Friday, January 18, 2008

Bon Jovi, Britney and Blogging

First, a thank you to John Scalzi for hosting the symposium on the semiotics of hair bands. If only it had been held a day earlier, I could've used it in my class when we discussed the different types of heavy metal. I particularly like the reaction against short hair of punk music theory.

Second, today we wrapped up the 90's and 00's in class, including a look at Britney Spears' "...Baby One More Time". All of my students had grown up with this song, since it came out when they were in 4th or 5th grade. They had heard it hundreds or thousands of times. Yet none of them knew that it was about boyfriend-on-girlfriend abuse. Once I pointed it out, they could all hear the references in the lyrics. "How was I supposed to know that something wasn't right... Give me a sign/Hit me baby one more time." They still couldn't hear the edge in her voice created by the electronic manipulation and parallel chords in the backing vocals, showing her conflicted tension at wanting to please her abusive boyfriend. How about you?

Third, a question on blogging etiquette: I received an offer to list my blog on this other person's blogroll in exchange for listing his blog on my blogroll. While that was normal behavior a few years ago at the start of blogging, I have the slight suspicion that it isn't as kosher today. Blogrolls can be regarded as indicating different things. It could be a complete list of blogs the blogger reads regularly. It could be a list of the most important blogs on that topic. It could be a comprehensive list of all blogs on that topic. Or it could be a circular community of compensatory linking blogs. For social blogs, I can see the appropriateness of the last type, but for more professional, topic-oriented, or academic blogs, I think one of the first three types is better. I've been striving for a comprehensive list, though I admit I have slacked on adding new blogs recently or checking the list for dead links. What do you see as appropriate blogrolling behavior?


Daniel Wolf said...


I think that the consensus is that a link within a blog item is more important than a blogroll listing, but comprehensive blogrolls are appropriate for more academic blogs and blogs that aim to cover clear fields. Since I fit into neither of those categories, I'm happy to blogroll only the blogs I read faithfully.

Patty said...

I always wondered about that Britney song. I've never actually heard the whole thing, but had seen some of the lyrics. I was perplexed! (And bothered.)

As to blogrolls. If I want to add a blog that seems a bit on the personal side I ask the blogger for permission. If it's a more public blog I don't bother. Maybe I'm wrong about that, though? I never ask for someone to respond by putting my blog up at their site ... just seems wrong to me to say, "If I do this would you do that?" kind of thing. I put up blogs I like and read. It isn't about my getting more hits, actually. I'm just trying to recommend blogs to my small number of readers.

But what the heck do I know? I'm an oboe player. ;-)

Anonymous said...

Regarding the Britney song, I always took the phrase "Hit me baby one more time" to be an invitation or challenge. I never actually listened to the song in full, nor seen the video that may or may not have been made for it. That naturally puts me at a disadvantage.

I would argue, however, that in this case there may be the issue of presentation over message. Most of Britney Spears' most well known songs are dance/pop numbers and probably ended up covering over the message of the lyrics. Also, I'd point out that Sting's "I'll Be Watching You" is about a stalker, yet is commonly mistaken for a love song and often played at weddings.

Sometimes people just hear what makes them feel good.

Anonymous said...

I've heard that theory about the Britney song before and I just can't buy it. The lyrics are certainly vague enough that one could read into them whatever one wants to think, but there's certainly nothing overt in them to suggest the song is about abuse.

It might be a case of generational disconnect. See the phrase "hit me" and the instinct is to view it in the most literal sense, and it colors the interpretation of the rest of the lyrics. But "hit me" to those under the age of thirty (give-or-take) has a variety of meanings - the primary ones being contact/call ("hit me back later on my cell, dude!") and - how family-friendly is this blog? - let's just say "hit" means "make love to" in today's youthspeak. "Yo, I hit that shorty last night!" or, as I was informed in a bar one evening, "You ain't gonna be hittin' this fiiiine a-- tonight, honey." (Nice of her to leave open the potential of some other night, though...)

You get the idea. And that's in addition to the more generic, musical, "hit me with that funky beat" a la James Brown.

It's always seemed fairly obvious to me the song was carefully crafted such that the surface meaning - for young girls - would be a song of plaintive lost love where the narrator is waiting to hear from the boy who left her because she didn't realize there were problems, but now she does and she wants him back, oh baby baby! But the subtext - for males between the ages of 16 and 30 - would be a terribly lonely 16-year-old girl begging for makeup sex. And perhaps for those of us over 30 there might be a kinky little allusion to a cheerleader who wants an ickle wickle spanky-poo. If that's not a recipe for a hit song, I don't know what is.

It's Phil Spector 101: theoretically, every love song should really be about sex. (Supposedly "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling" was inspired by his wife's complaint that he didn't go down on her anymore, but he wound up retooling it for The Righteous Brothers)

Unsavory as you may find a thinly-veiled sex song from a horny 16-year-old, it's still a far cry from "He Hit Me (And It Felt Like A Kiss)" (which was by Phil Spector, go figure...)