Love songs aimed at an audience of young girls convey messages of all kinds. In the wake of International Women’s Day, this article aims to show the symbolic means by which these forms of popular culture can communicate negative messages while pretending to be harmless.
Read more: Beware of love songs aimed at young girls
It is as an anthropologist that I elaborated on this question in connection with a collective work published in March 2022. In it, I examine the musical strategies of an industry that maintains a mercantile, misogynistic, patriarchal and globally contemptuous of women.
My demonstration is based here on the only decryption of the song ” Stay by Australian singer The Kid LAROI. If you have a teenage girl at home, you probably already know him; otherwise you will see his name on the list of awards and nominations he has received since his debut in 2019.
You must first watch the official video of this song in 2 minutes and 37 seconds. This clip has been viewed more than 488 million times on YouTube since it was released in 2021, and it seems to live up to the expectations of a target audience made up predominantly of girls, teenagers and young women. However, this success is not accidental: it is the result of a profitable strategy.
As Ralph Murphy, songwriter and composer who has been awarded several recognitions by the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers, tirelessly repeated for his emulators, the commercial success of a song is inextricably linked to the creator’s ability to enter his head. of one female audience “When you fish, he said, do not think like the fisherman, but like the fish.” Murphy knew something about it: his most lucrative song is called He got you (He Got You) (1982) performed here by singer Trea Landon (2020).
Among the advice Murphy gives to songwriting professionals in his lectures or in his book Murphy’s Laws of Songwriting, this is crucial: “the script should make the singer look like a hero, even when the listeners are inclined to hate him”.
By taking on the role of pimp in ” Stay », The Kid LAROI seems to have understood the lesson.
The scene takes place near a hotel in disgrace, the Hotel Barclay in Downtown Los Angeles. The macabre stories told about it have nothing to envy them around the infamous Cecil Hotel located nearby.
This neighborhood is misogynistic. A few minutes away is Figueroa Street, known to the police for its human trafficking and its parades of girls caught up in the mechanisms of prostitution.
In this difficult setting, where women’s lives depend on solving serious problems of social inequality, homelessness or pimping, two young men (The Kid LAROI and Justin Bieber) and a woman (anonymous) are placed in a relationship that is difficult to understand.
A male hero in weightlessness
i ” Stay », The Kid LAROI is a hero who is both vulnerable and invincible. Based on a few clues, we can guess that he is violent (a mirror is broken), inactive (he is lowered on the breakfast table) and irresponsible (he is going against the traffic). He himself admits to being a liar, manipulator and full of incorrigible mistakes:
I’m doing the same thing I told you I never would/ (I do everything I told you I would never do /)
I told you I would change even when I knew I never could/ (I told you I wanted to change even though I knew I could never /)
[…] I’m getting drunk, waking up, I’m still wasted/ (I get drunk, I wake up, I’m still drunk /)
Gradually we understand that the buyer is above all sad about the loss of his source of income:
I know I can not find anyone else who is as good as you / (I know I can not find another as good as you /)
I’ll get fucked if you can ‘t be right here (I’ll get naughty if you can not stay /)
So why should we have such a loser? A plausible answer can be found in the complaining and loud voice of the beardless singer demanding the presence of his companion, as a baby would demand the breast of his nurse:
I need you to stay, need you to stay, hey, hey! (I need you to stay, need you to stay, hey, hey)
An alibi woman
By assuming the playwright’s attitude, we can, in the context of this clip, identify one of the 36 dramatic situations that characterize Georges Polti, a classic reference in the field of novel writing. The selected scenario falls under the heading “love the enemy”. Basically, a woman falls in love with a man for whom she is only an alibi, a cover, a diversion, because her hero needs her to keep a secret that he cannot reveal without swallowing his honor.
Marguerite Yourcenar provides a detailed version of this structure in “Coup de Grace” (1939), a novel that inspired the film of the same title (1976).
In a moment of clarity, Sophie realizes that she is in love with a man who is “not created for her”. Then she changes her state of mind: “I have had enough of your lies, enough of you, your honor and your male friendships. If you have such desires to satisfy them, take a stable man, but do not use me as an alibi ”.
According to a similar dramatic structure, the anonymous woman in the music video is only an alibi for a profitable business. Like Yourcenar’s heroine, casting her cold gaze into a hand mirror, the despised lover stares blankly at the screen of her touch phone, sentenced to life in prison in this position.
In a motion of indiscretion, the camera then flies over the device at the poorly chosen time when a bank balance is displayed. This intrusion into this woman’s privacy is a representation of what is happening on a larger scale: The Internet uses children’s browsing data for product placement. It is in this relation to screens that the injunction ” Stay! “(Stay!). It’s not a lover’s heart cry, but an imperative that the music industry submits to its female audience.
In this exploitation mechanism, the role of Justin Bieber is explicit. His message is, too: it is his gratitude for the enormous royalties that have been collected.
I can in no way leave you stranded/ (There’s no way I’ll let you down /)
For you have never left me empty-handed/ (Because you never left me empty-handed /).
Break the code
From a critical point of view, the song is not a work, but a tool for exploiting pubescent emotions that delivers a coded message that is globally contemptuous of women.
To make it unusable, break the code.
However, it takes more than distracted listening to decipher the mysteries of a captured song. It requires everything children generally lack: culture and maturity.
i ” Stay »For example, the riddle can only be interpreted if one grasps the symbolism of the body hovering over a bed, in that of white space in a brothel. This metaphor, which is radically untenable, is that of the ghost of death hovering over the women and children “incapacitated” in David Olère’s painting (1945).
In the wake of International Women’s Day and a national week to combat the sexual exploitation of minors that went almost unnoticed, I encourage you to listen to “Jenny,” the beautiful love song by Richard Desjardins. It is a moving tribute to the enjoyment of all women.