Top Pop Hit Goes from Bad to Worse

First, the good news: Rapper Lil' Wayne's hit “Lollipop,” a crude celebration of oral sex, finally got knocked out of the top slot on Billboard's Hot 100 chart.


Now, the bad news:  the new top hit, “I Kissed a Girl,” is not exactly the 2008 version of “I Want to Hold Your Hand.”  In fact, “I Kissed a Girl” is even worse than “Lollipop.” 


What could be possibly be worse than a song so offensive it illustrated sexually degrading music in CMI's new study of pop hits, “Listen to Those Lyrics?”

 

A song that celebrates lesbian experimentation, that's what..


“I Kissed a Girl” is sung by a girl, the controversial former gospel singer Katy Perry.  In fact, Perry goes beyond homosexuality to flout as many sexual and social taboos as possible: drinking to excess, same-sex experimentation, infidelity, the casual nature of the hook-up and sexual objectification. 


The lyrics speak for themselves:


            This was never the way I planned, not my intention

            I got so brave, drink in hand, lost my discretion

            It's not what I'm used to, just wanna try you on

            I'm curious for you caught my attention


            I kissed a girl and I liked it

            The taste of her cherry Chapstick

            I kissed a girl just to try it

            I hope my boyfriend don't mind it


            It felt so wrong, it felt so right

            Don't mean I'm in love tonight

            I kissed a girl and I liked it

            I liked it


            No, I don't even know your name, it doesn't matter

            You're my experimental game, just human nature

            It's not what good girls do, not how they should behave

            My head gets so confused, hard to obey


            I kissed a girl and I liked it

            The taste of her cherry Chapstick

            I kissed a girl just to try it

            I hope my boyfriend don't mind it


            It felt so wrong, it felt so right

            Don't mean I'm in love tonight

            I kissed a girl and I liked it

            I liked it


            Us girls we are so magical

            Soft skin, red lips, so kissable

            Hard to resist, so touchable

            Too good to deny it

            It ain't no big deal, it's innocent


            I kissed a girl and I liked it

            The taste of her cherry Chapstick

            I kissed a girl just to try it

            I hope my boyfriend don't mind it


            It felt so wrong, it felt so right

            Don't mean I'm in love tonight

            I kissed a girl and I liked it

            I liked it


Perry's rise to pop stardom on the wave of a titillating song is a story that's been played out before by other musicians. (Madonna's “Like a Virgin” ring a bell?)  The difference is that Perry used to be a Christian recording artist who went by the name of Katy Hudson and sang lyrics like “They say there's a place that I can hide in the shadow of your wings/Oh Lord, bring me to this place of refuge.” Now she's writhing around wearing lingerie in a video on MTV, singing “It's not what good girls do, not how they should behave/My head gets so confused, hard to obey.” 


It's no wonder Perry's so confused. She was raised in, as she calls it, “a very pseudo-strict religious household” by parents who were both pastors.  In a 2002 Seventeen magazine article about Christian rocks bands, she shared that, “one night my boyfriend and I went a little too far and I felt like I'd fallen so far away from God.  I doubted myself and my strength.  I was so weak at the time in my relationship with Christ.”  That's a far cry from wanting to kiss another girl “just to try it.”


Of course, the music industry is embracing Perry's wild-child persona, if not necessarily her music.  Joe Levy, editor in chief of Blender magazine told ABC News:


I don't think she fits in with other Christian music artists who transition to pop success.  She didn't transition – she stopped dead, reinvented herself, became an artist who has nothing to do with Christian music.  It's a footnote in her career.  It looks like who she is now is who she wants to be, slightly outrageous and very cute.  And right now that's working.


Rolling Stone called “I Kissed a Girl” “a vanilla recounting of [Perry's] chick-on-chick exploits” and gave her album two stars, but couldn't resist mentioning the fact that she “bucks the WWJD'ers with a debut full of mall-punky, grrl-power tunes.”   


MTV.com reporter James Montgomery noted that Perry “is refreshingly unapologetic and unashamed of her past, even if it doesn't gibe with her present status as a potty-mouth pop princess.” Is being a Christian singer something people should be ashamed of? 


Upon learning that Perry wasn't allowed to listen to anything but Christian music as a child, MTV ran a separate article called “Five Albums The Pastor's Daughter Needs to Hear.” The list included Guns N' Roses' “Appetite for Destruction” because “it's a classic, but over the course of the album's 12 tracks they glorify drug addiction, alcoholism and violence – with a little misogyny sprinkled in for good measure.” 


Unsurprisingly, Christian media outlets are less than thrilled with the new direction of Perry's career.  Russ Breimeir reviewed Perry's 2001 Christian album “Katy Hudson” for Christianity Today and called her “a remarkable young talent,” and “a gifted songwriter in her own right who will almost certainly go far in this business.”  Seven years later, he told ABC News “you can still hear some of the talent that was there before, but it just sounds like she's doing whatever she can to get noticed.  And that's unfortunate.”   Breimeir also stated, “I think she's going to be a flash in the pan.” 


PluggedIn, an entertainment source for parents produced by Focus on the Family, sees the danger of the messages contained in songs such as “I Kissed a Girl.” The takeaway message, according to Senior Associate Editor Adam Holtz, is “that our sexuality is a malleable commodity that can be reshaped at will. The only thing that matters, the song ultimately says, is whether you feel good. No need to worry about who might get used or objectified in the process.” 


Colleen Raezler is a research assistant at the Culture and Media Institute, a division of the MediaResearchCenter