Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Why I like LMFAO

This probably always inevitable. The punditocracy has discovered LMFAO. Even as we speak, a flock of Ivy-educated intellectuals are cautiously circling the group, eying it up like some incomprehensible cultural artifact from a long-forgotten race. Slate's take is positive. TNR's is mostly about Mitt Romney.

So the time has come, I suppose, for me to publicly confess: I'm a LMFAO fan.

Sorry, mom. I know you had high hopes for me.

I don't listen to their music, of course. Does anyone? Even more than most Top 40 artists, LMFAO makes no attempt to disguise the formula behind their craft. Even someone as musically inept as me can listen to any of their songs twice and immediately recognize that there's nothing more to any of them than a dance beat, some slurred "rapping," and a catchy, hooky bit that stays in your head far longer than you'd ever want (the wiggle, if you will).

Still: thank god for LMFAO. Because implicit in all their stupid music, in their stupid personas, and their stupid songs, is the idea that pop music ought to be fun. That pop music is silly, and that it's okay to be silly, and that anyone who takes pop music too seriously is absolutely missing the point.

That might seem obvious, but I don't think it is, to a lot of people. There are people who take their dance clubs very seriously. Go to any club on a Saturday night and you'll scads of them, the girls in little dresses and the guys in too-tight button-ups, all grossly cocky and prettified. The atmosphere is toxic. These people think they're having fun, but it's nasty sort of fun, more about strutting and self-regard and sexual conquest than about simply having a laugh and letting loose with some friends.

Next to this sort of peacockery, LMFAO seems positively wholesome. With absurdly over-the-top lyrics, class-clown antics, and leopard-print, LMFAO repudiates the idea that dancing and clubbing should be an act of sexual predation. Their message to the club-creeps: "We might look stupid, but so do you, and at least we don't care."

It's refreshing, and more: it's eminently relatable. Normal people, after all, don't look good on the dance floor. They look goofy! And LMFAO embraces this. Smart people have always known that dancing and self-deprecation go hand in hand, but LMFAO takes it a step further: the very act of dancing to "Sexy and I Know It" is necessarily self-deprecating. It's a song designed to humiliate anyone who takes it seriously, and good riddance.

In that way, "Sexy and I Know It" and much of the rest of LMFAO's oeuvre forms the very antithesis of the skin-crawling date-rape anthems that sometimes creep onto the Top 40. (Enrique Iglesias, I'm looking at you.) Was this intentional? I don't know, and I don't care. At least for now, LMFAO and their wiggles have helped drive some of the leering machismo out of dance music, and that's no mean feat. It's the first step towards making the club safe for the rest of us.

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