SNJ: What Do Women Think of These Seemingly Anti-Woman Songs (by Women)?

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A song that seems to celebrate domestic violence, saying "a kiss with a fist is better than none," and a song where a woman declares that she's your prostitute, and you're gonna get some. And not from Rihanna, Katy Perry, Beyonce or Britney, but from two kick-ass indie rock women, whose work I adore. And I'll say right away, I'm completely into both of these songs, and have been since I discovered them early last year.


Here's the first one - Kiss With a Fist, by Florence and the Machine:

You hit me once

I hit you back

You gave a kick

Florence Welch, of Florence and the MachineI gave a slap

You smashed a plate over my head

Then I set fire to our bed, oh


My black eye casts no shadow

Your red eye sees nothing

Your slap don't stick

Your kicks don't hit

So we remain the same

Love sticks

Sweat drips

Break the lock if it don't fit


A kick to the teeth is good for some

A kiss with a fist is better than none


I broke your jaw once before

I spilled your blood upon the floor

You broke my leg in return

So sit back and watch the bed burn

Love sticks

Sweat drips

Break the lock if it don't fit


A kick in the teeth is good for some

A kiss with a fist is better than none


Florence Welch has disavowed the notion that the song's about domestic violence at all, writing on her Myspace page:


"Kiss with a Fist" is NOT a song about domestic violence. It is about two people pushing each other to psychological extremes because they are fighting but they still love each other. The song is not about one person being attacked, or any actual physical violence, there are no victims in this song. Sometimes the love two people have for each other is a destructive force. But they can't have it any other way, because it's what holds them together, they enjoy the drama and pushing each other's buttons. The only way to express these extreme emotions is with extreme imagery, all of which is fantasism and nothing in the song is based on reality.


She elaborated about how she wrote the song at age 16 or 17, when in love for the first time and hanging out with an older crowd, observing their relationships. One couple had a fiery, visceral, intense thing going. "The guy never hit the girl, but I saw her lamp him a couple of times, and she's always give as good as she got."


What does it mean to "lamp" someone? Beats me. Florence is supposedly incredibly shy, and writes about impulses she could never realize in her actual life. 


The symbolic nature of this song has escaped many of its fans, who've commented on Youtube:


"Only she can make domestic violence adorable"


"She puts the fun back in domestic violence"


"Only Florence could make domestic abuse sound so upbeat!"


Some people argue with these interpretations, and much enlightenment is attained by all, thanks to the fruitful intellectual forum that is the youtube comments section. 


Next song: Get Some, by Lykke Li (pronounced "Licky Lee," in case the name is unfamiliar to you).

Lykke LiDon't pull your pants before I go down

Don't turn away, this is my time

Don't make demands, I don't take none

Just say a prayer that it gon' get done


Don't pull your pants before I go down

Don't turn away, this is my time

Like a shotgun needs an outcome

I'm your prostitute, you gon' get some


Go ahead, go way low, where I can do no harm

Go ahead, go way low in my honey lovin' arms

Go ahead, go way low, where I can do no wrong

Got you around my finger like a lonely lover's charm 


And 'cause I can go, I'm gon' go west

Just like a man, I'm the fortress

Like a shotgun, I can't be outdone

I'm your prostitute, you gon' get some


Lykke has said the song isn't about sex at all. She told Pitchfork Magazine: Because you're a woman, the music industry puts you in another corner. I want to be fighting with the men. I want to be amongst the men, topless, throwing things onstage. 


Pitchfork: When you sing, "I'm your prostitute," on "Get Some," are you trying to flip typical ideas of empowerment?


LL: Yeah, it's not about being a sex prostitute. It's about this power play in the war of the sexes. It's a rat race, like "I'm in charge," "No I'm in charge." A lot of times females are in charge they kind of have the pussy power. If they say, "I'm you're prostitute," then they mean, "I'm the power." 


wind-up bird chronicle, by Haruki MurakamiShe goes on to describe how she was reading Haruki Murakami's novel The Wind-up Bird Chronicle (one of my FAVOURITE books, by the way), and took inspiration from a female character who calls herself a "mind prostitute" and goes into a man's consciousness. He thinks they're having sex, she's really stealing information from his head. This kind of thing happens in many of Murakami's stories and novels.


Of the video, she said she wanted it to be "this do-it-yourself, join-the-cult thing where a woman draws you in, and then bam! she's going to crush you."


The youtube comments discussion seems divided between those who see references to the Illuminati in the symbols Li uses, and those who refute this interpretation. Again, respectful dialogue ensues.


As I said at the top of this post, I love both of these artists, and both of these songs. It took writing this post to get me to research what the artists' intentions with the songs were - up till then I was perfectly content to let the songs mean whatever they mean, and be brilliant works of songcraft and performance. Listen to those drums in Get Some! And that furious energy in Kiss with a Fist (which clocks in at barely more than two minutes!)!


People commonly misinterpret songs, no matter how explicit their lyrics - just look at Born in the USA, or American Woman. 


Is the issue different because these artists are women - and indie rock women at that, not pop stars, where it's expected and (unfortunately) accepted that they'll present disempowering messages (as sexually as possible) to sell records? 


Are these songs more acceptable to anyone finding them offensive after reading the explanations of the artists' intentions? 


Does art need to send a positive message and be empowering?


Are artists free to employ deliberate misdirection?


Is there room for art whose meaning isn't clear? 


Are issues like sexual subjugation and domestic violence too touchy to be used when the possibility for misunderstanding is so great? 


Does the fact that I'm a guy mean there's a layer to this issue I can't get? 

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  • Comment Link Ishita Friday, 15 February 2013 17:31 posted by Ishita

    A very well written article.
    And as for, "Are issues like sexual subjugation and domestic violence too touchy to be used when the possibility for misunderstanding is so great?" YES, ofcourse. Artistic liberty is one thing, but these songs you talk of are just stretching it.

  • Comment Link TJ Dawe Wednesday, 20 February 2013 02:42 posted by TJ Dawe

    Thanks Ishita. These songs are stretching it, for sure. That might have been the point. If one of these artists were to counter your comment by saying "I create art, I turn the impulses that come to me into songs, and I can write about whatever I want" - how would you respond?

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