First, Justin Bieber lost to Esperanza Spalding for the Best New Artist Grammy in 2011. The next year, a softspoken bearded man from Wisconsin beat out Nicki Minaj for the same award — small progressions in the move to overtake the ruling “mainstream.” Now, a spate of hard-hitting video entries seem to be making pop icons the new targets.
Caught somewhere in between the Ke$has and the Biebers are those like Lorde, whose sounds embrace pop but whose messages denounce it. The 17-year-old New Zealand native has even berated Selena Gomez for what she considers anti-feminist themes in “Come & Get It” and called out Justin Bieber for not being a “real depiction” of a young person. And on Tuesday, Lily Allen proudly joined Lorde’s band of musical misfits with her brand-new video for “Hard Out Here.”
The 28-year-old British pop star ended her four-year musical hiatus with a biting rebuke of pop culture that seethes with irony and pulsates with satire. The whole sardonic thing brings to mind the shots Lorde fired with her (surprisingly) chart-dominating “Royals.” Her promise that “I won’t be bragging about my cars/ Or talking about my chains” echoes Lorde’s denunciation of Maybach cars and Grey Goose. But while her comrade focuses most of her ire on materialism, Allen’s tackling pop culture’s never-ending misogyny and why “it’s hard out here for a bitch this hard.”
And its video makes “Royals” look like a hug. It starts with Allen on an operating table as she undergoes what looks to be liposuction, her agent by her side wondering, “How could somebody let themselves get like this?” She then launches an all-out assault on everything pop music has come to stand for — from twerking to expensive cars. The part where a woman in a skimpy leotard pours champagne over her body while another twerks seems to looks an awfully lot like Rihanna’s raunchy “Pour It Up” video. As for that message Allen writes in balloon letters? That one’s for you, Robin Thicke.
We don’t know yet whether “Hard Out Here” will get the same uproarious support that “Royals” did. But if it does, this war may get bloody.