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Category Archives: masculinity

The two dominant sounds of mainstream pop in 1999 were undoubtedly the melodic perkiness of teenpop (Britney, Aguilera, Backstreet Boys, and NSync) and the shouting misogyny of mook-rock (Limp Bizkit), while the underground saw the beginnings of the short-lived robo-synth hipster fagginess of electroclash (Le Tigre, Fischerspooner, Peaches). The ungodly spawn of this threesome is now making headway onto American pop radio a decade later in the form of the horribly named bands 3OH!3 and Cobra Starship. 3OH3+30H3

Pictured above is 3OH!3, named for the area code of their native Boulder, CO. Don’t they look like they come from Boulder, CO? And they make music that sounds like it too. (Doesn’t blondie look like beardo Jesse McCartney?)

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And this is Cobra Starship, named for no reason that I can see except that they contributed a song to the Snakes on a Plane soundtrack.

3OH!3’s “Don’t Trust Me” and Cobra Starship’s “Good Girls Go Bad” have both incredulously peaked at #7 on the Hot 100, which is apropos considering they both feature synth-fueled rave-ups supporting standard issue emo boy whine-vocals which undercut the bravado both songs/bands aim to project (main goal: treating girls like shit) while also shoe-horning cheerleader chant middle eighths that are completely unnecessary.

“Don’t Trust Me” is interesting in that in seems to aim for Lady GaGa-esque metajokeness and falls as flat as GaGa in the clever sweepstakes while also lacking her natural songwriting talent, but there’s something nearly breathtaking about the song’s (and the band’s) commitment to being Completely Wrong but sounding as if they’re Having Fun doing it. Sample lyric: “Don’t trust a ho/Never trust a ho/Won’t trust a ho/’Cause the ho won’t trust me.” Charming. And why would she?

“Good Girls Go Bad” is, in contrast, a joylessly shouty piece of braggadocio featuring actress Leighton Meester, who fulfills this song’s apparent need for a female voice to repeat the protagonist’s point of view, reinforcing his awesomeness (and her complete lack of agency, so who better than a Gossip Girl star?). Look, bravado is fun and great when people like Beyonce or Courtney Love or Tupac or even Toby fucking Keith do it, but this lead singer kid named Gabe Saporta? He has negative sexual charisma, so his boasts need a little bit more color to be convincing. And he doesn’t even provide that. Sample lyric: “I make them good girls go bad.” Oh? How? “You heard that I was trouble but you couldn’t resist?” Why is that?! “I make them good girls go bad.” Classic example of tell-not-show writing.

Both songs don’t hold a candle, however, to the repugnance of 3OH!3’s current song “Starstrukk,” which flopped so bad on release that they decided to do a remix with Katy Perry (as if this wasn’t hate-worthy enough). It sounds ugly, for one, and also has the jaw-dropping lines “I think I should know how to make love to something innocent without leaving my fingerprints out now/L-O-V-E’s just another word I never learned to pronounce.” This has none of the supposed Fun of their previous hit, and instead shows that any attempt at humor or self-awareness in “Don’t Trust Me” veiled exactly how much these two were actual sociopaths.

When I first heard these songs I thought, “Popped-collar music.” But these two bands’ self-presentation indicates how far scenesterism’s American Apparel
stunted-growth appeal has drifted into mainstream culture, now becoming Cool and Edgy. Because hipster men have always been misogynists (what do you think Exile In Guyville was reacting to?), and now the mooks are wearing the same clothes and highlighting the gross anti-woman subtleties of scene culture. And making it seem “fun.” 3OH!3 is much worse though; if Cobra Starship is just some frat dude hounding you at a bar thinking he’s all that (and calling you a bitch if you turn him down), 3OH!3 is that dude using his peculiar charm to bring you back to the house to get gang-raped. In your ears especially.

Hey, you know what’s fun?! Esquire‘s list of the 75 albums that every man should own. If by fun you mean shooting yourself in the face with semen. Which clearly, I do. Let us learn what it’s like to be a man from Esquire.

The Stone Roses, The Stone Roses
Brit pop’s platonic ideal.
Because when I think of manliness, I think of the British.

Lust for Life, Iggy Pop
In 1977 Iggy ran off to West Berlin with David Bowie to record an album so juiced with spleen that even cruise-line commercials can’t make it sound safe.
Because to be a man is to experience sodomy at least once.

Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain, Pavement
Makes you shout and rant and cry and it surprises you and challenges you and angers you and brings you to your knees. Then it makes you hit play again.
Because there is no greater and more truthful document of the emotional struggles of American men than a glib singer jabbering nonsense about cutting your hair and beefing with grunge.

The Headphone Masterpiece, Cody Chessnut
Thirty-six R&B songs recorded on a four-track at home. Makes you wish the lo-fi approach wasn’t almost exclusively embraced by sad white kids.
Because affirmative action is a good thing! I swear! I voted for Barack Obama!

MTV Unplugged in New York, Nirvana
It’s the last time a huge band recorded a surprising album.
Because it’s important to be sad.

Woke on a Whaleheart, Bill Callahan
Because we’re all just like a bee that “tries to find purchase in a turning spoke from Memphis to Potomac never giving up hope.”
Because…I’m sorry, I can’t even figure out why this is necessary.

The Velvet Underground & Nico, Velvet Underground
Makes you think that a woman’s voice could do any rock band good. Lou Reed’s heroin-addled musical lifeblood, for so long dependent on grit and experimentation, is chastened and made beautiful.
Oh really? This is the first lady you have included in your list, guys.

Workin’ Together, Ike & Tina Turner
Because they never did anything nice… and easy. They only did it nice… and rough.
Oh look the second lady, who was beat a lot.

The Earth Is Not a Cold Dead Place, Explosions in the Sky
Words sometimes mess things up, fumbling, mumbling, and sometimes we need to be reminded what four super-earnest guys can do with some guitars and drums when they really care about what they leave behind. Chuck Klosterman once wrote that listening to Explosions in the Sky could make hanging drywall seem transcendental, and he was right. Make this record your soaring soundtrack to just about anything you might do – driving through snowy fields, playing with your kids after dinner, putting ink into the copy machine – and you’ll feel capable of achieving something powerful and beautiful at the same time.
Did you really need to write all that? Just say Friday Night Lights, the end.

Exile in Guyville, Liz Phair
Liz Phair can make you feel ashamed to be a man. And to want to make it up to her.
Because it’s okay to listen to girls talk sometimes, only if you want to bone her. (This is the third and final album on the list featuring a lead female singer, FYI).

Songs in the Key of Life, Stevie Wonder
Stevie Wonder can make magic in minutes, but this complex double album took him two years to produce. Gritty, funky, and lush.
Because I like soul music, really! So long as it sounds polite and polished even though I will call it “gritty” and “funky.”

Grace, Jeff Buckley
Hallelujah.
Because I am TORTURED, won’t you SAAAAAVVVE ME??!??!! Zach Braff.

I don’t know about you, but I feel like my dick grew an inch.