I have to start this post by thanking Bad Wolves’s frontman Tommy Vext (not that he’s likely to read this) for posting about this subject on his Instagram story yesterday. Otherwise I might have missed this very interesting tib-dit of news. What’s the news, you ask? Oh, just that NPR named Cardi B’s WAP the #1 song of 2020. If, like me up until this morning, you’ve never actually heard the song, trust me when I say you haven’t missed much, both musically & lyrically. However, as soon as I googled the news to confirm that Tommy’s post was in fact real & not satire, I decided that this subject is actually extremely complex & very worthy of its own blog post, despite the fact that as a general rule I cannot stand Cardi B, both as a person & as a “musician.”
There are so many things I want to say about both the song itself as well as NPR’s decision to name it the #1 song of the year. I’ll begin with the latter since that’s less complex. Let me start by saying that I’m honestly not surprised that NPR gave it such an honor seeing as it is almost certainly the most controversial song of the year. Controversy is always newsworthy so that alone is worth something. Add to that the fact that the song is by two black women & professes to be about female sexual empowerment… Well, let’s just say that in today’s world of virtue signaling, extreme feminism, victim points, & cancel culture, NPR might be afraid to choose anything BUT this song. And if they chose it based on pure popularity, well, as much as it pains me to admit it, I have no doubt that it WAS one of the most popular songs of the year.
Honestly, I don’t care too much what NPR chooses as their song of the year. I don’t listen to NPR anyway & their opinion isn’t one I particularly value. But as someone who lives & breathes music, it does pain me to think of all the truly amazing music that was created this year that was overlooked in favor of WAP. But honestly that’s enough about that. In reality maybe I should thank NPR for choosing this song because it gave me a pretext for writing this post. This is a post I’ve been composing in my head off & on for months now, ever since I first read about this song. But life being as busy as it is, when I’ve had the time to blog I’ve found other more pressing issues to discuss. Now, however, I’ve got a pretext that just cannot be ignored any longer.
So, let’s dig in. I’ll admit my initial response when I read about Cardi B’s WAP was revulsion. I read the lyrics & never made it any further. In fact I’d never actually heard the song or seen the video until this morning. After all I don’t listen to the radio or follow rap as a genre. But I forced myself to listen to the song this morning & watch the accompanying video because I knew it wouldn’t be fair to write this post without doing so. Anyway, as I always try to do whenever something immediately repulses me, I took a step back & asked myself why. Why does this song repulse me? Why are so many women just as, or more, offended by it than men? Music about sex is nothing new. Not even remotely. What’s so different about this song?
A couple things come to mind. (Remember, this is all my opinion & I’ve never implied that my opinions are gospel.) First, the lyrics are not exactly eloquent, to be put it mildly. But it IS Cardi B & from what little I know of her other “music,” that’s pretty standard for her. Regardless, as someone who values grammar & eloquence, I can’t help but be annoyed by that.
Second, as much as I love sex, I’ll be the first to admit that I have no interest in a song about a big ass dick. Or a hard ass dick. Or whatever. Just, no- no thanks, I’ll pass. And I think the majority of women (& men) would agree with me on that. As much as I am not particularly bothered or grossed out by human anatomy- I am a nurse after all so I’ve seen A LOT of naked people as it’s just part of the job- I just don’t find songs about body parts all that interesting. I don’t necessarily find them GROSS like a lot of people do, but I don’t find them interesting either. I think a huge portion of society feels the same way & that in no way makes us prudes.
My third problem with this song is what is probably the most famous line from it: “I don’t cook, I don’t clean, But let me tell you how I got this ring.” Now, I realize this song was not aimed at little girls, but I cannot help but be troubled by this line, even as an adult. I certainly don’t think women should be chosen as wives (or men as husbands) based solely on their ability to cook or clean (those are life skills that frankly everyone should have anyway), but it shouldn’t be based just on sex either. What kind of message is that sending? I thought we as women had been fighting for millennia now to be seen as something more than sexual objects & I can’t help but see this line as placing us squarely back into that box. And I for one am not ok with that!
I’ll also be the first to admit that rap is my least favorite style of music, so I am perhaps a bit biased against the song from the very beginning. It just isn’t something that really speaks to me. I like a few rap songs here & there, mostly by MGK but also a few others, but in general it just isn’t my thing. Yet as much as I’ve heard that this song is so catchy, I have to admit when listening to it today I didn’t find it catchy or musically interesting at all. I’m also bothered by the constant refrain “There’s some whores in this house.” I’ve read that that line is a reference to an older rap song but if so, the reference is lost on me since I’m not a rap fan, & regardless I just find the line disturbing. But I’ll also admit that it could be Cardi B’s way of reclaiming the word, like women do with “bitch” or black men do with “n*****.” I might be giving her too much credit here, seeing as she was actually a stripper & has apparently bragged about stealing things from men- you read those things & it’s easy to dismiss anything she has to say- but the fact of the matter is she may be smarter than I’m inclined to give her credit for being.
Just in case you think I only criticize black women for sexually charged music, let me confess that I am not a fan of Halestorm’s Do Not Disturb. As some of you know, Halestorm is one of my all time favorite bands, but I just found that song musically & lyrically lackluster. (If you aren’t familiar with the song, it’s about a threesome.) Furthermore I am equally disturbed, perhaps moreso actually, by some other sexually explicit songs such as Bad Girlfriend by Theory of a Deadman, Blurred Lines by Pharrell Williams, Get Low by Lil John, & Candy Shop by 50 Cent. The latter two were extremely popular when I was in high school & it puzzles me that some people who loved those songs then are now bothered by WAP. I for one find “all you bitches crawl” & many of the other lines in Get Low far more disgusting.
And just in case you think I’m a prude & hate all music that is sexual in nature, here’s a list of songs that I love that are sexually charged, some more explicit than others, but all decidedly more eloquently written than WAP.
Wrecking Ball by Eric Church https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2gnoMAocnbs
Raining on Sunday by Keith Urban https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DgV7RG9Qgvk
Crazy Bitch by Buckherry https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UJ6pLKlU-8Q
Strawberry Wine by Deana Carter (For my Appomattox folks, who else remembers hearing this song at AJ Skateworld?) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Up06CryWQpE
Cotton Candy by Yungblud https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yDeIAllUAWc
Sexual Hallucination by In This Moment (featuring Brent Smith) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Fp4yRDEVyM
Contemptress by Motionless in White (featuring Maria Brink) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R26czZ9ToyQ
Apocalyptic by Halestorm https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1PXkCAiV0Ww
Breathe by Faith Hill https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yCmsZUN4r_s
Fast Friends by The Gallery https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nlRIczaovdw
Angel Eyes by New Year’s Day https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FHmSF-_6xlo (Sexy video!)
Song #3 by Stone Sour https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K73-hmaHPHY
Sex by Rammstein (Granted I’m relying on translations from German on this one) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FmHKMNk3Uhk
Para-noir by Marilyn Manson https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6c_PtrV80GU (A very incisive look at the many reasons why people have sex- which I do not take as Manson condoning all of those reasons. I actually take it as him highlighting how ridiculous some of these things are.)
Eternally Yours by Motionless in White https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TwO0zLLybQ0 (Sexy video!)
Now, here’s where it gets tricky. I’m sure a lot of people reading this have been nodding along this whole time so far. Some of you are probably about to stop nodding along- & that’s ok!
One of the most disturbing things I’ve encountered with this song is how so many women (& men) are so “grossed out” by it. Maybe it’s just because I’m a nurse & tend to view the world through a very scientific lens, but I really have to ask myself why so many people find their own bodies so gross. As I said before, I love sex but I am not interested in a graphic song that worships the phallus. But that being said, if such a song were suddenly topping the charts, I can guarantee you the average man would NOT be saying “Oh, that’s so gross!” It goes back to the fact that women are socialized to be ashamed of their bodies. In a world before birth control, I am much more sympathetic about the fact that this happened. You’re just ignoring the most basic biology if you don’t admit that sex is inherently more dangerous for women. [There are three main reasons for that: pregnancy, rape, & STIs (these are often more dangerous for women if untreated because of their negative impacts on fertility.)] In light of that, it’s really not hard to understand that society has always felt the need to control women’s sexuality more than men’s. It doesn’t make it right or fair- I never said that- but it’s not as illogical as some claim. Of course at the end of the day it takes two to tango, but that’s another blog post for another day.
Furthermore, I read an interview with Megan Thee Stallion, the other rapper featured on WAP, in which she stated that a lot of men find this song threatening because it’s all about female sexual empowerment. Now you can certainly argue that making yourself out to be a sexual object is anything but empowering- & certainly not original or unique- (I’m inclined to agree), BUT Megan does have a valid point. I’d like to think that the majority of men in the modern world appreciate, I daresay even WANT, a woman who is sexually assertive, not just some passive receptacle for their desires. But I do think there are plenty of men out there who still feel like they own sex & the ability to talk about it openly. Certainly I imagine there are plenty of male rappers or other entertainers out there who do not appreciate female rappers barging in on what they view as “their territory,” much less with a song like this. Additionally, in light of the sexually graphic nature of much of rap music, most of which seems to care little for what a woman wants (sexually or otherwise), maybe Cardi B’s WAP is reactionary- her way to try to flip the situation around so to speak. I’m not sure it rings true from someone with her history, but I cannot deny that it’s a valid concept.
Having said all that, there are far more eloquent ways one can express & even celebrate female desire than a song such as WAP. Just because some men have stooped to the level of writing incredibly graphic songs about their anatomy doesn’t mean women should be encouraged to do the same. Nor should men encouraged to keep doing it! Ella Fitzgerald, also a black woman, actually sung a very eloquent song about female sexual desire over sixty years ago (though I’ll admit she did not write it). Thanks to one of my closest friends for turning me on to this song because it’s perfect for this post (pun NOT intended!). You can check it out here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1fzZ4l2H5-w.
At the end of the day, whether she intended to or not, Cardi B has certainly stirred up a lot of intriguing conversations about a decidedly complex & controversial topic with this song. And that alone is newsworthy. Would I choose it as the #1 song of the year? Absolutely not. But I cannot write it off as 100% trash either, as much as part of me wants to do exactly that. After all, I’ve often said that the best art is the kind that makes us ask deep questions about life & challenges us to broaden our horizons. And whether we like it or not, she has done exactly that…
Also, if anyone wants to continue the WAP trend, may I suggest the following?:
Big Ass Dick (BAD)
Hard Ass Dick (HAD)
Big Ass Titties (BAT)
I’ll stop before anyone takes these suggestions seriously.