I was chatting with a couple of people at a party last weekend about recent pop hits, a subject on which I am vastly knowledgeable on account of being a mom of teenagers (I use my children as a front to quench my ongoing desire for crappy pop music). As a child I was passionate about AM radio, Casey Kasem’s American Top 40 , American Bandstand, Soul Train, and Solid Gold. I bet my sister and I were some of MTV’s earliest regular viewers. We were so lucky because our stay-at-home mom started working full-time just as Juice Newton was making her début on the newly invented MTV! A happy coincidence for us…
At the party, we confessed to one another the terrible pop songs that we crank in the privacy of our own vehicles, or at the gym on our iPods. Mentioned were such crappy but catchy tunes as “Call Me Maybe” by Carly Rae Jepson, “Party in the USA” by Miley Cyrus and the majority of Ludacris and Nicky Minaj’s rump-shaking catalogue of hits. I mentioned my growing affinity for the song “Whistle” by Flo Rida which started a conversation about sexually explicit lyrics both overt and disguised. My friend commented that she had only just learned the “true” meaning of the lyrics “my milkshake brings all the boys to the yard“, from a popular Kelis song called “Milkshake” released in 2003 (just in case you were living in a cave on a remote island with no radio or tv at that time). She said that it had recently been revealed to her that “milkshake” refers to fellatio! We both agreed that we had assumed it had something to do with jiggling breasts. Later I googled “meaning of milkshake song“. There doesn’t seem to be any consensus on the web as to the meaning of these lyrics. Mentioned as possibilities are: “female mojo”, “the art of moving the body”, “shaking boobies”, “oral sex”, etcetera. Finally I found reference to a clarifying quote from Kelis herself from the December 12, 2004 issue of Observer Music Magazine: “milkshake means whatever people want it to; it was just a word we came up with on a whim, but then the song took on a life of its own.”
There’s nothing new about the ice cream theme of course. Remember the Van Halen song “Ice Cream Man“? In case you didn’t know, it was a cover of a song originally written in 1953 by Chicago blues artist John Brim. Because of the suggestive nature of the lyrics, the original wasn’t released until 1969. Consider:
“I’m your ice cream man, stop me when I’m passin’ by
See now all my flavors are guaranteed to satisfy!”
“And if you let me cool you one time, you’ll be my regular stop”.
What exactly did Mr. Grim, and later, Mr. Roth mean by “flavors” and “cool you” anyway?!? Mysterious, creepy stuff like this boggled my mind as a child.
This summer as I’ve chauffeured my kids around town, I have become aware of the song “Whistle” by Flo Rida which is currently in unrelenting heavy rotation in my car on my children’s pop radio station of choice. Here’s the chorus, which is thankfully the only really intelligible part of the song:
“Can you blow my whistle baby, whistle baby,
Let me know!
Girl I’m gonna show you how to do it
And we start real slow!
You just put your lips together
And you come real close…
Can you blow my whistle baby, whistle baby…
Here we go! “
Takes me back to the summer of ’76, when “Squeeze Box” by The Who was broadcasting from the radio in my parents Ford Gran Torino station wagon. Like me and my kids singing along to the chorus of “Whistle”, I’m pretty sure at one time or another my whole family was at least humming along to:
“Mama’s got a squeeze box she wears on her chest… And when Daddy comes home he never gets no rest…Cause she’s playing all night…. And the music’s all right… Mama’s got a squeeze box Daddy never sleeps at night!”
Now that’s a song about sex, right?! Or…is it simply about a woman playing an accordion at all hours of the night? Doesn’t seem too much different from “Whistle” to me. After all, isn’t it plausible that a grown up man would teach a grown up woman how to blow a whistle and then write a song about it? Or is this song a heavily disguised reference to fellatio?! Who knows.
How about that sweet favorite from my childhood, “Brand New Key” by Melanie:
“Well, I got a brand new pair of roller skates, you got a brand new key, I think that we should get together and try them out you see…”
As a child, I knew TONS about roller skates, but not so much about “keys”, so I was never totally clear on the meaning of this song either, but I think it’s about sex. Then again, maybe it was about roller skating. Again, who knows?
When I first heard “Whistle” I was a little put off by hearing my 12-year-old son and 16-year-old daughter singing along to the lyrics, but soon enough I was singing along with them too. “Whistle”, however, is so much more ambiguous and catchy than another popular radio song of the summer by Usher called “Scream” (are you catching on yet?). After hearing “Scream” a few times, I am grateful to Flo Rida for his tasteful restraint in the chorus of “Whistle”, and for his ability to craft a sortof decent pop song. Consider these lyrics from “Scream”, which are unfortunately intelligible, though completely unintelligent:
“Girl, tonight you’re the prey, I’m the hunter, take you here, take you there, take you under. Imagine me whisperin’ in your ear that I wanna take off all your clothes and put somethin’ on ya” (ewww!!!!)
“I’ve tried to fight it, to fight it, But you’re so magnetic, magnetic, got one life, just live it, just live it, Now relax and get on your back….if ya wanna scream yeah! let me take you there….”
“Relax and get on your back”. Yawn. While I AM a closet Usher fan, this song just doesn’t do it for me lyrically OR musically. If I have to listen to (or join in with) my children singing along to boring, sexually explicit lyrics, PLEASE at least make the music catchy or danceable so I can justify it (think Rick James “Give It To Me Baby” or Prince “Do It All Night”). Just like back in the day, I’m totally down with the hits of summer 2012 if they have a good beat and you can dance to them.
-All images borrowed from Wikipedia