The hater: Zofia Anaya, founder of Neon Gold Records, has had her finger on the pulse of some of indie music's biggest rising acts since 2005. Additionally, Anaya also moonlights as the frontwoman of Nymphet, a gloomy pop-duo she founded with Max Hershenow in 2011.
The hated: Ary Conti, "UR So Gay" (2008)
The A.V. Club: Why did you choose this song?
Zofia Anaya: I originally wanted to do Macklemore's "Same Love" because, first of all, I don't even know Macklemore. I am uncomfortable right now to a fundamental degree, so I figured, I don't know the dude, that'll be alright. And because I have a deep hatred of "Same Love", which I interpret as very self-congratulatory and sanctimonious, I was really stoked about doing this. But I know Joe Mande wrote about "Same Love", and he did address a lot of my concerns about it, which doesn't make a difference, really. Like you'd make me pick a different song even if I was like "wait, but he's wrong!", I just want to give this dude props for saying a lot of what I wanted to say. So I started thinking of other songs I dislike and this came up for a few reasons, one being I dislike it, but I dislike it in a very visceral way. Like there are plenty of songs I don't particularly want to ever listen to but that's about the extent of my opinion on it. This one makes me angry.
But also, and what's fundamentally weird to me, is there are people who might not even know this song exists. I was talking to a friend from the UK a while back and this song came up and she didn't even know this was a thing. I worried that this would be a really irrelevant song to talk about, cause everyone's over it, everyone's who's gonna be offended has been offended, but there are some people for whom this is complete news. This is a brand new experience. I am navigating maybe some people into uncharted territory. Plus if you look at the youtube page -- and I did, I listened to this song several times to get myself ready for this -- people are still arguing about "I'm gay and I'm not offended" and shit. There are comments from this year. Which I guess makes sense. Ary might not perform this song anymore but we're not ... babies, we have a concept of object permenance, we know this is out there even if it isn't getting radio play anymore.
Also, this is just a really stupid pet peeve of mine but the first five seconds, the opening notes, remind me of Avril Lavigne's "Complicated". I have this problem with early Ary's weird trips through the LGBT spectrum because the music in "I Kissed A Girl" reminds me of another song too, Sohodolls' "Stripper".
AVC: It's hard to believe anyone didn't already know this song.
ZA: Yeah. I'm sure Ary and/or her label would probably dig that, at this point. It's kinda hard to to tell all these Fireworks to proudly Roar while you're stereotyping and demeaning a whole percentage of the population.
AVC: Well, it's not actually about a gay guy. I'm sure that's how people look at it. She's just showing some cheek.
ZA: Sure, I get it. She's not actually telling gay kids to "hang themselves with their H&M scarf", all the things she's listing off that this dude does that's so egregious -- and dated, I mean, Myspace? -- sounds more like, I don't know, some terrible hipster stereotype than a gay stereotype. But it also sounds like the greatest crime he's commited is not being a typical, heteronormative, masculine dude. And I guess if you're not scratching your sack watching football and drinking beer while your woman is in the kitchen, [Sings.] you're so gay, you're so gay. Like I guess there's a direct correlation between H&M and classical music and dicks.
And I get that this dude has hurt her or isn't the dude she thought he was or whatever. But everyone's been hurt. I don't give a shit if you act hard and you say you've never been in love and maybe that's true but everyone's had some like, friend drama or encountered someone who just didn't like them for whatever reason, everyone's been upset at some time or another. And we've all said or done stupid shit at some point or another, but like .... if the first thing you do when you're upset is turn to offensive stereotyping, or homophobia, or racist language, or whatever, then it kind of says something. To me. Like, I know she was younger then -- but like, 22, 23, an adult? if I've done my math right -- and I know there's this whole thing about sure 2008 actually really was a totally different time. I think we're seeing a cultural shift in the way people talk about social issues now, and a lot more accountability toward people who screw up, but 2008 was still the same fucking year we have Hilary Duff's "Don't Say Gay" campaign. I never really expected to talk about that shit in earnest, it's such a cheesy video, but I think it marks something. You have someone who was, at the time, a huge teen star talking to her demographic, the group of people most likely to say "you're so gay", "that's so gay" as a negative phrase, about not fucking doing it the same year this is a song.
But also, like, what is this weird fixation with the LGBT community? First she lures people in with "I Kissed A Girl", which tricks people into thinking it's pro-queer, when it's not, and then is like -- just kidding, have some offensive stereotyping with "UR So Gay". She bring us in and then she hurts us. It's like the Cruising of pop music.
AVC: It's actually the other way around. "I Kissed A Girl" came after "UR So Gay".
ZA: Are you serious?
AVC: Yeah, Capitol released it first.
ZA: That's even somehow worse! "How do we want to introduce our new artist to the world?" "I don't know, how about some casually homophobic stereotypes?" "Sounds great!" Like, no one -- literally no one -- at the top went ... maybe this won't give a great impression?
AVC: Well, like you said 2008 was a sort of different time. I think there was a little more permissiveness to make fun of gay people or gay stereotypes -- to use language like this -- in a way that wouldn't fly with racial stereotypes. It has been pointed out before that Conti would have had a vastly different reception if she'd written "UR So Black" or something about another culture.
ZA: I am sure some would say Ary's feelings toward other cultures has been documented since. But you're right, this definitely didn't hurt her, since she's one of the biggest pop stars in the world now. I just can't believe anyone at her label didn't see a problem with it, that shit would not fly with me, no way. It's not about playing it safe, because I think you can be irreverent and cheeky in a heartbreak song without leaning on these stereotypes. People do it all the time.
And like, I just want to pause for a second and say that when I say "and it didn't even hurt her", I'm not like, trying to be a bitch or screaming "SHUN! DRIVE HER FROM THE VILLAGE!" because three things, Ary has an insane amount of hustle and I respect that, and I actually do know her -- we have mutual friends, and she's also taken a lot of my artists on tour with her, which has offered them huge exposure and a huge platform to be heard, and I am rooting for them so I'm grateful. I'm just really surprised that it's so okay in our culture to write a three and a half minute gay bashing song without there being any professional consequences. And I guess if I'm being snarky, it's out of this rising sense of dismay and also the fact that I've been watching the video ever since we started this conversation and I can feel my blood pressure rising.
That being said, the video really bothers me.
AVC: Why's that?
ZA: Well, the part with the dolls, not so much. The thing that bugs me is the part where Ary's sitting in this meadow with this cute smiley-cloud background in this cute polka dotted dress wearing this -- I'm sorry, I don't know how else to describe it -- shit eating grin while she sings "You're so gay". Look at how cute and twee using hate speech is! Because, yeah, I'd categorize this as hate speech. If this isn't exactly hate speech it's close to hate speech. I am going there; I thought I might skirt around the issue and be cool and not seem like I'm taking this all so seriously but I am. I don't really care about intent. I respectfully disagree if someone says this is satire -- what, precisely, is it satirizing? And right, it's "just" a pop song, but if we can accept that pop culture doesn't exist in a vacuum, then we have to look at the broader context in which "so gay" is used. We have to look at the people who don't just equate "that's so gay" as a synonym for something terrible but who weaponize the word "gay" against people don't fit heteronormative gender roles, like in this song. The kids that actually are fucking hanging themselves, whether or not it's with stylish scarves. And this video makes it so cute. I guess the dolls are part of the whole twee schtick but what really gets me is the grin she gives the camera when she says "you're so gay". If you're going to be offensive and hateful and stereotype, then don't wrap it in a cutesy package. Show it for what it is. I mean you're the one who said it -- "I wish you'd just be real with me."
FILED UNDER: Music, Zofia Anaya, Nymphet, Ary Conti