The times they are a-changin’. Or perhaps not.
Many popular songs from the past decade promote misogyny, racism, and violence in various forms. “Blurred Lines” was deemed “rape-y” by many. Iggy Azalea has been pegged as a “culture vulture.” Countless songs sung by men promote cheating on women or having multiple women at the same time — and this is not limited to hip-hop.
Social issues such as sexism, racism, and homophobia have been present in music for decades. Music is a mirror to the times in which it was made, and it can reflect the problematic ways of thinking as much as it can reflect the good. The following songs from years past are no exception. They may have gained tons of airplay back in the day, but with discussion-sparking platforms such as Twitter and Facebook today, their lyrics would not fly in 2015.
“Tonight’s The Night” by Rod Stewart
Questionable lyrics: “Let me pour you a good long drink / Ooh baby don’t you hesitate ’cause / Tonight’s the night … Don’t deny your man’s desire / You’d be a fool to stop this tide … Don’t say a word my virgin child / Just let your inhibitions run wild”
Because the best way to get to a woman’s heart (or wherever else) is to get her drunk and tell her to shut up.
“Into The Night” by Benny Mardones
Questionable lyrics: “She’s just sixteen years old / Leave her alone they say / Separated by fools / Who don’t know what love is yet”
This isn’t Aladdin. You can’t just roll out a carpet and try to take a 16-year-old girl “into the night.” Unless you want to go to jail, you better wait until she’s legal, and when she is, the polite thing to do would be to ask her first.
“Possum Kingdom” by The Toadies
Questionable lyrics: “I’ll not be a gentleman / Behind the boathouse / I’ll show you my dark secret … Be my angel / Do you wanna die?”
Between demanding that the love interest “give it up” and threatening to kill her if she doesn’t, this song is terrifying.
“Date Rape” by Sublime
Questionable lyrics: “Come on babe it’s your lucky day / Shut your mouth, we’re gonna do it my way / Come on baby don’t be afraid / If it wasn’t for date rape I’d never get laid”
Sublime lead singer Brad Nowell spoke to Axis Magazine in 1995 about the inspiration for “Date Rape”: “We were at a party a long time ago and we were all talking about how bad date rape was. This guy was like, ’Date rape isn’t so bad. If it wasn’t for date rape I’d never get laid.’ Everyone at the party was bummed out about it, but I was cracking up and I wrote a funny song about it.”
What’s worse: the song or laughing about date rape?
“Brown Sugar” by The Rolling Stones
Questionable lyrics: “Scarred old slaver knows he’s doing alright / Hear him whip the women just around midnight / Brown sugar how come you taste so good? … Just like a black girl should”
Racism and sexism collide.
“Pink Triangle” by Weezer
Questionable lyrics: “Pink triangle on her sleeve … If everyone’s a little queer / Can’t she be a little straight?”
The pink triangle referenced here is thought to refer to the patches the Nazis once used to pinpoint the homosexual prisoners in their concentration camps. It has since been re-appropriated as symbol of gay pride.
“Run For Your Life” by The Beatles
Questionable lyrics: “I’d rather see you dead, little girl / Than to be with another man … Catch you with another man / That’s the end ah little girl”
“Mother’s Little Helper” by The Rolling Stones
Questionable lyrics: “Mother needs something today to calm her down / And though she’s not really ill / There’s a little yellow pill / She goes running for the shelter of a mother’s little helper”
This song wants to push the stereotype of a stay-at-home mother popping pills to get through the day, but the reality is that pills aren’t a “mother’s little helper.”
“Cuddly Toy” by The Monkees
Questionable lyrics: “You’re not the only cuddly toy that was ever enjoyed by any boy … You’re not the only cherry delight that was left out in the night / And gave up without a fight”
Women are not “cuddly toys” or “choo-choo trains” or “cherry delights.” But we are delights. Aren’t we, ladies?
“Young Girl” by Gary Puckett & The Union Gap
Questionable lyrics: “And though you know that it’s wrong to be alone with me / That come on look is in your eyes … Get out of here before I have the time to change my mind / ’Cause I’m afraid we’ll go too far”
Why is a “young girl” supposed to know better than an older man? Is it really a woman’s fault if a man can’t control himself?
“He Hit Me (It Felt Like A Kiss)” by The Crystals
Questionable lyrics: “He hit me and it felt like a kiss … He hit me and I knew he loved me / If he didn’t care for me / I could have never made him mad / But he hit me and I was glad.”
Ladies, no. Absolutely no. If a man hits you and you’re glad about it, we need to talk.