Problematic Lyrics

Not too long ago someone asked if DJ’s should not be playing songs that mention gun violence following a lot of media attention to such violence. My gut reaction is of course not. We should not be censoring expression just because it might make someone uncomfortable.

However, I have begun to curate and maintain a collection of music. Mostly for my own pleasure. Partially for dancing to. Even more partially for playing for other people to dance to. There are songs in my collection that I really like. I enjoy them for various reasons. Some of them, those reasons completely exclude the lyrics.

I have a hard time with songs that have lyrics that are particularly sexist. Cold Turkey, a cool dancable fusion or crossover piece is a great example. I love the instrumentation, particularly the rhythm section. I think Anthony David’s voice is hot. The lyrics however:

Cold turkey, you can’t expect me to quit, do you baby?
Cold turkey, feelings don’t go away so easy
Just a little more time and I swear I’ll leave you alone
But tonight I got this jones coming down

It’s 3 o’clock and I woke up with the shakes
So I called you up for the remedy
I know I woke ya, get on up I’m coming over
And don’t be acting like you don’t remember me

This is how the song begins. This man isn’t over a relationship that has ended, calls his ex at three in the morning and demands that she wake up because he is going to be there. Not only that, but he’s clearly not welcome. In the background of the song, there are voices like a phone call, making it clear that she has deleted his number.This song suggests that it is ok for this man to go over to the house of a woman who doesn’t want him around. That makes me uncomfortable. Yet I love to dance to it. I love when it comes on even though the lyrics creep me out.

In my collection there’s another offender:

When she leaves
She’s just asking
To be followed
When she walks out
All she wants is
To be lead
All my boys say
She’s just asking for it
And I aint sayin’ nothing
She couldn’t care less
Wearing that dress

Do I even need to explain why this might be problematic? Catchy catchy song though.

Now I have to reconcile how much I want to dance to these songs with how icky they make me feel. If I am playing music, should I play them because everything else about them is great, and dancers so rarely listen to the lyrics? If I start to keep some of my songs out of rotation where do I draw the line. Does that awesome song about a woman murdering her husbands count?

I wish that I lived in a world where a song like that was met with shock and disgust rather than being totally normal.

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Filed under music, socialization

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