The song I’m looking at for my first media response is King by Charisma. I chose this song as it nods to and constructs femininity in a specific way, wherein there is an authentic woman via constructing an inauthentic woman by comparison. This construction isn’t new by any means, and is an aspect of fractal recursivity, wherein “the fact that the differences which are made to be iconic are used in the creation of an ‘other'” (2004, Andronis). That said: this construction is important to consider as a reflection of not only Charisma’s lyrical considerations of women (within the scope of this project), but also how said constructions have come to be (a bit beyond the scope of this project).
For the remainder of this essay I will be using the term ‘authentic woman’ as it is contrasted by the ‘inauthentic woman.’ That said: I cannot agree with the message sent through the lyrics, and actively wish to push back against the idea that there is an inherently authentic womanhood which is contrasted by an inherently inauthentic womanhood.
I will proceed with a short analysis of the specific language used in the song by examining the chorus and several verse sections (although I have included the lyrics in their entirety, with exception of chorus repetitions due to brevity). Disclaimer: I do not wish to express negativity toward either the song or Charisma with my analysis, as I know absolutely nothing of Charisma proper and enjoy the fuck out of the song. I also appreciate any and all constructive criticisms and comments made either here or via Twitter.
Can’t wait until I become king
say goodbye to the bullshit and shallow things
No more of their plastic and empty dreams
When I become king
Although Charisma sings that one day they will become “king” this is not to say that Charisma is rejecting femininity, but rather that she is associating her own feminine identity with respect to the power and authority attributed to the entextualized title of “king.” Whereas the authentic woman is able to gain power and authority through “say[ing] goodbye to the bullshit and shallow things” the inauthentic woman is trapped by her inability to move away from “plastic and empty dreams.”
Verse, Part 1:
Can you hear me now
Loud and clearly now
I got shit to say
So just hear me out
Look what’s winning now
Are we for real right now?
Building plastic dolls just to make daddy proud
Here Charisma positions herself as the authentic woman, who is subsequently assertive (“I got shit to say”), while calling to attention the contrast between herself and what I have deemed to be classed lyrically as the inauthentic woman. Whereas the authentic woman is assertive in her speech, construction of identity, and concerns over others (“are we for real right now?”) the inauthentic woman is constructed only for the male gaze (“building plastic dolls just to make daddy proud”).
Verse, Part 2:
Turn that bullshit off
Play my music loud
Just be who you are
Don’t let them tear you down
I’ve some self esteem
that’s what’s up right now
Verse, Part 3:
I’m on Skype with my friends like wassup right now
Bless my brother Cal
Cuz he helped me up
Peace to my hometown I’m in
No injected butts
No injected lips
Beauty lies within
That’s what always wins out
Here again we see that the authentic woman has “beauty [which] lies within” and rejects “injected butts” and “injected lips.” Additionally the authentic woman “always wins out” by virtue of standard deletion (ie. the inauthentic woman who has been modified in some way is the default, and the authentic woman is constructed through a process of trait deletion).
Verse, Part 4:
So if you is tired of fakeness as I am
Then give me the freedom to sing
I can’t wait I can’t wait to be king
I’d like to call attention here to the fact that I have chosen not to include chorus repititions as an aspect of my analysis, but I’d like to note that I do find it very interesting that the bridge (“I can’t wait I can’t wait to be king”) is repeated in addition to the chorus proper (2017, Vox). If I had chosen to analyze this piece on the basis of literary analysis as opposed to a constructive analysis this is absolutely something I would have focused on more.
Verse, Part 5:
Let me clear the air
This is not a diss
This is opposite of all that gossiping
This is common sense
Mixed with consciousness
This is ‘ I love myself ‘ that’s why I’m the shit
Verse, Part 6:
So why would I care?
If it’s not a hit
When was truth ever based on acknowledgement
I’ve got self esteem
Plus my squad is lit
That’s why we’re taking off like a rocket ship
As part of this analysis I cannot discount the effects of the music proper. The song itself is poppy, and uses a popular triplet meter. In using this as an example of the ways in which the musicality turns to other music for genre convention constructive practices it is thus possible to conclude that although Charisma sings that they do not require validation they are influenced by popular genre conventions and are simultaneously willing to influence said conventions. This is another example of fractal recursivity whereby Charisma is “tapping into this great collective artistic movement” (2017, Vox).
Verse, Part 7:
So don’t try to tell me what’s cool right now
I could care less of what’s in right now
The only thing I wanna be right now
Verse, Part 8:
So we don’t need you for [unintelligible]
We know that we can do anything
I can’t wait, I can’t wait to be king
As has been shown above this song and the language used therein are directly related to the topic of language and gender. Where the authentic woman has access to power, authority, and subsequently prestige the inauthentic woman exists as a “plastic” thing for the male gaze. Repetition is used to great effect in this construction, with specific associations of “king” (obviously) and “plastic […] fakeness.
In completing this analysis I am left wondering whether or this song could function without the foundational premise of authentic versus inauthentic womanhood? I would be interested to look more into the ways in which gender is produced through music (and specifically how music videos amplify this, something which is well beyond the scope of this analysis). Moving forward I would love to see other songs that people think follow similar lines of gender construction in addition to those which fight against gender/ed language in music. In reviewing the course objectives this song allows for a “discuss[ion regarding] the role of language in the construction of gender […] identities” in addition to facilitating my own “critical respons[e] to [an] original source readin[g]” and thus would be appropriate for further consideration beyond the short essay I have written here. I think that there is still consideration to be made here regarding the trajectory of the way/s in which music influences thought as it stands in opposition to the way in which specific people express their own ideologies. While this type of analysis cannot be undertaken on a single source, “King” would absolutely be a necessary aspect of a larger project due to its explicit engendering.
[A few] questions I’m left with:
- How does racialization impact not only an analysis of the lyrics as they construct womanhood, but also influence further understandings of womanhood therein?
- How do aspects of racialization of genre convention with respect to specific musical tropes or mores influence an understanding of the music overall?
- How are trans women excluded from the category of “authentic woman” here? Would it be possible for the lyrics to continue to express their base message of us vs. them without excluding trans women? How?