January 30, 2021

"Girlfriend" by Rebecca Black: Reconnecting-with-ex bop for both "girls and gays" and "lads and lesbians"

I don't mean to blog so much about new music releases, but it's hard not to when we're finally out of the vulnerable phase of the 15-year excitement cycle and its sleepy-weepy mood.

As the restless warm-up phase continues, people are more inclined to come out of their shells and reconnect with others. That includes reconnecting with the one that almost got away, as I detailed in an earlier post about reconciliation anthems that define the restless phase (e.g., "Nothing Compares 2 U" or the new "Driver's License").

Except those are more confessional, heart-on-their-sleeve pleas to reconcile a relationship that had gone sour. What if it didn't crash and burn, but the two just drifted apart? There's no wound to heal, just a lightbulb moment of awareness -- "y'know, we really should get back together," and then feeling in an upbeat mood once again.

"I mean jeez, what were we thinking being apart?" -- it's more of an informal, low-key, friendly vibe, because the two of you never became enemies first. You feel reassured and secure after resuming something that had been suspended. It's a much less melodramatic tone than if your relationship had gone sour, you were going insane apart from them, and now you have to fight like hell to win them back. Much more of a groovy mood.

That's the variation on the theme in the free-spirited bop "Girlfriend" by Rebecca Black (yes, from the fad hit "Friday" from 2011, all grown up):

Celebrating about "I'm getting back with my girlfriend" is such a lesbian theme, because they stay friends with their exes and flirt with reconnecting every now and again. As opposed to the (high-body-count) girls and gays, who can't even remember half the people they've been with, let alone care to reconnect. The long-term pair-bonding drive is more of a lads-and-lesbians thing.

But despite the lyrics being from the lads and lesbians, the music itself is infectiously bouncy and danceable, suiting it more to the girls-and-gays crowd, who prefer dance clubs over skate parks for hanging out. The song as a whole is an interesting mix of both ends of the homo spectrum.

The main instruments are synths, appealing to girls-and-gays, but it's not just to provide dance-y hooks -- it goes into a very long solo, appealing to normie straight guys, unlike most electronic dance music. And her vocal delivery is joyful and upbeat, avoiding the melodramatic or abject styles that appeal to girls and gays (in a torch song context). The obvious comparison is to early Katy Perry, but it's also somewhat like Taylor Swift's peak era, which combined lesbian lyrics (from herself) and gay dance music (from her gay collaborator Jack Antonoff).

The music video also captures both ends of the spectrum, with her playing an on-stage diva / showgirl role in one part, and an outdoorsy picnic-haver with a bashful gf in the other part.

(It's nice to see her high-relief Mediterranean features fully developed now -- it gives her a more striking persona.)

I interpret these all to mean that she's bisexual, not lesbian. As fast-living types, bisexual girls are clearly on the girls-and-gays side, not the slow-living lads-and-lesbians side. But clearly some lesbians had a role in inspiring or creating this song, because it does act like a bridge between the two sides (an assertive bisexual girl singing about getting back with her bashful lesbian gf). I haven't heard many songs in this hybrid style, and it does not fall flat for not picking a clear side stylistically. I listened to it at least 10 times in a row at first, it's so catchy and bouncy.

Finally, it's worth noting that she's a late '90s birth, born into a manic phase of the excitement cycle, and imprinted on another manic phase (the early 2010s) during her second birth of adolescence when she turned 15. That makes her a candidate for being a Manic Pixie Dream Girl, which her appearance is clearly aimed at achieving. But her role in the song is not a MPDG, which is an earthly guardian angel who coaxes love-weary people out of their shells, enabling them to accomplish their full potential in love and life. She could pull it off in a different song, though.

People born in a manic phase imprint on a zeitgeist of invincibility and resilience, making them naturals at coaching others to pick themselves up after failing, not to doubt themselves, and so on and so forth.

An earlier post showed that lesbians are not MPDGs, although bisexuals might be. Lesbians are too reserved and passive to assume the initiator / lead role, which the MPDG plays to lift up the sad-sack guy who can't bother trying anymore.

Bisexual girls are much more willing and comfortable making moves, taking the lead, and so on, so they could certainly be MPDGs to love-sick lesbians (who, in their characteristically peri-menopausal state, resemble the middle-aged sad sack men of the MPDG movies). Especially if the bisexual girl were born in a manic phase, like the late '90s -- and seemingly a majority of girls born then are bi-curious at a minimum.

Anyway, lots of potential for interesting new forms that the MPDG role could take in today's restless warm-up phase, which is far more permeated by alphabet-mafia concerns than the most recent one in the late 2000s.


  1. Another gay+lez aspect is the percussion, which is dance-y without hi-hats. For a disco rhythm, there would be hi-hats on the offbeats. Or hi-hats on all offbeats and main beats.

    But this one doesn't have them anywhere -- and no other high-pitched percussion to take their place.

    The basic rhythm is a bass drum on all 4 main beats, and a snare on the backbeat (2 and 4). More of a marching rhythm than a gymnastic kind of dance rhythm. And the snare is low and muted, not a high-energy burst.

    This is the lesbian drive for low-key vibes calming down what would otherwise be a disco rhythm if it the style were fully gay.

    Also, no synths to take the place of hi-hats on the offbeats, a la electropop of the 2000s (like early Katy Perry or Lady Gaga). Not a girls-and-gays approach.

    It does have a rhythm guitar, but it's not really insistent. Just kind of shows up here and there to accent the offbeats. Kind of a laid-back lezzie feel to that.

    And there's a synth bass playing the main beats and offbeats (with some pauses for dance-enabling syncopation). That's the closest thing there is to something setting up the dance rhythm.

    But unlike hi-hats, rhythm guitars, etc., the bass is low-pitched and thick-sounding, which makes you expect it more for main beats. Off-beats are for the winding-up motions of a dance, not the delivery of force motions for the main beats. Weak motions want weak sounds, strong motions want strong sounds.

    Making the bass set the dance rhythm is keeping the audience's motions from going over-the-top, since there's no high-contrast between the offbeats and main beats. You can still get your body moving around, but it's muting the amplitude. It can't ever get into "gay dance" territory, staying in a low-key lesbian groove.

    If the goal were to make a club banger, this wouldn't work. But it's not strictly for the girls-and-gays party crowd. It's also for the laid-back and chill lads-and-lesbians crowd who would rather just be vibin' than fist-pumping.

    A strictly gay approach would sound adolescent or young-adult, whereas the lesbian-only approach would sound middle-aged. This mixture sounds in-between -- dance-y enough to feel young, but muted enough to feel mature. Target audience is late 20-somethings and 30-somethings?

    Also dovetails with the theme of getting back with an ex, after some time apart, moving back in with parents, and growing up in the meantime. You can't be at that point when you're a teenager or in college. More like the second half of your 20s or into your 30s. Not father beyond that, since you'll be settled by that point, not still dating.

  2. The melodic phrase structure is aimed at a more mature audience too, not just verse / chorus. The phrases are: intro, verse1, pre-chorus, chorus, totally different verse2, solo, bridge, and outro.

    I'm not talking about how sophisticated the melodies are within a phrase, just the variety of phrases. It's structured more like an adult contempo song, not a club banger for college kids. That's the lesbian peri-menopausal influence.

    The 2nd verse is a little too sparse, and is more like a rest until the next pre-chorus, rather than a bouncy verse1 over again to build up the same energy. Another lesbian influence, calming things down at a critical moment early on, rather than let them get out of control and bounce of the wall.

    That was probably overkill, though. It'd be interesting to hear it with the second verse sounding like the first but with different lyrics. The pining and yearning tone in the first verse is more apropos to the themes of the song, and are better at creating some tension that can build and be resolved later.

    The floaty, spare tone of verse2 lets the tension fall into a void.

    Plus, pining and yearning is a characteristic tone for lesbians -- putting it in there twice wouldn't have made it less lesbian or less mature.

    But that's the only place where they overdid the mature approach. Otherwise they pulled it off well.

  3. Is it possible to be in weepy phase of a 15-year cycle and also be in a rising crime cycle? Would that be year 1982?

    Could you be in a manic phase of the 15-year cycle and also be in a cocooning era? How would that work? Could you be excited and socially reclusive at the same time?

  4. The vulnerable phases of the ~1960-1990 crime wave were '70-'74 and '85-'89. Both easily identified by trends in schmaltzy soft rock / power ballads.

    Manic phases of the falling-crime / cocooning era were '95-'99 and 2010-'14. Both very upbeat and bouncy in their music.

    Cocooning is partly about avoiding public spaces, but more about keeping your guard up around others due to lack of interpersonal trust. One way is to avoid the public altogether, but the other is not letting them in even if you are out in public.

    Think of the most recent manic phase in the early 2010s -- the most common stereotype about supposedly wild-and-crazy young people was that they were constantly staring down at their phones / laptops in public hang-out places like Starbucks.

    That doesn't mean they weren't excited and excitable -- just that it was channeled into online activity or mere texting, which lets them get out their energy in a low-trust fashion.

    They did pile into dance clubs a lot more back then, and were shaking their bodies like crazy on the dance floor. But the girls generally didn't let guys get close -- certainly not emotionally, and not very physically either.

    They'd go up to a guy, wiggle their butt around in his crotch for 5 seconds, then scurry off back to their group of girl friends. Horny and thrill-seeking, but also cocooning and guard-up-keeping. Random hot guys would get better treatment of course, I'm talking about the overall picture.

    Both of those cocooning trends converged in the comical scene I witnessed over and over -- some Millennial girl craning her neck down at her phone, lazily texting, while wiggling her butt in some guy's crotch, before getting bored and going back to her girl friends.

    There were lots of dance anthems about "I'm gonna dress / dance slutty and get crazy in the club on girls' night out, but don't you dare take that as an invitation to approach and touch". "My Humps," "U and Ur Hand," etc.

  5. She looks like Julia Roberts or Anne Hathaway if they grew up on Tumblr.

    Striking features, swoon-worthy expression.

    The hair, nails, etc., are just part of a not-like-other-girls costume. But you can't fake those expressions in the pic or the video. Such a cheerful, nurturing free spirit. Very MPDG.

  6. As we know, there is a 15-year excitation cycle, and also a 30-year attention-getting vs. laidback cycle.

    What this means is that the same, highly specific cultural phenomena will repeat itself every 30 years. The early 60s and early 90s should be quite similar to each other. Likewise, the coming early 20s should be very similar to both periods. We're going to relive the early 90s.

    One thing I can remember - there was a revival of interest in the Beach Boys in the early 90s(after they were featured in an episode of "Full House").

  7. Sk8 bros still love Franz Ferdinand in 2021. Was blasting their first album along the main drag through campus this afternoon, "Darts of Pleasure" at the time, dance-punk levels off the charts.

    It's 20-some degrees out, so I'm the only one with my car windows open, until traffic slows to a crawl, and something grabs my attention. It's the driver of a car going the other direction, also with his window completely open. As our cars pass, we're both bobbing our heads along to the beat and give each other a quick "cool tunes no homo" look.

    He was a 20-something, but I couldn't tell if he was a teenager when it came out, and he was reliving his high school playlist, or if he's currently in college and that album has become iconic even among those who were just little kids back then. (I was only a couple years out of college at the time, dancing to them at the Razzmatazz club while living in Barcelona.)

    Just a reminder that you can get straight guys who aren't already into dance music to enjoy it if you mix it with something heavy and rocking like punk. See also the 2nd wave of ska in the late '70s and early '80s. That was revived big-time when I was in high school in the late '90s, among the alt / punk crowd. There were at least 4 or 5 guys in our circle who went to ska shows every single weekend, none gay, none into techno / electronic dance music of the time, and all able to talk to girls and even get gfs from the shows and the scene.

  8. Also wolf-called a girl who was jogging, still on the little high from that "da boyz" moment. If she's out bouncing her buns in just leggings + sweatshirt during sub-freezing weather, she deserves a shout-out, as it were.


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