It was only very recently that Iggy Azalea and Britney Spears’ collaboration ‘Pretty Girls’ was released for the world to hear, and needless to say it was everything that we would expect of a Britney/Iggy collaboration. Dance routine? Check. Rap section? Check. Catchy hook? Check. After only hearing the song once I was actually catching myself wandering around the house singing the chorus! Britney and Iggy’s song is certainly a contender for the most catchy song of the American summer, a spot that was arguably held by Iggy’s smash-hit ‘Fancy’ last year. However, is this song really the piece of fun, pop goodness that it seems, or is there something a little less sweet hidden beneath the sugar-coating?
I will admit, I actually didn’t really think too much of the song when it came out at first. I knew that it was hardly trying to be ground-breaking in its lyrics, but I didn’t really think that it was an issue. I saw the song as being just a little bit of fun. However, my opinion was changed drastically today when I saw a comment on a YouTube video relating to ‘Pretty Girls’. The comment was by a very young and talented female YouTuber whose videos I hadn’t seen until recently. Her comment read as follows:
“Everyone has their opinions right? i think some could be shared.. but if its [sic] basically bullying then it shouldn’t. Heres [sic] my opinion. I don’t like the song, I may like the artists but quite definitely not the song, it just puts out a message to young girls that you have to be ‘perfect’ when their [sic] is enough crap making young girls and boys feel insecure, depressed and all. Just my opinion, the song is not my type.”
After reading this it felt like I was being awakened to something that had been in front of me the whole time. Looking at the lyrics a little closer confirmed it for me even more. In the song ‘Pretty Girls’, Iggy and Britney are promoting a fairly toxic idea to young girls: in order to get far in life, you have to fit society’s idea of ‘pretty’. In the song they sing about how, because they’re ‘just so pretty’, they are able to skip queuing for events and can get whatever they want.
However, Britney and Iggy are singing from the perspective of two women who fit the common, Westernised idea of beauty. What about the girls who don’t have flawless skin and perfectly toned waistlines? Why is it that they are promoting being ‘pretty’ as the ideal trait for successful women to have? When you read the lyrics of the song, it’s pretty clear what Iggy and Britney are saying: ‘because we are pretty, life comes easy to us’. It may seem like a ‘girl power’ anthem on the surface, however when you question where this ‘power’ is coming from you begin to realise that the song isn’t what it seems. The message is vapid and shallow, nothing that I would want to support by any means.
When I watched the music video, however, I began to retract my thoughts.
I know that this might sound like a bit of a long shot, but after seeing the music video in all of its silliness, I’ve come to the belief that this song is intended to be a satire.
Yes, you heard right. I believe that, by using the ‘valley girl’ stereotype in this music video, Britney Spears and Iggy Azalea are attempting to critique the vapid attitude displayed in their song lyrics. Is it possible that I’m reading too much into this? Maybe! But just hear me out.
When you look at the characters that Britney and Iggy play in the music video, it’s clear that they have almost been exaggerated to their breaking point. Britney doesn’t just play the typical 1980s ‘valley girl’, she plays a valley girl who is so naive that she doesn’t bat an eyelid when an alien spacecraft lands in her pool! She plays a girl who doesn’t see it as an issue that her new best friend can explode television sets with her eyes or make ATMs spit out endless cash. Britney’s character is made out to be the epitome of zero common-sense, a girl who is so reliant on her looks to get her through life that she has almost rejected any other form of mental development!
On the other hand, Iggy’s alien character serves as a hilarious counterpoint to Britney. Whilst Britney is over-exaggerated in her frivolity, Iggy is made out to be wooden and out-of-place, contrasting brilliantly with her silly and shallow surroundings. I think that this is best displayed in the part of the music video where Iggy interacts with Britney and her valley girl friends. Monotonously repeating ‘totally!’, Iggy gives all of the girls blank stares whilst a completely unfazed Britney introduces her new friend who’s ‘totally from another planet’. By making Iggy so awkward and uncomfortable, the video is highlighting just how odd these ‘pretty girls’ really are. They show them to be silly with absolutely no awareness of what is going on around them in the outside world.
So is ‘Pretty Girls’ a problematic song? I feel like when it is listened to from a non-critical standpoint it definitely is. However, if you read this song as a satirical critique of ‘pretty girl’ culture, then I think it has a different life entirely. When heard from this perspective the song is funny, silly and intelligent. Am I expecting too much of the song? Probably. However, everything is up to interpretation. Whether Iggy and Britney intended it to be or not, I believe this song offers an interesting perspective on the way that females are seen in society, giving a subtle critique where it was least expected.
Have you heard this song or seen the music video? What did you think? Let’s keep this conversation going in the comments below. I’d love to hear your thoughts!
Until next time
Lots of love