Sunday, June 1, 2008

Nickelback vs. My inner feminist

Interestingly, this post was originally supposed to be about Clay Aiken's super-creepy, super-popular song, "Invisible".

But then I started thinking about other music that I actually listen to, and the band Nickelback came to mind. I started listening to Nickelback when I was in 7th grade. I got their album Silver Side Up and enjoyed it a lot. I used it sort of as a way to channel the anger I felt about my parents' separation and then divorce. So I didn't really listen critically to the lyrics at that time.

Now, it is important to note that as a music listener, I like rock music and I am fine with swearing as long as it does not constitute the majority of a song's lyrics. However, if a song promotes violence in a non-satirical way, uses racial slurs, or anything along those lines, I will not listen to it.

So, here are some Nickelback songs that I both like and dislike:

**Trigger Warning: the lyrics for "Never Again" describe domestic violence**

Song: "Never Again"
Album: Silver Side Up (2001)
Lyric Sample:

Father's a name you haven't earned yet
You're just a child with a temper
Haven't you heard "Don't hit a lady"?
Kickin' your ass would be a pleasure

He's drunk again, it's time to fight
Same old shit, just on a different night
She grabs the gun, she's had enough
Tonight she'll find out how fucking
Tough is this man
Pulls the trigger just as fast as she can
Never Again

The verbal depiction of domestic violence could have been offensive if the lyrics did not clearly acknowledge the abuser's fault. Instead, they stick to describing the violence and its gruesome effects. Although the subject matter is touchy, this song is not one I have a problem with because it addresses this very real problem in a manner that does not glorify the violence.

Song: "Figured You Out"
Album: The Long Road (2003)
Lyric Sample:
And I love the places that we go
And I love the people that you know
And I love the way you can't say "No"
Too many long lines in a row
I love the powder on your nose
...
And I love your lack of self respect
While you're passed out on the deck
I love my hands around your neck
...
And I hate the places that we go
And I hate the people that you know
And I hate the way you can't say "No"
Too many long lines in a row
I hate the powder on your nose
This song really bugs me. Especially because the very first line is: "I like your pants around your feet." Besides that, the song suggests that the woman being unable to say "no" after doing drugs was originally a turn on. Disgusting. Nothing like being with a woman who can't possibly deny you want you want, right? Of course, by the very end of the song, it is claimed that he hates that. Sounds to me like he got bored with it. The lack o respect, the abuse, it all means that in my book, this song fails.

**Trigger Warning: the lyrics for "Throw Yourself Away" describe infanticide**

Song: "Throw Yourself Away"
Album: The Long Road (2003)
Lyric Sample:
Baby's born on the bathroom floor
The mother prays that it'll never cry
And nothing's wrong you got your prom dress on
When they ask you say it isn't mine

You know they're gonna know you lied

Why the hell don't you throw yourself away
You know they're gonna burn it down
Wash my, hands of this
You notice how God ain't even helping you out.
Apparently this song was sparked by a specific incident and the idea behind it was the problem with high school girls giving birth and then committing infanticide. Okay, I can see why the band would be upset about this, especially because the baby has already been born. But they seem to recognize that this is a problem, and they fail to do anything really productive about it.

Asking "Why the hell don't you throw yourself away?" doesn't address the issue of why girls might do this. It demonizes girls who need help, whether that was the band's intention or not. Girl's int this situation obviously need help in the form of better education about birth control. It would also be more productive to try to do something about this society treats unmarried mothers like second-class citizens.

Nickelback has a lot of potential. They are a well-known band with a good following, and if they were more careful about how they wrote about issues, they might be able to make a great change. But when their meaningful works are piled in with the misogyny, animalistic sex, possessive violence, and other such characteristics in their most popular songs, it is hard for me to take them seriously.

22 comments:

dirtyrottenfeminist said...

I already dislike Nickelback, musically. I hate the lead singer's voice and I think their songs all sound the same, and their lyrics are contrived. But this makes me hate them more!! Especially the middle one you mentioned. Rape culture! Rape culture! I know so many guys who worship this band. Scary.
I will stick to the Chili Peppers and the Foo Fighters, thanks. Of course, sexist in their own way. :D

Jen said...

As a "rocker chick", I hate that the majority of lyrics are so women-hating or objectifying. Since the 90s came to a close, the popularity of grrl power and female-fronted bands has waned, and now every talentless hack sings about how their girlfriend is dirtier than yours and how that "bitch did them wrong".

Ugh, I like to identify with my music and the lyrics. I can't if the song is "Rape Me" or blaming an ex for your cheatin' ways because she had the "Lips of an Angel" and calling it romantic.

Yuck.

Amelia said...

Oooh just wait, Jen. I plan on writing about Nirvana sometime soon. I love them...

Michael said...

Yeah, I'm with dirtyrottenfeminist. I don't care about their politics, I just think their music blows harder than Katrina.


...too soon?

Black Thirteen said...

"and how that "bitch did them wrong"."

Women "doing a man wrong" is one of the oldest elements of music. That, and love songs.

Broken hearts and new romance are the two most common subjects of music.

Amelia said...

Perhaps, BT, but often the language in those songs is highly offensive. I mean, it must be possible to hate what a woman did without degrading her so horribly, no?

Michael said...

I don't know about that. That's kind of the thing about hate... you want to degrade the hatee horribly. At least, that's how I react.

Amelia said...

Well, maybe I'm weird then because I always try very very hard to hate the action and not the person because harboring ill will toward people has done me no good in my life.

So it is possible to write songs about being wronged without degrading the person who wronged you.

But maybe that just doesn't sell music the same way calling a woman a bitch does?

Black Thirteen said...

"Perhaps, BT, but often the language in those songs is highly offensive. I mean, it must be possible to hate what a woman did without degrading her so horribly, no?"

If someone does you terribly enough, the words don't even yet exist to express the ill things you'd like to say about them.

If someone does something to you terrible enough, why should you care about degrading them or not? They did the same to you, right?

Besides, women are just as guilty of this. I've heard country music before. :p

"I don't know about that. That's kind of the thing about hate... you want to degrade the hatee horribly. At least, that's how I react."

See? Right. That there. If someone craps all over you, you aren't going to sing a flowery song about how wonderful they are.

You're going to sing about what a piece of shit you think they are.

Black Thirteen said...

"Well, maybe I'm weird then because I always try very very hard to hate the action and not the person because harboring ill will toward people has done me no good in my life."

The action didn't do itself. The person is who is responsible, and therefore should rightly shoulder all the blame.

"But maybe that just doesn't sell music the same way calling a woman a bitch does?"

Well, women singing about a man that wronged them will call him rude names, too.

For the party that's been hurt, it's not proper to expect them to be respectful and nice and care about the feelings of someone who didn't care about theirs.

Jen said...

It's a problem of market share, Black Thirteen. I wouldn't have nearly the problem with songs about a psycho ex-girlfriend if songs about psycho ex-boyfriends (and how much you like dirty sex with them and various body parts) commanded nearly the same air time.

Black Thirteen said...

Well, maybe there are more psycho ex girlfriends of musicians than there are psycho ex boyfriends?

Regardless, it's not really up to you to have a problem with it. If someone has a shitty ex, and they want to vent it, and happen to be a musician, that's their business to do so.

And frankly, the "cheating ex-boyfriend" commands a hell of a lot of airtime.

Amelia said...

hehehe.

The only song I could think of off the top of my head was that Earl song by the Dixie Chicks.

lol...

Black Thirteen said...

"Before He Cheats", right off the top of my head.

It tends to be a more popular theme in country music, which I do not listen to.

The Great American said...

Nickelback sucks anyways. Their foul lyrics only add to the stench.

Lindsay said...

Well, maybe there are more psycho ex girlfriends of musicians than there are psycho ex boyfriends?

Maybe there are more male musicians getting radio time than female musicians? Or maybe it's ok for male musicians to write misogynist things about their exs and it's not quite as ok for females to do it. The two songs mentioned, Earl and Before He Cheats are memorable merely because they're done by female musicians. The same lyrics sung by male musicians wouldn't get so much attention.

As for Nickelback, I don't like their music so I've never had a reason to pay attention to the lyrics. My dad played one of their songs for me last time I was home and it was about oral sex while driving. I'm all for oral sex, but please - not while driving. And as long as it's discussed respectfully towards all people involved.

Black Thirteen said...

"Maybe there are more male musicians getting radio time than female musicians? Or maybe it's ok for male musicians to write misogynist things about their exs and it's not quite as ok for females to do it."

I don't think it's fair to asign the term "misogynist" to it. If you have nasty things to say about your ex-girlfriend, it doesn't mean you hate women, it means you hate her.

Hating a specific female doesn't mean you hate all women.

Besides, pointing out that your ex-girlfriend was a terrible person isn't misogynist. Are you expected to hate them in a "respectful" way? Or to speak about how wonderful they are, and their nasty actions weren't really their fault?


"The two songs mentioned, Earl and Before He Cheats are memorable merely because they're done by female musicians. The same lyrics sung by male musicians wouldn't get so much attention. "

I wouldn't say that. The point was to come up with songs by females that put forth the same points: The cheating ex, the bad ex, etcetera.

Like I said, it's popular in country music, and you don't have to go far to find it.

Anonymous said...

I totally interpreted the song "Figured you out" in a different light. I never heard it as glorifying acting like that or treating someone like rather, rather, showing how disgusting both parties are. (Actually, I don't believe the singer or object of the song are identified by gender.)

Amelia said...

Very interesting, Anon. The reason why I identified the object of "Figured You Out" as female is because Nickelback (an all male group, that I think it is safe to assume sings from a male perspective) has identified sexual partners, or interests, as female (take their song "Animals" for example).

Good point though.

Anonymous said...

NickelBack is a Bullshit band.
As a Canadian,I am not impressed that NickelBack is one of our own.His Music is great I believe,but the Lyrics..are DISGUSTING!
They are derogative,demeaning,and socially disrespectful towards Women.
"Figured you out" is a song that degrades women in a sexual manner."I like your pants around your feet,I like the dirt thats on your knees""while your looking up at me" This whole Chorus is solely about a woman giving him head.
Nickelback's new song "Something In your mouth" is just as bad. Its yet again,about Blowjobs. It appears to be about her "finger" in her mouth,and how he loves the way she sucks her "finger"...what a crock of SHIT. Its a subliminal message about getting head.All he does is go on and on about his Ex Girlfriends,and about women in ONLY a sexual way,which delivers the message that women are seen in his eyes as a Tool,not a human being,but a Tool that to pleasure His Penis.

Most of the content of Nickelback's Music are directed towards Women in a negative fashion.He is only screaming his own insecurities out to the world.

69kristey69 said...

NickelBack is a Bullshit band.
As a Canadian,I am not impressed that NickelBack is one of our own.His Music is great I believe,but the Lyrics..are DISGUSTING!
They are derogative,demeaning,and socially disrespectful towards Women.
"Figured you out" is a song that degrades women in a sexual manner."I like your pants around your feet,I like the dirt thats on your knees""while your looking up at me" This whole Chorus is solely about a woman giving him head.
Nickelback's new song "Something In your mouth" is just as bad. Its yet again,about Blowjobs. It appears to be about her "finger" in her mouth,and how he loves the way she sucks her "finger"...what a crock of SHIT. Its a subliminal message about getting head.All he does is go on and on about his Ex Girlfriends,and about women in ONLY a sexual way,which delivers the message that women are seen in his eyes as a Tool,not a human being,but a Tool that to pleasure His Penis.

Most of the content of Nickelback's Music are directed towards Women in a negative fashion.He is only screaming his own insecurities out to the world.

69kristey69 said...

Black Thirteen,All of your comments are unfair.

Reading over your responses I can clearly see that you are a Male.Your comments are totally Biased and not based on any moral conduct.
You claim that Female artists proclaim about their "Ex's and men in a negative way "just as much as male artists do".Well,heres where you are wrong.Such female artists that do sing out lyrics about their Ex's have very,very mild lyrics towards their male counterparts.Something like"You cheated on me,so I left you." as opposed to a males version on the same subject"you bitch,you cheated on me you dirty whore".Besides,we are not exactly talking about NickelBack and his shaming out his Ex's.It is about How he declares Women.Nickelback portrays Women as sex slaves,and as nothing more than something to put his Penis in,whether it be the Vagina,or Mouth.Disgustingly,Nickelback lowers Women in 3 of his songs in a sexual way as I posted Earlier.All 3 of these accounts happen to be about different Women giving him head.2 of them being subliminal,and the other being right out front,and this is revealed in Nickelback's "Animals" "Got your hand between my knees"(legs) is Subliminal...then it leads on to the following lyric:"while you have both hands on my GEARS" which is subliminal for (testicles and Penis) not the Gears that belong to a Vehicle.Then the song goes on about"I guess nobody ever taught her not to speak with a full mouth".(his penis in her mouth;Blowjob)."Before he cheats" states in the song that she drove her key through the paint of his Car,then smashed in the windows with a Louisville Slugger.She is declaring how she got revenge on his belongings,it would be the same as if a male artist went on about how he cut off all the Heels of her Shoe collection and threw out all her makeup.Only then would it be an equal situation.Carrie Underwood is singing about how she got revenge on his belongings..not calling him an "asshole,dick,"or other inappropriate name.When a female does something even close to wrong to a male he goes on and on about how much of a "whore she is".its Unacceptable.You told "Jen" Its "not really up to you to have a problem with it."Well sorry,but yes it is.Music is a part of the Media,the media sadly...depicts peoples lives of today,therefore things that are said and done involving the media..EVERYONE has a say.Many countless people agree with me on this one..that Nickelback is Garbage music in the sense that their lyrics are despicable.My female and male friends agree,even my boyfriend's father agrees with me,so as we conclude ladies and Gents,Nickelback is one of the Music industry's waste exhausts that infringes the Media.