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A Line-by-Line Take Down of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside”

December 16, 2014

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The song performed in the 1949 musical “Neptune’s Daughter”

’Tis the season to be sexist, with the “traditional” Xmas pop played on an eternal loop, reinforcing old gender stereotypes about boys only wanting cowboy boots and guns while girls insist on walking, talking dollies. There’s the infernal Love, Actually movie which, despite its charming British accents and treacly warm-fuzzy moments, is mind-bogglingly offensive in its depiction of women as nothing more than the embodiments of men’s romantic and/or sexual fantasies. But the worst offender — particularly this year, when it seems the epidemic of sexual assault and violence against women is finally getting the media attention it deserves — is the classic winter song “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.”

To be fair, the tune was written in 1944, long before The Pill, Roe v. Wade, Free to Be You and Me — and only a measly 24 years after women got the right to vote. There was “no such thing” as marital rape back then (in fact, it wasn’t until 19-freakin-93 that marital rape became illegal in all 50 states). If you think our date rape culture is bad now, imagine it back in the 40s!

Which begs the question: if our rape problem is still so bad today, 70 years later, but we’re at least aware of said problem, then why does this creepy song still get so much play? Most of its new versions have been recorded in the last decade, with three new versions released in the past year! Yes, it’s a catchy tune, with some linguistically clever back-and-forths that make for a fun (or at least, fun-to-record) duet — even we can’t help but sing along! But in the age of campus rape awareness (finally!) and Bill Cosby allegations, how can so many contemporary artists (and listeners) not be more conflicted about a song that basically sanctions date rape, roofies and all?

Let’s break it down:

I really can’t stay / But, baby, it’s cold outside

I’ve got to go away / But, baby, it’s cold outside

This evening has been / Been hoping that you’d drop in

So very nice / I’ll hold your hands they’re just like ice

Okay, she states her intentions clearly and they’re immediately met with his undermining tactics and pressure. And did he just subtly suggest that she’s “frigid”? Nice negging.

My mother will start to worry / Beautiful, what’s your hurry

My father will be pacing the floor / Listen to the fireplace roar

If her mother and father are waiting for her, then she’s probably still living at home — she may not even be old enough to legally drink (or legally give sexual consent!).

So really I’d better scurry /  Beautiful, please don’t hurry

Never trust someone you’re still getting to know who calls you “Beautiful” instead of your actual name — you are not an individual, you’re a notch.

Well, maybe just half a drink more / Put some records on while I pour

Do not let him do the pouring! Stay with your drink at all times.

The neighbors might think / Baby, it’s bad out there

Say what’s in this drink / No cabs to be had out there

How can listeners not be picturing Bill Cosby in a garish Christmas sweater right now?

I wish I knew how / Your eyes are like starlight now

To break this spell / I’ll take your hat, your hair looks swell

The incessant flattery is a pretty creepy attempt to break down her will.

I ought to say no, no, no, sir / Mind if I move in closer

Okay, it admittedly gets a little fuzzy here (but maybe that’s because of what he put in her drink!). She shouldn’t mince words, she should say “no” flat out — and she does, later in the song! But here, let’s not blame the victim. And, yes, good for him that he asked permission to move in closer, but does anyone listening believe he would respect her wishes and not inch nearer if she said, “Uh, thanks, but I’m good.”?

At least I’m gonna say that I tried / What’s the sense of hurting my pride

I really can’t stay / Baby, don’t hold out

[Both] Baby, it’s cold outside

Ugh, now we’re getting into the tired, well-trod territory of the sexual double standard: how women need to protect their reputations and deny their own sexuality, while men have to be virulent sexual creatures as a matter of pride. Add to that his underhanded attempt to appeal to her socially-constructed feminine desire to be accommodating and inoffensive and friendly. And please, let’s not use the Blurred Lines, I-know-you-want-it excuse that she obviously would like to stay and have sex with him but can’t because of the cultural mores of the time: a person can be conflicted about their feelings, but ultimately assert their intentions clearly, as she does — and those intentions need to be respected.

I simply must go / Baby, it’s cold outside

The answer is no / Baby, it’s cold outside

There it is! Couldn’t be clearer.

The welcome has been / How lucky that you dropped in

So nice and warm / Look out the window at the storm

He’s starting to sound like Kathy Bates in Misery.

My sister will be suspicious / Gosh your lips look delicious

My brother will be there at the door / Waves upon a tropical shore

My maiden aunt’s mind is vicious / Gosh your lips are delicious

But maybe just a cigarette more /Never such a blizzard before

So the lesson for boys is: ignore her, break her argument down at every turn, steal a kiss, and that’s when you’ll start to get somewhere sexually. Classy.

I got to get home / But, baby, you’d freeze out there

Say lend me a coat /  It’s up to your knees out there

You’ve really been grand / I thrill when you touch my hand

But don’t you see / How can you do this thing to me

Blue balls are no longer a valid defense in the court of public opinion.

There’s bound to be talk tomorrow / Think of my life long sorrow

And the lesson learned by girls is: your number one priority is not to be perceived as a slut.

At least there will be plenty implied / If you caught pneumonia and died

When all else fails, use the threat of imminent death as your P.U.A. power play. Isn’t that one of Mystery’s moves outlined in the The Game?

I really can’t stay / Get over that old doubt

[Both] Baby, it’s cold

[Both] Baby, it’s cold outside

The answer to the question of why this is now a Christmas “standard” is, of course, that sexism is alive and well today as the one remaining prejudice that’s still socially acceptable to entertain publicly. Because it’s funny. Because it’s no big deal. Hey, lighten up! Tell that to the women in this New York Times magazine article who said no, were ignored, and froze during their on-campus assaults.

The only way this song even remotely works in this day and age is with the roles reversed: a man singing the call and a woman singing the return — though still questionable, at least it’s subversive and philosophically interesting. They did it in the 1949 musical Neptune’s Daughter, which features both versions and seems pretty revolutionary for the time (the pushy man is pretty sleazy; the pushy woman is pure slapstick). And those recordings are happening more often. But which of the Zooey Deschanel versions are you more familiar with: the She & Him one which turns the tables, or the traditional version with her and Leon Redbone (from the movie Elf)?

And that’s why, to all the traditional (read: sexist) versions we hear on the radio, we say “Bah, humbug!”

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Battle of the Sexists: “Blurred Lines” VS. “Rude”

September 16, 2014

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During this, the last official week of summer, we thought we’d compare this year’s “Song of Summer” with last year’s official hit to see which would win the title of “Most Offensive.” For the sake of argument, we’re calling “Blurred Lines” by Robin Thicke the winner of 2013 (though it was pretty much a tie with Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky”) and naming “Rude” by the band Magic! the winner of 2014 (though we’re sure many arguments could be made for “Fancy,” “Problem,” “Chandelier,” even “All About That Bass”…the list goes on). When it comes to our car-radio listening experiences these past two summers, Thicke and Magic! are the S.O.S. champions, hands down.

So since we’re dealing with these songs as radio hits, let us dismiss their videos entirely, at least for this particular column. After all, it wouldn’t be a fair fight: in the objectification department, ”Blurred Lines,” with its topless women bouncing around the fully-clad male singers, would easily and roundly kick “Rude”‘s ass, what with its casual-Friday wedding attire and adorkable lead singer.

Actually, we imagine most people would automatically give the title to “Blurred Lines,” even just musically speaking, considering its traditionally sexually suggestive R&B roots and all the controversy and criticism the song’s lyrics garnered:  I know you want it…I’ll give you something big enough to tear your ass in two… Lines like that, along with the narrator referencing toking up with this “bitch”, getting blasted, her playing hard to get and him hating “these blurred lines,” resulted in the song being widely labeled as “rapey,” accused of sending mixed messages about consent, to the point where several student unions in the UK banned the song outright!  (It also probably didn’t help that Robin Thicke often comes across as a slimy, philandering, drunken, musical liar.)

By contrast, Magic!’s “Rude” has seemed sweet and romantic, with its light reggae beats under lyrics about wanting to get married and create a family. The narrator is so in love with this woman, and so emotionally hurt by her father’s rejection of him, we can’t help but fall in love with this sensitive ponytail guy right back!

Even so: in this Battle of the Sexists, “Rude” is the winner.

As sleazy and smarmy as “Blurred Lines” is, its lyrics are still open to interpretation: The way you grab me / Must wanna get nasty / Go ahead, get at me… As some mags like Slate and XOJane argued last summer, the woman is actively touching him, and though the narrator may be misinterpreting what that ultimately means, he’s leaving the call up to her, inviting her to make the first move. Same thing happens during T.I.’s rap:  So I just watch(in) and wait(in) for you to salute / But you didn’t pick. She has sexual agency. And it can’t be denied that there are certainly straight women for whom having a guy whisper confident, alpha-male, dirty nothings in their ear is a real turn on (hey, there’s no accounting for fantasy fodder…or taste.) Perhaps the big crime in this song is not condoning date rape but endorsing cheesy, egotistical, pick-up artist techniques.

In “Blurred Lines,” the woman seems to have a choice; in “Rude,” she doesn’t even have a role. The lyrics are straight out of the 1950s, even though it was written around 2013: man wants to marry “that girl,” so he seeks out her father to ask for his permission, which — hello? — isn’t his to give! The only person the singer has to ask is her. Just because the dad is “an old-fashioned man” doesn’t mean his old-fashioned sexism should be honored or met in kind. Can I have your daughter for the rest of my life? the narrator croons, as if she is something to be owned, as if this is a necessary step in the processes of two heteros getting married these days. Even if you’re a sucker for long-time traditions grounded in the ancient practice of women being traded like chattel in property deals, why not update things by going to both sets of parents as a united couple and hoping for their blessing. After all, marriage is no longer a deal made solely by patriarchs conducting real estate business; it’s a commitment entered into by two consenting, equal partners. Do we need to mention again that this is North America in the 21st century?

With “Blurred Lines,” you know you’re getting a sexed-up, sexist song — there’s no hiding it. With “Rude,” its retro sexism is hidden under layers of romance and love, which makes it more insidious. One is about casual sex, which automatically doesn’t get much respect, crap lyrics or not; the other is about marriage, which automatically seems more noble in our puritanical culture. Don’t be fooled!

“Blurred Lines” is way easier to dance to, anyway.

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Our Song of Summer: “Everyone Is Gay”

July 7, 2014

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We’re guessing the official Song of Summer this year is going to be Ariana Grande’s “Problem” featuring Iggy Azalea (though it could be Ed Sheeran’s “Sing,” or the adorable “Rude” by Magic!, or maybe Lana Del Rey’s “West Coast”, though Sia’s Chandelier would be a nice surprise, hopefully not the panderingly named “Summer” by Calvin Harris or the too slow “Stay” by Sam Smith…). But if we had to vote, we’d go for something totally unexpected: A Great Big World’s “Everyone Is Gay.” Sure, the video (which is really quite sweet) was released last year, but their megahit “Say Something” with Christina Aguilera is only dying down just now, finally. It’s about time another song off their 2014 album “Is There Anybody Out There?” got it’s day in the sun. There’s nothing particularly summery about “Everyone Is Gay” — it’s timeless and universal — but it’s upbeat, catchy and makes you want to do flips off the diving board:

“Everyone Is Gay”

If you’re gay then you’re gay
Don’t pretend that you’re straight
You can be who you are any day of the week
You are unlike the others
So strong and unique
We’re all with you

If you’re straight well that’s great
You can help procreate
And make gay little babies
For the whole human race
Make a world we can live in
Where the one who you love’s not an issue

‘Cause we’re all somewhere in the middle
And we’re all just looking for love to change the world
What if the world stops spinning tomorrow?
We can’t keep running away from who we are
If you’re gay then you’re gay
If you’re straight well that’s great
If you fall in between that’s the best way to be
You’ve got so many options
Every fish in the sea wants to kiss you

Awwww…

‘Cause we’re all somewhere in the middle
And we’re all just looking for love to change the world
What if the world stops spinning tomorrow?
We can’t keep running away from who we are
And we’re all here in it together

We’re one step closer to breaking down the walls
Everyone is gay

 

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Our New Music Crush: Sharon Van Etten

May 20, 2014

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We were lucky enough to see Sharon Van Etten perform live a few weeks back… okay, just Em was: We’re not literally attached at the hip, though Em is sure Lo would have loved it, too. She manages to be both warm and even slightly dorky on stage, while simultaneously oozing rock star chic (all bangs in the face, no cleavage in sight) — and then she sings a love song that wrenches your heart out.

Her new album, “Are We There” (it’s her third), comes out on May 26th, and we can’t stop listening to the song on it called, “Every Time the Sun Comes Up.” The best couplet in the entire song was apparently a joke. Here are the lyrics:

I washed your dishes,
But I shit in your bathroom

It may not look like much on paper, but listen to the song (the video is above is from a live session at N.M.E. in London), or, better yet, hear her sing it live, and you’ll get why we’re crushing. According to an article in Pitchfork: “She says this is a joke that merely stayed in place — the product of a very late and giggly night in the studio with her band — but her willingness to allow it to become permanent is telling. Van Etten isn’t particularly interested in obscuring or mediating the grand mess of being alive.”

Her earlier albums — back when she was in a shittier, emotionally abusive relationship — addressed the pure terror of being in love. But then she fell in love with a bartender who was the only one listening to her set in a New York City bar a few years back, and she got a little more optimistic about love. The new album, according to Pitchfork, is about “being unafraid in love — about seeing love as a kind of high-stakes trust-fall, and screaming at the other person to just fucking fall already; then, the concomitant feeling, the fear of falling, the way it paralyzes you.”

We’ll drink to that!

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POLL: Who’s Right About Miley – Sinead O’Conner OR Amanda Palmer?

October 4, 2013

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When Miley Cyrus said her “Wrecking Ball” video (in which she cries into the camera, before getting it on with a wrecking ball and a sledgehammer) was inspired by Sinead O’Connor‘s classic and subtle “Nothing Compares 2 U” video (that title is pre-texting!), O’Conner wrote an open letter to Miley, warning her that’s she’s being used as a cog in the sexist machinery of the music biz. Musician/arteeest Amanda Palmer then wrote an open letter to O’Connor warning her of that poopoo-ing female artists’ choices is actually not very feminist. Read the letters and then take the poll below!

Here’s an excerpt from O’Connor’s letter:

Nothing but harm will come in the long run, from allowing yourself to be exploited, and it is absolutely NOT in ANY way an empowerment of yourself or any other young women, for you to send across the message that you are to be valued (even by you) more for your sexual appeal than your obvious talent….

I repeat, you have enough talent that you don’t need to let the music business make a prostitute of you. You shouldn’t let them make a fool of you either. Don’t think for a moment that any of them give a flying fuck about you. They’re there for the money… we’re there for the music. It has always been that way and it will always be that way. The sooner a young lady gets to know that, the sooner she can be REALLY in control….

Whether we like it or not, us females in the industry are role models and as such we have to be extremely careful what messages we send to other women. The message you keep sending is that its somehow cool to be prostituted … its so not cool Miley … its dangerous. Women are to be valued for so much more than their sexuality. We aren’t merely objects of desire. I would be encouraging you to send healthier messages to your peers … that they and you are worth more than what is currently going on in your career. Kindly fire any motherfucker who hasn’t expressed alarm, because they don’t care about you.

And excerpt from Palmer’s letter:

Miley is, from what I can gather, in charge of her own show. She’s writing the plot and signing the checks, and although I think it’s tempting to imagine her in the board room of label assholes and management, I don’t think any of them masterminded her current plan to be a raging, naked, twerking sexpot. I think that’s All Miley All The Way. Now, would these men ARGUE with her when she comes into the room and throws down her treatment to hop up naked on the proverbial (and literal) wrecking ball? Of course not. Sex sells. We all know it. Miley knows it better than anyone: swinging naked on a big metal ball simply gets you more hits than swinging on a big metal ball wearing clothes. We’re mammals. LOOK BOOBS! And even more tantalizing: LOOK HANNAH MONTANA BOOBS! But none of this means that Miley is following anyone else’s script. In fact, what I see is Miley desperately trying to write her own script; truly trying to be taken seriously (even if its in a nakedly playful way) by the standards of her own peers….

I want to live in a world where Miley (or any female musician) can twerk wildly at 20, wear a full-cover floral hippie mumu at 37, show up at 47 in see-through latex, and pose semi-naked, like Keith & co, on the cover of rolling stone at 57 and be APPLAUDED for being so comfortable with her body. This is not to say that women have to play the desperate I’M-STILL-SEXY game as they age. Watching Madonna’s plastic surgeries and apparent stubbornness around aging just makes my inner teenager want to scream (YOU’RE MADONNA! YOU COULD HAVE MADE AGING SEXY GODAMMIT AND YOU DIDN’T!!), but the grown-up in me just pauses for a breath and remembers that Madonna is just carving out her section of the playing field. How she chooses to sculpt her face and body is just…her choice.

Who do you think is right?




The Best “Blurred Lines” Parody Yet!

September 3, 2013

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The Mod Carosel parody was pretty good, but a little too thin on the politics for our radical feminist tastes. Enter “Defined Lines,” the parody made by some University of Aukland law students for its Law Revue show last week. With its decent production values and pointed yet hilarious feminist message, it’s the Blurred Lines parody to end all Blurred Lines parodies. It even features a cameo by the purple Ina 2 vibe made by our beloved LELO! The video actually got taken down by YouTube for a few hours because, you know, double standards. But apparently the pushback was enough to get it back up. In case you miss them in the vid, the genius lyrics are below:

DEFINED LINES

Every bigot shut up (x 2)

Hey hey hey (x 3)

Boy you’d better quit all your sexist ways

So hear our manifesto of the modern age.

It’s time to undermine

The masculine confines

Coz we don’t wanna grind,

Gri-ii-iind.

You think that you’re so slick,

Let me emasculate ya!

Because your precious dick

Can’t beat my vibrator.

We’re feelin’ the frustration

From all the exploitation.

Prepare for your castration.

(Chorus)

So we can fuck this man’s world,

With all its bullshit,

Girls don’t deserve it.

We ain’t good girls:

We are scholastic,

Smart and sarcastic,

Not fucking plastic.

Listen mankind!

If you wanna get nasty,

Just don’t harass me:

You can’t just grab me.

That’s a sex crime!

Yeah we don’t want it -

It’s chauvinistic.

You’re such a bigot!

What you see on tv

Doesn’t speak equality,

It’s straight up misogyny.

Don’t want you to come on my face!

You think you’re hunky (hey hey hey)

You wanna hug me (hey hey hey)

Don’t you mean fuck me?

One thing I ask of you:

Don’t assume that we all just wanna screw.

Gotta respect me for me to be your boo.

We don’t want no scrubs, no we don’t approve.

Need a universal role reversal,

In real life not a dress rehearsal.

Gotta resist all the gender roles,

Time to put misogyny on parole,

Put exploitation on probation,

Time for you to witness our liberation!

There’s more to life than penetration,

And sexual discrimination.

So tonight we ignite our civil rights,

Resist chauvinism,

Win the fight,

Coz you’re livin large just like a montage

Of you and your friends actin’ out Entourage.

But we ain’t whores to do your household chores,

To make you a sandwich when we’re on all fours.

From history to herstory.

Know you got some opinions that we don’t agree.

Need to call my sister Joan of A-R-C,

Bake a feminist cake, Antoinette Marie.

Yeah, guys, we got spies,

Know all you wanna do is fertilise,

But avert your eyes from my thighs,

Never tell a bitch that she gotta drop a size.

You wanna box gap? Show me your six pack.

Wanna landing strip? You’d better get ripped.

I apologise if you think my lines are crass,

Tell me how it feels to get verbally harassed.

(Chorus)

So we can fuck this man’s world,

With all its bullshit,

Girls don’t deserve it.

We ain’t good girls:

We are scholastic,

Smart and sarcastic,

Not fucking plastic.

Listen mankind!

If you wanna get nasty,

Just don’t harass me:

You can’t just grab me.

That’s a sex crime!

Yeah we don’t want it -

It’s chauvinistic.

You’re such a bigot!

 
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A Round-Up of Thoughtful Spankings Over the Miley Cyrus Spectacle

August 30, 2013

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There’s been a LOT of talk this week over Miley Cyrus’s performance at last week’s VMAs. Here’s some of our favorite analysis:

 

 



The 10 Best and Worst Moments from the 2013 VMAs

August 26, 2013

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photo via MTV.com

THE WORST

1. Lady Gaga’s 26 costume changes into smaller and smaller outfits, ending in a Little Mermaid-inspired seashell/thong number. She’s just fucking with us at this point, right?

2. Miley Cyrus’s self-demotion to porny arm candy during her Blurred Lines “duet” with Robin Thicke (or was it the simulated rimming during “We Can’t Stop?).

3. Kevin Hart’s improvised — and painfully unfunny — stand-up bits, amounting to nothing more than drooling over Lady Gaga’s butt cheeks (twice!) and calling *NSYNC fat and farty.

4. A$AP Rocky’s shameless plug for his new album in the middle of a serious statement about gay rights.

5. Katy Perry’s “ring girls” in string bikinis. Why not subvert the whole macho boxing genre with scantily clad ring boys?

 

THE BEST

1. Lady Gaga’s unitard-clad, average-physiqued backup dancers. She’s just fucking with us at this point, right?

2. Taylor Swift caught on camera saying “Shut the fuck up” while One Direction presented the Best Female Pop Video nominees.

3. Justin Timberlake’s classy & graceful greatest hits medley performance in honor of his Vanguard award (which he accepted with class & grace).

4. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’s Best Social Message Video win for “Same Love.”

5. Can’t believe we’re saying this: Kanye “Jesus” West’s subdued performance of “Blood to the Leaves,” which was simply his black-out silhouette in front of a nature still. Refreshing!

 

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Blog Snog: 12 Things to Know About Dating a Musician

May 10, 2013

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One of our new favorite songs is a cover one of our new favorite songs by one-man-show (and total cutie) George BarnettThe Frisky‘s post this week about the realities of dating musicians helps keep our little fantasies in check:



Playing Ukelele Can Save the World

September 13, 2012

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Last week we saw Amanda Palmer perform live (and totally drunk-Tweeted her afterward, oops) — but right before the show, we saw her hubby, author Neil Gaiman, read a new, unpublished short story. (To seven hundred freakin’ people, holy shit — some of them queued all day to get a good seat!) Anyway, as a “reward” to his audience for sitting quietly during the hour-long reading (reward, ha — some people had flown halfway across the country for the reading), he introduced his wife, a.k.a. Amanda Fucking Palmer, who performed her ukelele anthem. She brought down the house! Seriously, total standing ovation from the audience.

And she’s only half-kidding about wanting to change the world with the ukelele — check out her introduction to the song in the video above (recorded at the British Library in London), which is a very early live performance of the song. And yep, that’s adoring husband Neil Gaiman holding her lyric sheets. Here’s a taste:

so play your favorite beatles’ song
and make the subway fall in love
they’re only $19.95, that’s not a lot of money
play until the sun comes up
and play until your fingers suffer
play LCD soundsystem songs on your ukulele
quit the bitching on your blog
and stop pretending art is hard
just limit yourself to three chords
and do not practice daily
you’ll minimize some stranger’s sadness
with a piece of wood and plastic
holy fuck it’s so fantastic, playing ukulele
eat your homework with a fork
and do your fruit loops in the dark
bring your etch-a-sketch to work
your flask of jack
your vibrator
your fear of heights
your nikon lens
your mom and dad
your disco stick
your soundtrack from “karate kid”

It goes on and on brilliantly. You can read all the lyrics and download the studio version of the song on her website here.

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