Want to Be Happy? Ignore Beyonce.

April 01, 2015

Want to Be Happy? Ignore Beyonce.

Photo Credit: d12vb6dvkz909t.cloudfront.net

"If you liked it then you should have put a ring on it."  

"I could have another you in a minute."  

"The dudes are lining up cause they hear we got swagger but we kick ‘em to the curb unless they look like Mick Jagger." 

"All my life I’ve been good but now/ah I’m thinkin’ what the hell/All I want is to mess around/And I don’t really care about/If you love me, if you hate me."  

"And you’ll see me, somebody new.  I’m not that chained up little person still in love with you."  

Belting out the lyrics to a girl power ballad can provide the ultimate catharsis at a certain time and place in our lives. Perhaps we’ve finally extricated ourselves from an unhealthy relationship and we’re voicing our anger, our righteous indignation and our re-affirmation of our own awesomeness, with Beyonce by our sides cheering us on.

Or perhaps we’ve too long allowed another person to dictate our happiness and now we need to reclaim autonomy over our lives, finding our power and independence that’s been lost.

I get it. I’ve been there.

But as my husband and I were driving recently and one of these girl-power songs came on the radio, he posed a provocative question: He asked me if I could think of any songs with a similar theme that were sung by men.

I couldn’t. Neither could he.

Oh sure, there are plenty of male vocalists singing about heartbreak, regret, and even anger at trust betrayed. I wish that I bought you flowers, and held your hand.  

But there’s a notable absence of a theme that’s quite prevalent in female songs. I would paraphrase this theme as:

“I don’t need you. Look at how little I need you.”

It’s easy to come up with a list of female pop hits that fit this theme – from Pink to Beyonce to Kesha. But male songs – even those about love lost – are different.  They may voice sadness and regret, but then they just….. move on.

They talk about life. How it’s a beautiful day, and we shouldn’t let it get away. How we should clap along if we feel like a room without a roof. How they’d go skydiving and they’d go rocky mountain climbing. Their themes feel more varied. Heartbreak is a part of their lives, but they acknowledge it for what it is and then move on to living.

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They talk about life. How it’s a beautiful day, and we shouldn’t let it get away. How we should clap along if we feel like a room without a roof. How they’d go skydiving and they’d go rocky mountain climbing. Their themes feel more varied. Heartbreak is a part of their lives, but they acknowledge it for what it is and then move on to living.

Female ballads

It feels like the female songs, in comparison, get mired in a constant need to shout from the rooftops how little we need men for validation. And that’s the rub. They shout it so often and so loudly that you’ll forgive me for not being convinced they believe it. It feels like an ugly case of denial. A classic methinks thou doth protest too much.

If I spent an hour talking to my therapist about how totally over my ex I was, you’d be understandably skeptical that I was actually over my ex. Being over someone doesn’t look like talking about them nonstop. It looks more like apathy.

Even worse, the theme is often not “I can stand on my own two feet,” (which is surely a praiseworthy notion) but rather, “I’ll replace you with someone better to fill my neediness.” Beyonce telling us she could have another you in a minute. Or Avril Lavigne telling us she doesn’t care what you think – she’s going to mess around with lots of dudes regardless.

I can do whatever I want

Worse still, the message seems to usually be, “I can do whatever I want. I can behave with no regard for anyone else’s feelings, and F you if you don’t accept me.”
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As a champion of women’s empowerment, I can’t help but feel these girl power ballads are not our allies.

What would the world look like if we could follow the lead of the male songs – acknowledging the pain of expectations disappointed – and then move on with our lives, truly following our own passions and convictions, acknowledging our greatness but also striving to grow and improve?

What would it look like it we actually heeded Taylor Swift’s advice to shake it off, or Sara Bareilles’ advice to say what we want to say?

Here’s what my song might look like:

I know it doesn’t rhyme, and it’s unlikely to be the next pop hit topping the charts, but it’s honest:
I feel angry and heartbroken that you didn’t feel I was worthy, and angry at myself that I let you dictate my self-image. The pain is raw.  Some days I feel worthless without your affirmation. I’m scared about what’s next because the unknown is hard and my legs feel shaky after leaning on you for so long. But I also know that I was a whole person before I knew you, and that I will rediscover that person again. That person is strong.  And capable.  She loves to learn.  And hike.  And discover. She has a lifetime rich with stories and experiences. While my heart is broken, I’m excited about what’s to come next.  I love so many things and have so much to be happy about in this life.  



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