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Lily Allen’s back (finally), and she’s got the world in an uproar.
Allen’s new single, “Hard Out Here,” broke onto the music scene Nov. 12, when her official YouTube channel released the video everyone’s been talking about: four minutes of booty, more or less. Allen sings and sways uncomfortably in the midst of several scantily-clad ladies twerking, smacking each other and pouring alcohol on themselves.
It’s hard not to view “Hard Out Here” as a direct response to Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines,” the inexplicable hit of the summer. There are the mostly naked girls; there’s the occasional lyrical shout-out (“Have you thought about your butt, who’s gonna tear it in two?” vs. “I’ll give you something big enough to tear your a** in two”); and there is, of course, Lily Allen dancing in front of some seriously sassy balloons.
But we’d be doing Allen a disservice if we assumed it was only a response to one single released by one misguided record label.
“There’s a glass ceiling to break, uh huh, there’s money to make,” Allen sings at the beginning, letting us know that this song is about much more than one well-dressed lech: It covers the inherent sexism of the entire music industry. Allen is calling out every individual and institution actively objectifying and suppressing women. It’s hardly Robin Thicke’s fault that he just happens to embody everything that is wrong and twisted about the music industry. (That was sarcasm. It’s entirely his fault.)
Male artists don’t seem to release music videos anymore without including at least a little female nudity. Female artists can’t seem to be scrutinized by male execs and critics for anything more dignified than how they’d look nude. For crying out loud, people only stopped commenting on Adele’s weight after her arms were literally overflowing with Grammys.
Even more destructive is the recent trend of sexualizing and objectifying women of color in a white artist’s performance (thanks, Miley). Allen has been receiving a lot of beef for her use of primarily black backup dancers in the “Hard Out Here” video, but the people dealing the beef don’t seem to know what satire is. Allen’s dancers bust moves so provocative that they cross the line from sexy to off-putting. They grab their crotches and spank each other in some gloriously realized slow-motion just before Allen sings, “Inequality promises that it’s here to stay.” She’s no longer just addressing sexism; she has extended her commentary way beyond the oppression of white, privileged artists like herself. She’s being — dare we say it out loud? — the kind of intersectional feminist the media needs right now.
A few of the less unreasonable comments on YouTube have mentioned how, even by delivering a well-intended message, Allen has still only contributed some over-sexualized and demeaning footage to the general garbage pile of current music. To which I can only reply: Hey, at least she’s got you talking about it now.
“Sometimes it’s hard to find the words to say,” Allen herself admits in the video. But she goes ahead and says them anyway, because somebody’s got to.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Lauren Thurman at Lauren.Thurman@Colorado.edu.