Monday, September 1, 2014

MAGIC!'s "Rude": A Catchy Melody Obscuring the Truth

 From the first hits of the timbales to the last cymbal fade-out, the song “Rude” by the Canadian reggae band MAGIC!, gives a news feel to pop music, with a catchy reggae beat and emotional lyrics. The song has vaulted to the top of pop music charts around the world, and shows the power of a globalized digital music industry, where anyone, anywhere, can create the next big pop song. 

The song tells the story of the lead singer asking his girlfriend’s father for permission to marry her, and the lyrics concern the lead singer’s anger at being denied permission. By depriving women of agency, showing fathers as overly protective and strict, the music video “Rude” blatantly conforms to harmful stereotypes about gender.

The lead singer's girlfriend is presented as an object, as the singer asks the father for permission before asking the girl, showing that the father’s opinion matters more than her own opinion does. The singer asks the father, “Can I have your daughter for the rest of my life?”, preventing the daughter from choosing if she will marry the singer, leaving the decision solely up to her father.

The music video shows an argument between the father and daughter, one of the stereotypical "steps" in the life of a daughter: rebellion against the father and his restrictive way of life. The song follows more cultural biases in the portrayal of the father, depicted as a restrictive stubborn white male leading an opulent lifestyle. He appears detached from the life of the daughter, and unfairly biased against the band leader. 

The band members, on the other hand, are presented in cheaper clothes and drive an old car, but exude style through their relaxed body language and clothes. By showing this, the video does challenge a conventional belief that being rich is better, by showing the girl willingly leaving a luxurious dinner at her house to go spend time in the singer’s old car and small apartment. She also changes into less conservative clothing, perpetuating the sexist notion that women need to wear revealing clothing to appear attractive to men.

Throughout the song, the singer repeats that he will, “marry her anyway”, even though he hasn't even asked his girlfriend to marry him yet. These lyrics have not escaped criticism, as cover artists have reworked lyrics to attack the singer as the one being rude both from the father and daughter's points of view. As "Rude" closes in on 100 million views on YouTube, its reputation as forward thinking music must be questioned, as its catchy vibe obscures viewers from the antiquated stereotypes hiding in the reggae beat.

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