I am a realist about the present, but a romantic in regards to the past. I don’t know why. I can’t explain it. Maybe it’s because I was a history major. Or maybe this is WHY I was a history major. Either way, in the past week one friend called me one of the most rational people she knows while another marveled at the way I can remember intimate details from our past so vividly and excitedly.
It is the latter half of my twisted brain equation that causes me to be a sucker for songs about time or place. Notably, times and places in the past. Give me a “coming of age” country song and I’m hooked. You know the tale. There’s some moonshine, a small town Saturday night, a pair of cut-off jeans and then a little love in the bed of the truck. I may have heard the same story told fifty times before by different artists, but it doesn’t matter. I hear it and I’m carried away into the past, to a place where I have found myself a thousand times, yet have never actually been.
Surprisingly, the most recent song to send me into the past (or at least towards a celebration of it) is not a country song, but rather Icona Pop’s mega-hit anthem, “I Love It.” I can’t get it out of my head. I can’t stop singing it. And I can’t help but turn up the volume when it comes on the radio. In fact, there are times I find myself suffering through other “songs” on the local Top 40 station in hopes that I might have the fortune of hearing this aural cocaine before getting out of the car. (Nevermind that I purchased the song on iTunes AND have it on Spotify. Why are songs so much better on the radio? Another post for another time.)
I first heard the song at Taylor Swift’s (an apologetic of my Taylor Swift fandom will come soon) show in Atlanta when she played it, along with Lenny Kravitz’ “American Woman,” as her entrance music. I admit I didn’t care for this song that all these teenagers were screaming along to, until I heard the line that makes it one of my current favorite songs.
“I Love It” might just be another high-production club hit if not for this seminal line: “You’re from the 70’s, but I’m a 90’s bitch.” If you’re reading this and were born between 1980 and 1990 I don’t have to explain myself. But, just in case, I will. Like I said, I love the radio version of this song. However, today, I noticed that on the radio (thanks, FCC) this line is changed to: “You’re from the 70’s, but I’m a 90’s chick.”
Admittedly, I might be considered a bit liberal when it comes to loose language. I was once told to keep my language between a 5 and a 7 on a 1-10 scale, because a 1-4 is too weak to emphasize anything, and when the situation calls for a 10, I was told that I don’t want to miss the opportunity to punctuate my point due to overuse. I believe I abide by this rule, staying firmly within the 5-7 range. I drift lower at work, reverent occasions, and with my grandparents and drift higher when I’m furious or, as my advisor said, need to make a point.
Back to the song. I understand why things are censored on the radio, television, etc. Certain language need not be heard by certain ears. So, to be clear, this post is not advocating for the lack of censorship. I’m simply stating that I prefer the original lyrics to this song because of what they convey. During the 90’s I was ages 5-15. That’s a pretty transformative decade. Among other things, these ten years saw my entree into my own taste in music. I realized, despite my parents’ best efforts, that there were other types of music than classic rock and Motown. And the music I experienced in the 90’s merited the word “bitch,” not “chick.” Hell (see what I did there), there was even a SONG called “Bitch.” Bless Meredith Brooks; Mom loved that song, even though she wouldn’t let me buy the CD single at age 12.
Over the past few years the pop-cuture powers that be have decided that enough time has gone by that we can now begin to reflect on the 90’s. We have “I Love the 90’s” on VH1. Washed-up 90’s stars are appearing on Celebrity Apprentice, Dancing with the Stars, and other reality shows. And frankly, it was time for a song at least referencing this decade that was so underwhelming to us all at the time, but now feels iconic. I remember saying to my mom in the car one day, “I have to have been born into the WORST musical time period EVER.” This may actually be true. I’m not sure that any one band or artist from the 90’s would be remembered or canonized in pop-culture history if those deciding didn’t feel like they HAD to highlight SOMEONE from the 90’s. But, damnit, “I don’t care. I love it.”
In addition to the aforementioned Meredith Brooks, this decade of music gave us Gwen Stefani, Courtney Love, Mariah Carey, Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, TLC, Alanis Morissette, Sheryl Crow, The Spice Girls, and Shirley Manson…to name a few. Were these women simply “chicks”??? NO! Let me give you a little run down. Two of them fronted bands where the rest of the members were men. You think anyone without a little bitch in ‘em gets away with that? One of them sang break-up songs so cruel and bitter that she made Taylor Swift’s lyrics sound like she’s singing Lionel Richie songs. Another was known for breaking into screaming fits on stage. And just about all of them engaged in some sort of sexual activity that I would not personally condone. Basically, they were BITCHES! And they inspired a generation of girls (who are now young women) to let their inner-bitch surface, even if just for a moment here or there. It was girl power to the max.
Now, anyone reading this probably knows me and knows that in His sovereignty, God knew to provide me with great parents, a wonderful church, and an enormous fear of getting into trouble. So no, I never engaged in any of the above activities in my youth. (I saved my select few screaming fits for home-love you mom.) But you’d better BELIEVE that in my car and on my Discman I was rockin’ some “Don’t Speak,” “You Oughta Know,” “Oops I Did It Again,” “Celebrity Skin,” “Only Happy When It Rains,” and “Wannabe.” These songs and the women who sang them shaped me. They gave contexts for my newly forming hormonal emotions. They gave me music video dances to learn with my friends at slumber parties. And mostly, they gave me reasons to engage music and to think about what these songs were saying.
All of this is why, as I watched those “tweens” at the Taylor Swift show chant the lyrics to this song, I grimaced. These girls were not “90’s bitches.” They grew up on Miley Cyrus and, well, Taylor Swift. Actually, Taylor herself barely qualifies. Though, I admire her desire to join us. They don’t get it. But, I do. I’m 28 and most of my friends have children of their own, but when I hear “I Love It,” I am instantly transported to the back seat of my parents’ car on a family road trip with me trying to hide my inner teenage angst by putting on my Discman headphones and blaring “Ironic” as loud as tolerable. I smile as I go back there in my mind…because it is the past. I was a good kid. I have grown into a fairly responsible adult. But, somewhere down inside me, there is a “90’s bitch” that rears her head every now and then at just the right moment. Thanks, ladies.