It doesn't take much to cause "controversy" -- as defined by gossip websites and E! -- in the world of pop music these days. But occasionally somebody can slip something into the mix that may count as genuinely subversive and it's entertaining to see the reaction to it.
And so it is with the new single from Skylar Grey. I've been a fan of hers for a while because she seemed to be deftly traversing the waters of pop and hip-hop while displaying quite a bit of honest-to-God songwriting talent and an unusual amount of class. When I talked to her briefly at a party several months ago, she was dressed like a Swiss Air flight attendant, wrapped in a tight, high-necked gray jacket with sharp shoulders and a matching gray knee-length skirt; in other words, she looked like the furthest thing from a recording industry sex-kitten. That's why I wasn't sure what to make of this new song and video when I first saw and heard it -- and apparently neither was anybody else because she's caught a lot of flak for it from those who've never really heard of Skylar Grey but who now see her as the ultimate dumb pop music slut-bomb whose stuff is nothing more than a series of over-the-top sexual innuendos strung together.
Except that that's the point. The entire song is satire. Grey knows this. Eminem, who appears on the track and who's been one of her biggest champions, knows this. The controversy, then, comes from the age old pop culture Mobius loop that leaves people wondering how far one can go in parodying something before he or she actually becomes that thing. In this case: Skylar Grey really is a knockout and she really is showing off her body here and she really is singing about sex, even if she's mocking those who do it without tongue firmly in cheek.
Whatever the answer is, I have to admit that while the song itself is kind of silly -- apparently by design -- it's shockingly catchy. And maybe that's the most subversive thing of all.
Here's C'mon Let Me Ride.