Life imitating art: Hinder and Rihanna vs Mya

Nittzsah, a fellow writer over at Diasporadical wrote about the Ushenzi/Ungwana campaign. It’s a series of adverts on Kenyan TV which aims to change social behaviour.

In one advert, a girl drops an ice cream cup on the floor in a busy street, and doesn’t bother to pick it up. She then giggles derisively at the council worker that does. In another ad, a taxi driver argues with his wife because he has found a purse with a lot of money, and decides to return it to its owner.

I find the ads amusing and entertaining, but I don’t know if they actually change anything. After all, I’ve never walked into a soda shop prompted by a Coke ad.

But at some level, these messages do filter through. My daughter insists that I buy Dettol, Lifebuoy, [and Barbie dolls] simply because of ads on TV. She also thinks Scotts Emulsion is cool. Growing up, that stuff was considered the worst form of punishment.

So for kids her age, it’s possible that seeing an honest cab driver on TV would make her less likely to steal.

It’s said that media is the best gauge of a society. It reflects what people are thinking, seeing and doing. But media also seeks to influence our habits, and it’s sometimes hard to tell which is which.

In 2000, a pretty RnB artist named Mya released a song called Case of the Ex. It had an awesome dance video and some pretty clever lyrics. It talks about a girl challenging her man when his Ex calls at 12.00 a.m. She wants to know how he’ll respond now that his Ex wants him back. The tone of the song is angst, and we can tell the girl isn’t amused by this Ex lurking around.

I liked this song because it was catchy. It had a great dance beat, and it spoke to the little pitbull inside me. It felt pretty good to sing  the attitude even though I’m not the kind of girl that will fight over a man.

Five years later, a rock band named Hinder released Lips of an angel. It covers the same theme, but from a guy’s perspective. He’s talking to his Ex, wishing he was with her, while his girl sits blissfully in another room. In this case as well, it an ex-based booty call.

Unlike Mya, this song always makes me cry. It isn’t just the Emo tone and the sad guitars … it’s the whole idea. He sings to his Ex…

… you make it hard to be faithful with lips of an angel.

Every time I hear that line, I get all teary for the new girlfriend who’s clearly being cheated on, emotionally at least. I wonder why he broke up with LadyEx in the first place if she was so awesome, and why he can’t just dump this new girl and get back the old one instead of sneaking around like that.

There are other lines that kill me:

Just knowing that you’re talking to me will start a fight. No, I don’t think she has a clue.

My girl’s in the next room, sometimes I wish it was you. I guess we never really moved on

Poor new girlfriend 🙁

The fact that both these songs hit massively says a lot about society. Often, a song becomes popular because it expresses what many people feel. In the 90s and 2000s, it was okay to stand up for your love. Songs about cheaters and break-ups were largely angry. We had hits like…

  1. Don’t mess with my man – there’s a version by Nivea and one by the girl from En Vogue
  2. How am I supposed to leave you now by Westlife
  3. Why you over there looking at me [while my girl’s standing here] by Ma$e

Later, the trend seems to change. Cheaters become apathetic and helpless, but not necessarily sorry. They realise what they’re doing is wrong, but they don’t plan on stopping. Sample these:

  1. Unfaithful by Rihanna
  2. Dilemma by Nelly and Kelly Rowland
  3. Confessions by Usher

Love has always been complicated, but it gets really sad when the world says it’s ok to eff things up then sing about it.

Songs begin with words, and words and sound are a pretty good way to express emotion  – whether you’re a bitchy ex-girlfriend or a late-night drunk-dialler. And words work best when they’re written down.

I take a lot of things to heart, because words can heal, and they can hurt. I can help you get those words across, though I would rather do it with angst than curl up and cry.

Whether you need a Taylor Swift to put tears on a client’s guitar, a Petey Pablo to get someone to show you the money, or an Ashley Simpson to warn off a jealous girlfriend, I’m the one to say it for you. From ghost writing to love letters to web copy to fan mail, I’m your girl, so call me!