Bruno Mars reached five number one hits faster than any male artist since Elvis Presley. I started listening to him when he featured in B.o.B.’s “Nothin’ on You.” That was pretty much my high school anthem; my boyfriend at the time would even sing it to me when it came on the radio. Then, Bruno Mars started coming out with his own songs. And man, were they catchy. So catchy that they kind of got on my nerves after a while. “Grenade,” “Just the Way You Are,” “The Lazy Song” — NO MORE.
Lately, though, the music scene has been shifting. There’s a more retro feel to the songs you hear on the radio now. Take, for example, Justin Timberlake’s “Take Back the Night” (which is also controversial). I’d like to attribute Mars’ retro tunes to Daft Punk’s newest album, “Random Access Memories,” but I can’t, because “Treasure” song was released before that album. However, there’s no denying that it has a very ’70s feel, and it was so hyped up that it became popular instantly. Whether you like it or not, it’s being played on all the pop stations, and making my friends say things like, “I’m so proud they put this on the radio!”
Bruno Mars tried to emulate that style in his newest hit, “Treasure.” Once again it’s catchy, melody-driven and repetitive. But, unlike these other songs I mentioned, I don’t like it. And it’s not the music that’s the problem, really; I listen to pop music on the radio all the time, despite the chord similarities between most songs. No, the lyrics are what make me want to switch the dial.
Over the years, I’ve become a feminist. Or, really, I’ve realized that believing in equality makes you a feminist, whether you’re male or female. Before we start, it’s clear that this song is from the male point of view (because it’s Bruno Mars) and is talking about a female (“Pretty girl, pretty girl.”) This song rubbed me the wrong way, and soon enough I realized it’s because of the message Bruno Mars is sending with his lyrics. Here are some that stood out to me:
DISCLAIMER: Do I need to state that this is just my opinion? Or that I’ve never taken a Women’s Studies course in my life? I guess it’s safe to do so.
“I gotta tell you a little something about yourself.”
Because a woman needs a man to tell her about herself; obviously, she couldn’t figure that out first. A woman absolutely craves it when a man tells her who she should become. No. Bruno Mars is telling men that they can just approach women and say, “Let me tell you who I want you to be, and that is who you will become.” Here’s a saying oft-repeated in good ‘ole relationship advice: Don’t try to change the one you’re with. It’s often addressed to people who try to “fix” their significant others. News flash: it also applies to people who want to “improve” their SOs. If they’re not for you, don’t try to morph them into someone who is. Don’t tell them about themselves; they know who they are. Bruno Mars disagrees, though: “Treasure, that is what you are.”
“You’re a sexy lady, but you walk around here like you wanna be someone else.”
So what if I’m sexy? Maybe I’m not “walking around” in heels or showing cleavage, but that doesn’t mean I want to be someone else; that doesn’t mean I even want to be considered “sexy” at all. This lyric reinforces the stereotype that women don’t know who they want to be, and that it’s important for men to tell them. A repeat of the sentiment above, with a twist involving looks. Here’s the reasoning: “Why wouldn’t you want to be sexy? (under my parameters and in the way that I decide)?” No. Instead, ask: Why wouldn’t you want to be sexy for yourself? Why not let women decide what “sexy” means for them? (P.S. For me it means being fierce, confident, inspirational and caring. What’s your sexy?)
“I know that you don’t know it, but you’re fine, so fine”
I am SO tired of this trope in music of “girls who don’t know they’re pretty.” One Direction start it, with lyrics like “You don’t know you’re beautiful,” and then, to make it worse, “That’s what makes you beautiful.” This teaches young women listening – and yes, there are a lot of them – that it’s hot to be insecure and have low self-esteem. NO! First of all, you shouldn’t be modifying yourself for anyone. And secondly, there’s a logical flaw here: what happens when he tells you you’re beautiful, and then you realize you are, and your self-esteem skyrockets? Will he stop thinking you’re attractive? No, you have to choose: confidence, or the guy. Here are some things that actually make you beautiful. Bruno Mars’ lyrics just add to the trope, but instead of saying that she’s beautiful because she doesn’t know she’s fine, he’s saying that she can become his possession because she doesn’t know she’s fine. Not OK.
“I’m gonna show you when you’re mine all mine”
If you’ve ever been in a relationship, you’ve probably secretly thought to yourself, “He/she is finally mine! Muahahahah” in a totally hilarious, ironic way because I know you guys are all hilarious. However, you’re not dumb; vocalizing that thought, even as a joke, could be polarizing, making both parties cringe. Bruno Mars doesn’t care, though. He even using the possessive pronoun “mine,” like the seagulls in “Finding Nemo.” He wants to add this girl to his possessions, to his treasure trove. Remember Ariel’s Grotto? Look at this stuff; isn’t it neat? He’ll show you how neat you are once you’re inside that grotto. And you can’t swim out. (OK this metaphor lasted too long, but you get the picture, right?) Men and women: the people you date are not possessions, they are PEOPLE. You should treasure them, but they shouldn’t become treasures.
“You should be smiling. A girl like you should never look so blue.”
And lastly, the lyric that bugs me the most. I struggled to create an optimistic persona because I love making people happy, but every so often I do fall into a stump, and I become a bit gloomy. It does not make me feel better when people tell me I shouldn’t be. I should be allowed to feel my feelings however the hell I want, thank you very much. Unfortunately, classic gender roles magnify the pressure on women to put others at ease with their smile. In the same vein, men are pressured to be “dark and mysterious” and to brood, because that’s apparently sexy, too. My message: Do whatever you want. Here’s an awesome sweatshirt you can wear instead of smiling all the time. The description says: “Smile, girl. You’re too pretty to let your own feelings interfere with my viewing pleasure. Want to dissuade the creepy dude at the gas station from telling you that you’re too pretty to scowl like that? This is the sweatshirt for you.” Of course, some men who see you wear this sweatshirt might call you a “bitch.” At least you’re not asking for it by wearing a tube top, though. (SARCASM ALERT.)
Long story short: It’s songs like these that make me sad for all the people out there who think they should change themselves in order to attract someone and for all the people who actually treat others right.
NOTE: I debated writing this article, but then something happened. I was walking on a sidewalk in Providence after work on a hot day and some creeper beeped at me. This was the first time that had ever happened to me. The guy gave me a dumb, cute-sy wave and drove on. I was insulted. I tried to brush it off – hey, he thinks I’m hot! – but then realized that my self-esteem isn’t so low that I needed that kind of encouragement, and that the type of person who would do that – objectify women to their faces – isn’t the type of person I want to attract. I also fell into the trap, when describing the event to a friend, of explaining what I was wearing. He said, “It doesn’t matter what you wore. Objectification is objectification. That guy was just an asshole.” Something like that. Ever since then, Feminist Allie roared up, so here’s an article about Bruno Mars I’m actually extremely surprised nobody else has written (that’s a link to a Google search of “bruno mars treasure feminism”). We’re all so mad at T Swift, but there are some serious other perpetrators out in the music mix.
LASTLY: If someone decided to make a Feminist Bruno Mars, I wouldn’t mind.
What songs make you want to rant about them online? What do you consider sexy about yourself? Did you make it this far? Are you OK? I hope you’re OK. I love you.
Edit: An earlier version of this post speculated that Daft Punk influenced Bruno Mars’ retro style. In fact, “Treasure” was released last year, and “Random Access Memories” was released this year. Thanks to Mary for finding this flaw!