Tag Archives: music

Not a California Gurl

I admit it: I love to listen to CHR—Contemporary Hit Radio, i.e. the Top 40 station. One of the best things about living in California (after the weather) is the fact that rather than normal Top 40 stations, we have “Rhythmic Contemporary” stations. This means, basically, that you get all the great pop, R&B songs, and hip-hop songs of a normal CHR station, still skipping some of the hip-hop that would play on an “urban only” station (which generally tends to be the hip-hop I enjoy less), and skipping most of the rock and country songs that other CHR stations would play.

This last part is key. I do certain rock (e.g., U2), but I don’t do other rock (e.g., Nickelback). I appreciate a radio station that doesn’t make me listen to any more rock than I have to, since I tend to dislike more than I like. Unfortunately, however, even my beloved AMP radio is making me listen to other disgusting excuses for art. Indeed, Katy Perry’s “California Gurls,” does not even perform well against other dumb and potentially offensive songs. Yes, even “Carry Out” by Timbaland and Justin Timberlake ranks far, far above “California Gurls” in my mind.

I dislike “California Gurls” for many reasons. First, its spelling. Secondly, it’s labeling women as girls. (Thanks, Jennifer Hagin, for ruining my ability to mindlessly accept colloquialisms.) Thirdly, Katy Perry’s barely cloud-obscured nudity in the video. Fourthly, Katy Perry’s costumes because they are just sexist and disgusting. Fifthly, the song’s insinuation that men should pick their women based on geographic location and that women are valuable as members of a group rather than as individuals. “Carolina Girls” may be a much more innocent song, but I’ve always hated it, too—along with the thousands of “Carolina Girls” t-shirts sold at UNC Student Stores every year.

One of the most frustrating things about “California Gurls,” however, is the aspect of it that is true. Of course most women here don’t walk around in bikinis, drive Jeeps, or have sex on the beach on a regular basis. However, there is something different about women (and many men) in California: an increased concern with appearance. In California it’s easy to walk around in what you think are normal-people clothes and feel like a total bum. As my friend Kate noticed on a visit here, people seem to dress up even just to visit the mall. After traffic, this is probably my least favorite part of living in Los Angeles county. There are plenty of kind-hearted and intelligent people out here, but the stereotype that L.A. residents are shallow, materialistic, and always sporting the latest styles sometimes feels very true.

Back in college, the dominant culture was that of the over-achiever. It was this culture that our InterVarsity staff encouraged us to struggle against—that we might find our value in God’s love for us rather than our achievements. Here, I wish we had a few more prophetic voices encouraging us to not buy into the SoCal mentality. I wish this partly for selfish reasons—so that I wouldn’t feel as out of place just because I don’t wear make-up and could stand to lose a few pounds—but I also want it because I hate seeing the damage that comes from misplaced priorities. Unfortunately, L.A. sometimes seems to specialize in cultural flaws (though, of course, it also has its share of cultural beauty), and it can be difficult to know how to adequately address a culture’s influence in our own lives, much less help anyone else with this task. Still, I think this is a task we are called to, as we try to better love God, ourselves, and our neighbors.

With no further brilliance to share, I will conclude by recommending two recent books that I have not yet read: Unsqueezed, an entertaining book about culture and body image by Margot Starbuck (author of The Girl in the Orange Dress, a fantastic memoir on adoption, divorce, and God as Father) and Under the Influence, a look at the culture of California and its influence on broader American culture.

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“Around You” by Ingrid

Today was an Ingrid Michaelson day.  I had three of her albums on shuffle/repeat from 6pm and 1 am, at which point I fell asleep on the couch listening to her her smooth vocals.  This was actually why I didn’t want to get in my bed:  If I stayed on the couch, I felt like I could leave the music on.  (I admit that didn’t really make sense, since I easily could have moved my speakers into my bedroom and turned the volume down and put the repeat off.)

While I’ve played Ingrid around my apartment before, this was the first time I was alone and doing relatively nothing (cleaning up a bit and catching up with old friends on the phone/online) with her on, and I think it meant I actually heard her lyrics (while chatting more than on the phone, I suppose).  I haven’t been an Ingrid fan for too long—my friends Lindsay and Kate were all into her in college, and I thought I didn’t like her until Kate pushed her on me again during Thanksgiving break.  (I don’t really remember what specifically happened.  But we listened to her again.)  Suddenly in December, I’d decided I liked her and wanted Kate to burn me her three albums.

One of my favorite songs of the moment (oh, but there are many!  expect some more song posts soon) is “Around You” from her oldest album, Slow the Rain.  I’ll let you read, then offer my thoughts.

“Around You” by Ingrid Michaelson/Slow the Rain

I call you my friend
And thats all that I do
Why do I have to pretend
To find ways to be around you?

You’ve been there all along
Holding my hand like you do.
Why do I feel that its wrong
To love to be around you?

And I think I’m losing my mind
maybe I’ve been hopelessly blind to your beauty
And you have a sweet sinful smile
I’m in trouble
Cause you turn me upside down and around and around

Do you feel what I feel? Well?
Do you feel this way too?
That every wound seems to heal when I am around you

And I must be losing my mind Maybe I have been hopelessly blind to your beauty.
And you have a sweet sinful smile
I’m in trouble
You turn me upside down and around and around and around

And I must be losing my mind maybe you have a sweet sinful smile
I’m in trouble
Cause you turn me upside down and around and around
Turn me upside down and around and around
Turn me upside down and around and around

My feet don’t touch the ground when I’m around you
When I’m around you you you you you

In a way, I can’t relate to this song at all, because it seems to imply that one day the song’s “narrator”  suddenly realized she was in love with one of her best friends.  I don’t actually know any case when that’s happened–in my experience when people fall in love with one of their best friends, it’s something that begins at the beginning.  So I don’t actually buy that this happens all the time in reality.  But it makes a really good song.

I do feel almost everyone relates to the theme of having a friend that they’re actually in love with yet not knowing precisely what to do about it.  There’s a lot here about inner conflict–loosing your mind in not only your intense attraction to the person, but also the complexity of the situation–and I think that’s something many people feel, at least for a season, as they try to sort out their feelings.  There’s this nice intensification in the piano and vocals during the initial part of the refrain, which really adds depth to this painful hope.

While in real life we all want these situations to have some closure (even if it’s “bad”), I like that there’s no closure in the song.  It captures the real emotion people feel in the moment, both the delight of love and the insecurity of indefinition in the relationship.

The piano here is simple and gorgeous.

I would like to dedicate this brief song analysis to Michael Adams, who may not be in love with me but is certainly in love with every other woman on the planet.  ;o)

Sidenote: The next song on the album, “Charlie,” has a couple extremely catchy parts I must mention, including “with the green lunchbox,” “lunch was the happiest 45 minutes of the day,” and “hello, hello, charlie, hello.”  These parts are fantastic precisely because Ingrid sings them so beautifully.

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“And now for something completely different!”

Soon after my first post, I sat mesmerized in front of a television screen—a rare sight if you know my viewing habits, or lack thereof.  The Opening Ceremonies of the Olympics blew me away, and I had a rush of thoughts about this super-cool gathering of people from around the world.  It may not explicitly worship Jesus, but I think it’s strikingly in line with many Christian priorities like peace, cultural diversity, and rejoicing in the bodies God has given us.  My first “real” post, I decided would be about the Olympics.  I was quite excited!

But then…

*Duhn! Duhn! Duhn!*  I checked my Google Reader the next day, only to see that Al Hsu hadn’t just written a blog post on this very topic, but a whole article—yes, a whole freakin’ article for both online and print readers—for Christianity Today.  (And, yes, I am bitter.  The column is definitely worth reading, though.)  I decided I didn’t have anything new or intelligent to add to his discussion of the connection of the Olympics with God’s reign, so I have sat for several days wondering what I might write.

I’ve decided to begin with A Task:

Name two songs.

Both should mean something to you that is very different from what you think they mean to a significant number of listeners.

Preferably, choose one from “inside” a group that you’re a part of (religious, cultural, geographic, political, etc.).  (For example, maybe you’re a feminist, but you find a “feminist”-leaning song that actually seems completely anti-feminist to you.)  Then choose another song from “outside” a group you’re a part of (maybe the same group?) that seems oddly in line with how you see the world.  Perhaps one of the most “misogynistic” rappers around has just released a single that speaks to you about women’s dignity.  Post snippets of lyrics if you want and try not to completely bash anyone’s choices just yet.  Chatter expressing dis/agreement is ok, though.

Go!

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