Saturday, August 12, 2006

"Tell that man you...kind of let other people make big decisions for you/
I don't think he understand you...kind of let other people make big decisions for you."
Fewer things have had a more fluctuant love-hate relationship with me than Kelis' "Bossy." I loved it after hearing it once, hated it after hearing it a hundred times, loved it again a hundred times after that, and hated it shortly thereafter. Around here, it plays on "urban" radio (hooray for euphemisms) every fifteen minutes, so it's often on my mind on the way to work. And I've realized that the element of the song keeping me uncertain is that it actually isn't about being bossy at all.
The verses essentially mean nothing. But take a closer look at this chorus:
A) "I'm bossy
B) I'm the first girl to scream on a track
C) I switched up the beat of the drum
D) That's right, I brought all the boys to the yard
E) And that's right, I'm the one that's tattooed on his arm
F) I'm bossy
G) I'm the bitch you love to hate
H) I'm the chick that's raised the stake
I) I told Young Stunna he should switch to BAPE
J) I'm back with an 808
K) 'cause I'm bossy"

Point A) Initial declaration of bossiness. Assertively declaring you're a boss is the first step to being one. Well done.

Point B) This is a reference to the song "Caught Out There," in which she brazenly screamed the chorus. While the act of screaming is pretty bossy, she emphasizes that it was "on the track," which adds a level of performance to the claim. Furthermore, she probably did it at the insistence of the producers, The Neptunes. If Pharrell and Chad told her to scream, that's not bossy.

Point C) No you didn't. You didn't produce whichever song you're alluding to. You didn't switch up a drum pattern. The producer did. Probably Pharrell and Chad.

Point D) She did bring all the boys to the yard, but it was unclear from the lyrics what kind of yard that was or why she would bring people there. A lack of clarity in one's speech is not bossy. Also, "Milkshake," the song containing that line, was written by Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo.

Point E) Okay. Her husband Nas tattooed her name on his arm. I'll give her that. Plus, she's responding to a 50 Cent jab at Nas for doing that, so fighting Nas' battles for him is bossy as hell.

Point F) The more one has to repeat that she's bossy, the more it brings into question whether or not she really is. Insecurity about bossiness, or lack thereof? Not bossy.

Point G) This line puzzled me from the beginning. Is Kelis really the type of public figure people love to hate? Many people like her, many people don't like her, and many people are completely indifferent. Exalting yourself, in a matter-of-fact way, as one of those few people that the American public love to hate also smacks of insecurity and self-importance. Not bossy.

Point H) I guess bossy people raise stakes. Whatever.

Point I) She told Young Stunna that he should wear clothes made by BAPE, the company owned by Pharrell Williams. Not really bossy or relevant.

Point J) Once again, the producer of this song, Bangladesh, would bring or not bring the 808. You have nothing to do with it and are not bossy in that regard.

Point K) I have come to the conclusion that you're not.
By my count, this chorus has a bossy/not bossy ratio of eight-to-three. It's hardly the autocratic anthem it's meant to be. It's like writing a song about Mo Clarett and naming it "Dependable and Prudent." If anything, the song proves that Kelis is pliant and coachable in the hands of Pharrell, which is what she set out to disprove.
It reminds me of that film Red Eye from last year. The whole time Rachel McAdams' character is supposed to be this strong, sensible woman who makes smart decisions and is tough under stress. But in the end, you find out that she is that way because she got raped and was forced to better protect herself. It's the opposite of feminism: women can only become strong once they're subjugated by and broken down by men. She and Kelis
are only bossy with the help of men telling them what to do. Thanks, ladies.


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