Main Entry: sot·to vo·ce

Pronunciation: "sä-tO-'vO-chE
Function: adverb or adjective
Etymology: Italian sottovoce, literally, under the voice
1 : under the breath : in an undertone; also : in a private manner
2 : very softly -- used as a direction in music

Friday, December 09, 2005

the teaches of peaches . . . what have we learned?

Is Peaches that offensive? A friend tells me, most of his women friends find Peaches offensive, where as I on the other hand, find Peaches incredibly sexy and though yes, full of sex and raw and lacking in any subtlety, her music has that old Salt n Pepa “Push It” bump-n-grind thing going on that has been lacking much popular music for a long time. Or maybe I’ve just been looking in the wrong places, which I wouldn’t doubt. Or maybe it exists but just not on a par with what used to exist and certainly, Peaches wouldn’t have become such a phenomenon and so debated were she ordinary and did not stand about from the crowd.

What puzzles me and what I am trying to sort out, is what is so offensive about Peaches lyrics? Are we really so unfamiliar with the things she sings about? Can we really look in the mirror and say Shucks maam I’m so shocked?

In the film Lost in Translation Peaches the lyrics from “Fuck the Pain Away” are used as the backdrop for a seedy, strip-club club scene that features a pole dancing woman wearing nothing, or it would appear nothing except perhaps shoes, which is sort of perfect.

At the same time there seems to be a certain ironic thing going on here that perhaps is behind the less obvious choice of Peaches’ words and maybe Sofia Coppola knew that and got that or maybe she found the song offensive and so put it in the scene knowing that it would offend most people as the scene itself would make so many uncomfortable. Not that we don’t do these things, just that we don’t talk about them (especially in mixed company) so frankly. It’s “tactless” as someone said to me recently.

Perhaps there is something ironic about Peaches though. Perhaps we have her all wrong and when she sings, while yes, some of it is literal of course, some of it is intended to poke fun at something that she feels strongly about. The way she practically wails Fuck the Pain Away should tell us something, just as should her “Huh?” and her “What?,” sung or spoken in a kind of haze as if the singer were stupid or totally out of it, which she certainly isn’t from what we can tell because she comes roaring out of the gate at the end with her endless lines of “fuck the pain away” as noted. It’s almost as if we’ve been duped into thinking here is this little, kinda dopey, albeit perhaps a bit sleazy girl with no brain and who can be a toy for boys, when in fact, if anything it sounds like she has the situation under control.

For those who don’t know the lyrics, I’ll reprint them here, though I imagine there will be those who will have problems with the lyrics again, but still … I just don’t see it. It’s like her other song, I’m the Kinda Bitch, which here again, so what if I’m referred to as a bitch, or even the oh-gosh-so-dreaded-and-barb-intended-word, “cunt” which here again hardly makes me shiver. Well shiver me timbers! It’s too pathetic to even bother really addressing anymore than I already have. Words only have the power you give them. Just like people. You either give them the authority or you do not. Just turn your back on it and whatever.

Perhaps because I am a bit too jaded because where I’m from in Europe the word cunt is tossed about simply and without any real meaning associated specifically to women; at this point, it has lost that meaning and just means “it sucks.”. We say, “that’s a real cunt of a situation,” as in, “It’s a difficult situation, a real bear etc etc.” and so on, though perhaps a bit stronger. The other day a friend said to me, “This time thing is a real cunt” referring to his schedule which was overbooked. It didn’t strike me as particularly a big deal. Nor had it when, golly gosh, been directed at me or other women, been a hurtful thing, and though surely it was intended as such, the few times it was said are laughable. If that’s the best you can do, then that’s pathetic and more, anyone who feels the need to even bother with such insults or who has this much time on his or her hands must have a real cunt of a life.

The point is, too much of this stuff makes some women feel that they should somehow be embarrassed by things that are essentially for all intents and purposes normal. Let’s not forget that suckin’ on my titties as Peaches put it, is hardly something new to most of us, as is the rest of the song, it may sound “crude” as another friend said, but then, he’s of a different generation that didn’t grow up with this stuff the way we grew up with Salt n Pepa and Run DMC (remember them) and groups of this sort. Yes, we had our origins in Dylan, but now we’re also listening to Travis and The Flaming Lips and Adam Daniel and Evan Dando and so on.

Who knows. For my part, I find none of this offensive, and while there are things that are offensive, this is hardly one of them. The lyrics to “Fuck the Pain Away” are as below:

“Suckin' on my titties like you wanted me, Callin me, all the time like blondie Check out my chrissy behindIt's fine all of the time Like sex on the beaches, What else is in the teaches of peaches? huh? what? huh? right. what? uhh.”
and then onto repeat and the final. ”Fuck the pain away. Fuck the pain away. Fuck the pain away. Fuck the pain away. Fuck the pain away. Fuck the pain away. Fuck the pain away. Fuck the pain away. Fuck the pain away. Fuck the pain away. Fuck the pain away. Fuck the pain away. Fuck the pain away. Fuck the pain away. Fuck the pain away. Fuck the pain away.”

It’s an entirely different lyrical approach from “I’m the kind bitch that you wanna get with” a line from Peaches “I’m the kinda…” that really works because there is something, and I hate this word but it applies anyway, empowering about it. To flat out say, “I’m the kinda bitch that you wanna get with…” and more, takes, how do you put it here? ~ balls, right?

But why the need to ascribe such a masculine comparison – “it takes balls.” Why not, it takes “tits.” You never hear anyone say that. Granted, I used it but only to make the point; I can think of no feminine comparisons.

Why is calling someone “a little girl” an insult, and I admit, I’ve done it just because it is or was highly effective because so many people, especially a certain kind of person, associate being a little girl with weakness and all things bad (no, not all men, just a certain kind of man and generally a weaker one at that.) Why not call him, then, “a little boy” and why doesn’t that pack the same emotional wallop as the other? Why should either pack an emotional wallop is really the question and a good one. Since when did little girls become all things bad? Didn’t they used to make the world go round or something along those lines, or is that just a French thing, and don’t they get “bigger every day” and so we “Thank heaven, for little girls…” and then perhaps we all turn into women like Peaches? Not all, to be sure, but hey, in my book, kudos to those who do.

Perhaps we just take it all too literally and that’s the problem right there.