This is the first in a series on song lyrics that disturb the hell out of me. I’m a Triple J listener – the Australian “youth” radio station who play whatever’s being called alternative at any given time – so that’s generally the kind of songs I’ll hear and write about.
Generally what happens is this: I’m driving along, listening to a new song, usually enjoying it – maybe even for the first few times I hear it. And then I really listen to the lyrics, and there’s a grunching moment. There’s rape culture, right there on my radio, right there in the songs crowds are rocking out to at this years’ festivals. Right there in the words being joyfully screamed out from moshpits everywhere. And it’s bloody depressing.
Example 1: Art vs Science and their catchy, bouncy, upbeat, Parlez Vous Francais – so popular that it was this years’ runner-up in the Hottest 100 music poll.
This is an Australian band singing in (reportedly not very good; I’m no judge) French. I’d like to think that the same song with English lyrics wouldn’t have done so well. I suspect I may be wrong.
The translations provided are a conglomerate of opinions found in various places online. If you actually do speak French and I’ve got something wrong, please correct me.
Verse 1: The Champs-Elysees is a busy street
We getting down with everyone we meet
If you understand, then listen to me:
Si’l vous plait ma cherie allez tombez la chemise! (Please my (female) darling, take off your shirt.)
Chorus: Parlez-vous Francais? (Do you speak French?)
Oui! [chorus of cartoonish, squealing, ecstatic-sounding ‘girl’ voices] (Yes!)
Si tu peux le parler allez tombez la chemise (If you can speak/understand [French] then take off your shirt – implication, women only)
Verse 2: Do it now, because you can and I think you should
Do it now, because you can and I told you to
Do it now, because you can, I’ll take mine off too
Do it now, because you can, ‘coz you can
There is a third verse about watching ones’ sexy neighbours with binoculars, but it’s that second verse that chills me. The contrast of the English lyrics to the French, the imperative, authoritative voice, lacking even the pretense of a request, or a suggestion that a woman may indeed wish to take off her shirt for her own reasons. She should do it, and do it now, because the singer told her to. The cartoon girls in the song think it’s a great idea. They sound like they’re having the time of their lives.
I just bet that women in mosh pits when this song is played at a gig have a great time. I can’t imagine that the men around them get any ideas that the women should strip for them if they like it or not, can you?