by the camera seems to have pedophile tendencies. This is suggested by the marked presence of three symbols of childhood: the overalls that Rodrigo wears, the capitalization error in the title of the song and the toy keyboard on which the young woman repeatedly plays a simple tune that accentuates his youthful character.

Music video for the song “driver’s license” by Olivia Rodrigo.

But the most blatant sign of the video’s pedophile gaze is the physical posture adopted by the singer in all the scenes where she plays the toy piano: she is lying on her stomach and leaning on her elbows, her knees bent so as to cross his feet above her. thighs. This posture is a clear reference to that of Stanley Kubrick lolita (1962) as well as Adrian Lyne’s 1997 version. These films tell the story of a man who becomes sexually attracted to a teenage girl and has an inappropriate relationship with her.

Olivia Rodrigo’s posture is reminiscent of Stanley Kubrick’s “Lolita”.
(Youtube)

Attention to the transition from dream to reality

Violent communication uses manipulative or coercive language so that one partner can exercise control over the other. This can include gestures, intonation of voice, choice of words, silences, and other aspects of communication, such as speed of delivery, punctuation, posture, or context of utterance.

Songs can socialize young and adolescent girls to accept violent communications from their partners in romantic relationships.

There is no reasonable way to keep young girls away from these songs. At home, one possible solution is to use these songs as a tool to raise awareness of what violent communication looks like in a romantic relationship.

About Raymond Lang

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