November 10, 2018

Sultry anthems come out of their shell during restless warm-up phase of cultural excitement cycle

While reminiscing about the decadent dance club climate of the late 2000s, I looked through the comments on YouTube videos for some of the major songs, and one phrase that kept showing up was "hoe anthem".

There are entire lists of hoe anthems out there, but they're a bit too broad, including anything where the woman is unapologetically sexual. That misses the tonal differences among them -- some are matter-of-fact, some are self-congratulatory, and others have the singer using her openness to lure in someone.

The ones I remember hearing were from the last category -- dark, sultry, and hypnotic, designed to make a connection between two people. They're not like the others that are bragging, annoying, and meant to get individuals to congratulate themselves.

As part of the restless warm-up phase of the 15-year cultural excitement cycle, the late 2000s had an atmosphere of still being somewhat withdrawn that carried over from the vulnerable emo phase of the early 2000s, yet starting to feel comfortable coming out of one's shell after the refractory period. It was not yet the next upbeat, manic and invincible phase, but people were starting to wake up, get warmed up, and train for the next spike in energy levels.

Boy-girl relations in pop culture were no longer characterized by numbness or brokenheartedness, but that was still in recent memory. These sultry anthems tend to have a minor key and a downer tone, reflecting their ambivalent state -- eager to come out of the withdrawn phase, but still somewhat anxious about it since they have not yet taken off into a hyper-social manic phase. They're not upbeat, carefree, and cheerful like manic-phase music. But they are about two people coming out of their hibernation state, and getting warmed up close together.

They have to be somewhat direct and on-the-nose with their lyrics, since they're trying to wake up someone who's been used to aloofness between the sexes during the vulnerable phase. The female singer has to convince them -- both the male and female listeners -- that that phase is over.

However, the directness of the lyrics does not take the listener out of the mood, since the delivery is sultry and seductive rather than in-your-face and aggressive, and the danceable grooves let the audience lose themselves in the rhythm, so they aren't standing around awkwardly and self-consciously.

First a quick review of some of these from the most recent restless warm-up phase of the late 2000s. These were all big on the charts, though I'm focusing more on those that were also club hits (so, none from the more radio-friendly Pussycat Dolls). Summing up the genre: sultry, dissonant electro-pop.

"Promiscuous" by Nelly Furtado (2006):

"Gimme More" by Britney Spears (2007):

"I Kissed a Girl" by Katy Perry (2008):

"LoveGame" by Lady Gaga (2009):

Before then, the last restless warm-up phase was the early '90s. Not quite as danceable as the other similar phases, but still more groovy than what else was on the charts at the time.

"I Touch Myself" by Divinyls (1990):

"Damn I Wish I Was Your Lover" by Sophie B. Hawkins (1992):

"If" by Janet Jackson (1993):

Before then, the last such phase was the late '70s -- disco. No need for further comment.

"More, More, More" by Andrea True Connection (1976):

"Hot Stuff" by Donna Summer (1979):

The next phase further back was the early '60s, so you'd expect to see these kinds of anthems then as well. However, that was before the revolution of the mid-'70s through today, of moral and economic laissez-faire (if it feels good, do it). The culture was more restrained in the '60s, so these songs aren't quite as direct and uninhibited as the later ones, but they do contrast with the weepy emo music of the late '50s (and a fair amount that carried over into the early '60s), without being as unbridled as the late '60s manic phase music.

"Heat Wave" by Martha and the Vandellas (1963):

"He's So Fine" by the Chiffons (1963):


  1. Who would put out the next round of hypnotic hoe anthems in the early 2020s, when the cycle shifts into the restless warm-up phase again?

    For those who were already established singers, the pattern is a woman in her late 20s who was active during the last vulnerable period during her early 20s (Janet, Nelly, Britney).

    So, someone who's in her early 20s during the late 2010s, who could have staying power for another 5 or so years (a long time in pop music), and who could pull off the sultry persona.

    For the change of persona from wholesome to sultry, a la Nelly Furtado, I'm going with Camila Cabello.

    For a big star who began sultry, had major breakdown problems, and is mounting a comeback, a la Britney Spears, I'm going with Demi Lovato. Also shares the Disney kid background.

    Dua Lipa is the right age, but I don't know if she can do seductive and hypnotic. She does have a mature persona, but does not give off much sexual energy. I think she's a lesbian, like Taylor Swift.

    That leaves Charli XCX, who was made to make these songs, when her time is right. She'll have to try to get it in early, since she'll turn 28 in 2020. Can't wait!

  2. Though not a sultry love song, No Doubt's "Sweet Escape"(2007) has that same vibe of tentatively reaching out to someone. The key word here is "tentatively" - the warmup phase is a tentative version of the manic phase, when people have become way more confident.

    Another example of that type of tentative, reaching out vibe would be "Buy you a drank" by T'Pain.

    I remember those songs being omnipresent in 2007, which I consider the peak or near-peak of the warmup phase.

  3. Another example of tentativeness: the "Numa Numa" song, popular on college campuses:


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