Kick-ass British chanteuse Lily Allen just released this video for her latest single, “Hard Out Here,” which strikes me as both a sharp-eyed commentary on mod pop culture and also, in its way, crazy hot.
Now, let’s get one thing straight: Lily gets me all hot and bothered, which seems all too typical (I’m a dude who is into ladies) but I swear has nothing to do with the way she looks, which is shall we say appealing. But then, I hardly ever contemplate her looks because I’m too busy listening to her songs and thrilling again to her insouciant voice and — more important — how smart and funny she is.
You’ve got to check Allen out if you haven’t yet. Her first two albums, Still, Alright, and It’s Not Me, It’s You are little masterpieces of danceable social observation and cultural criticism. A significant number of her songs include the singer describing a man she’s known who she then deconstructs into little quivering parts. And they all have it coming! The obnoxious guy at the bar (Are you stupid or just a little bit slow?/…it’s not going to happen/Not in a million years!) her stoned-and-shiftless little brother (Oh little brother please refrain from doing all that/I’m trying to help you out so you can stop being a twat…). And on and on, right up to the sap of a boyfriend she dumps in the devastating “Not Big.” I never wanted it to end this way/You’ve only got yourself to blame/I’m gonna tell the world you’re rubbish in bed now/And that you’re small in the game.
Why do I love Lily Allen so much? Because she can whip any man in this bar. Probably with half of her brain tied behind her back.
No matter, the seduce-you-to-death video she’s got now — with its squadrons of lycra-and-leather-clad twerk-bots — is stirring up all kinds of feminist outrage from critics wondering if the “Hard Out Here” video isn’t maybe protesting too much about sexist cliches propagated in pop culture (Miley, Robin, ad infinitum) while simultaneously using the very same tropes to its own OMG-look-at-that-girl’s-ass benefit.
But while I have absolutely no problem with feminists or hard-eyed feminist critiques of popular culture I’m still taking Allen, and “Hard Out Here,” for their word. Which is only fair when you consider Allen’s oeuvre as a whole. Consider the brutal boy-bashing noted above. Consider Allen’s equally unsparing analyses of greed culture (“The Fear”) and the Bush administration (“Fuck You”).
Mostly though, consider that sex — and being sexy — isn’t always a phallocentric weapon for diminishing women. Of course it can be. Power-obsessed guys (no shortage of them) take whatever they can get as long as it marginalizes someone else. But sex can also be empowering for women and as the men behind the men detonated in “Not Big,” “Knock ’em Out” et. al can surely attest, anyone who mistakes Lily Allen for a victim will live to regret it.
Don’t just take it from me. Here’s Lily herself responding to her critics (some of whom are clearly upset about the number of non-Caucasian dancers in the video, too):
Privilege, Superiority and Misconceptions
1. If anyone thinks for a second that I requested specific ethnicities for the video, they’re wrong.
2. If anyone thinks that after asking the girls to audition, I was going to send any of them away because of the colour of their skin, they’re wrong.
3. The message is clear. Whilst I don’t want to offend anyone. I do strive to provoke thought and conversation. The video is meant to be a lighthearted satirical video that deals with objectification of women within modern pop culture. It has nothing to do with race, at all.
4. If I could dance like the ladies can, it would have been my arse on your screens; I actually rehearsed for two weeks trying to perfect my twerk, but failed miserably. If I was a little braver, I would have been wearing a bikini too, but I do not and I have chronic cellulite, which nobody wants to see. What I’m trying to say is that me being covered up has nothing to do with me wanting to disassociate myself from the girls, it has more to do with my own insecurities and I just wanted to feel as comfortable as possible on the shoot day.
5. I’m not going to apologise because I think that would imply that I’m guilty of something, but I promise you this, in no way do I feel superior to anyone, except paedophiles, rapists murderers etc., and I would not only be surprised but deeply saddened if I thought anyone came away from that video feeling taken advantage of,or compromised in any way.
6. Ask the ladies yourselves @shalaeuroasia @monique_Lawz @ceodancers @TempleArtist@SelizaShowtime @melycrisp