Profanity and pop music go hand in hand these days. The pop star Rihanna recently appeared on the British version of Simon Cowell's singing competition "The X Factor" dressed in a demure plaid jumper with a prim white collar. It seemed like a bow to younger viewers (and their parents). But a glance at her black sneakers and the mood was shattered: She'd inscribed the words "F--- off."
On her blog, The Record, NPR music critic Ann Powers declared this little stunt exemplified an undeniable reality: "21st century pop music is very dirty." In fact, "2011 saw so much boundary-breaking in pop that the lines seem forever pulled down."
Powers made quite a list. There were several underground rap hits that graphically celebrated oral sex. There were top 100 pop songs about sex addiction, the "cowgirl" sexual position, even sex with extraterrestrials. (In the last example, Katy Perry in "E.T." insisted her alien lover "Infect me with your love and fill me with your poison. ...Wanna be a victim, ready for abduction.") Putting a woman on a pedestal is archaic. Degradation is a requirement.
The country singer Luke Bryan boasted he was listening to hip-hop music when he came up with his 2011 anthem to exotic female dancing, "Country Girl (Shake It for Me)." Bryan recently performed the song on the TV broadcast of the Country Music Awards, complete with a bevy of booty-shaking, leather-clad dancers. The song is overtly sexual, although it didn't need anyone at ABC to hit a bleep button.
The Powers list ended with Lady Gaga, and I'm counting the days 'til the bloom wears off and she fades ... away. In the meantime, she's everywhere. She appeared at the New York "Jingle Ball" on Dec. 9 hosted by the pop radio station Z-100. She performed "White Christmas" scantily clad, sitting on the seat of a motorcycle. She explained to the audience that she wrote an additional verse. "I think it's too short. Just when I get into it, it stops. It's like a really bad orgasm." That's when some parents took their children and headed for the exit.
Gaga closed out the song by laying down on the motorcycle seat, doing several upward pelvic thrusts and then spreading her legs while exclaiming, "Santa, I'll do anything for you!"