Saturday, April 17, 2010
"Girls" by the Beastie Boys (1986)
There are bands who don't move forward or change their style or content in any way at all. There are career trajectories that follow logical steps forward. And then there are the Beastie Boys. Punk to frat-rap to radical groundbreaking hip-hop in just a few scant years is so impressive that the fact that they've gone nowhere ever since doesn't really even matter. Paul's Boutique remains one of the most truly jaw-dropping albums out there, an amazing thing where every five seconds provides a new sonic surprise. So it's even more of a surprise - one might say a shock - that that album immediately follows up something as lame and embarrassing as Licensed to Ill.
Time has not been kind to Licensed to Ill, for the very fact that it's a bad album not wirthy of kindness. To say something good in its favour, the rolling rock-and-roll beats are frequently quite good. The whiny, nasal rapping and childish lyrics of the three 'boys', however, I can say very little about.
At the moment, I don't have to. This song contains neither: neither big beats nor rapping. In their place, we get the dinkiest of Casio drumbeats and, be still my stomach, sung vocals. I'd like to discuss the crap lyrics, but I'd barely even need to. The lyrics could be the most profound of poetry, and this song, anchored by a deliberately cheesy video-game keyboard and a vocal bassline, would still suck.
So the fact that the 'where's my rhyming dictionary?' lyrics tell a boring story about sexual rejection before getting into a deliberately button-pushing sexist 'chorus' doesn't even matter much, because criticising them just inspires the frat-boy man-child 'defiance' that allows young white males of privilege to act as boorish as they want and pretend that it's in some way a challenge to authority, or the powers-that-be, or 'the system', or their parents who wouldn't let them stay out late or buy them a car, or whatever the hell it is that perpetuates this kind of behaviour.
That the Beastie Boys themselves are just as repelled by this kind of boorishness as I am in some way redeems them in my eyes (as does the fact that they made a great album after this). But they saw the light after raking in the big bucks parading on stage with giant dildos cranking out garbage like this and daring people to call them out as the whiny brats they were.