A Look Back at the Most Problematic Anthems of the Decade

Whether you agree with the Triple J’s Hottest 100 of the Decade rankings, one thing is for sure; it’s a fascinating look at the 2010’s and the evolution of the zeitgeist. 

Credit: News.com.au

Today, Fashion Industry Broadcast delves deeper into the songs of the decade; and takes a look at anthems that defined the last ten years despite ageing worse than that packet of cheese in the back of your fridge.

1. ‘Blurred Lines’ by Robin Thicke

Nobody can forget the tornado that was Robin Thicke’s ‘Blurred Lines’. It came in hot and fast and dominated the airwaves. The track peaked at number one in at least 25 countries and became one of the best selling singles of all time. But it didn’t take long for listeners to take issue with the lyrics, with some groups claiming that at best they’re misogynistic and at worst they promote rape culture.  

I hate these blurred lines
I know you want it

Controversy was kicked into overdrive when Thicke performed on stage at the VMA’s with Miley Cyrus. The performance at the time was described as one of the craziest, raciest, and strangest VMA duets seen in a long time. Shortly afterwards, Thicke and his wife of 21 years, Paula Patton filed for divorce due to his infidelity, alleged abuse and drug use.

2. ‘All about that Bass’ by Meghan Trainor 

When Meghan Trainor’s debut track ‘All About That Bass’ first emerged it was largely hailed as the body-positivity anthem that we were waiting for. Trainor, a self-proclaimed curvy girl, released the single in 2014 with the intent to promote body positivity and self-acceptance. It spent 8 weeks atop the Billboard Hot 100 and was certified diamond.

However, the hit was also met with backlash, this time criticised as antifeminist and objectifying. Trainor’s lyrics were seen to put down thin women, and to furthermore incite competition between thin and curvy women in a bid for male attention.

Boys like a little more booty to hold at night
(That booty, uh, that booty booty)
You know I won’t be no stick figure silicone Barbie doll

For plus sized women it was an important recognition of their beauty, and paved the way for artists like Lizzo to dominate the body positivity message. But for female unity, it was a divisive step back that pandered to the male gaze.

3. ‘Bad Blood’ by Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift’s ‘Bad Blood’ represents everything that was wrong with her image in the mid-2010’s. Also released in 2014, the single confirmed the rumours of a feud between Swift and Katy Perry, and ignited further tensions between the two artists. The Bad Blood music video was jam-packed with beautiful women, all a part of Swifts famous “Squad”. An aesthetically awe-inspiring clip, it created a strong impression with special effects explosions brightly contrasted against the dystopian background.

But Swift is more than just a pop-artist, she is a cultural icon. A self-proclaimed feminist, she is on record stating, “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women”. So, the song itself is a contradiction of her values. The feud began in 2013 when Katy Perry did something “so horrible” that it made them “straight-up enemies”. We now know that Perry ‘stole’ two of Swifts back up dancers for her own tour, a claim both dancers deny.

The lyrics and the music video pit the two pop- stars against each other.

“‘Cause, baby, now we got bad blood
You know it used to be mad love”

It also marks the beginning of Taylor Swift positioning herself as the victim in the narrative.

“Did you have to hit me, where I’m weak?”

However, despite the faux-feminism and manipulation of the narrative, ‘Bad Blood’ reached number one in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Scotland and the United States. It also won video of the year at the 2015 MTV awards. The two pop-stars have since patched up their relationship, with Perry joining the long list of celebrities who cameo in Swift’s videos.

4. ‘Pumped up Kicks’ by Foster the People

To be entirely honest, I love Foster the People’s ‘Pumped up Kicks’. It’s the perfect mix of upbeat and mellow, and the chorus is so catchy. If you don’t know too much about it, you would be forgiven for thinking that it was just a boppy song about friendship or young love- but the subject matter is in fact much darker. Mark Foster, front man of the band, even decided to retire the song recently due to ensuing events.

The song is written from the perspective of Robert, a high schooler with desires to commit a school shooting. It debuted two years before the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, when hysteria surrounding shootings was at a comparatively low level.

“All the other kids with the pumped up kicks
You better run, better run, outrun my gun
All the other kids with the pumped up kicks
You better run, better run faster than my bullet”

On the subject, Foster states, “I’m proud of the conversation that it created. But now I’ve been very seriously thinking of retiring the song forever”. In a culture [America] where gun violence is so prevalent and doesn’t look to be going away, songs that glorify or provide sympathy towards school shooters have no place within society. As great as the song sounds, it might be time to put it to bed for good. 

Honorable mention:  ‘Literally I Can’t’ by Play n Skillz ft. Redfoo, Lil Jon and Enertia McFly

‘Literally I Can’t’ only receives an honourable mention because it never achieved the commercial success needed to be considered an anthem. Released in 2014, I literally can’t begin to describe how bad the track is. It’s a cluster of problematic language and stereotypes.

The song is set in a frat house and follows a group of sorority girls who are mocked for not wanting to drink alcohol and then peer-pressured into taking part. The girls repeatedly say “literally I can’t”- to which they are told to “shut the f*** up”.

Redfoo, of LMFAO fame, was the most well known artist featured in the song and received most of the media backlash. Lines from his verse include:

But you annoying me…cause you’re talkin.(STFU!)


I said jump on the pole
I didn’t mean your opinion

The fact that ‘Literally I Can’t’ never became an anthem – despite its formulaic mirroring of commercial pop music – is a great testimonial for the 2010s. But knowing that tracks like ‘Blurred Lines’ and  ‘All About That Bass’ were able to reach such vast commercial success, makes me glad that we’re leaving the 2010’s behind. I look forward to a new, kinder era brought to us by body confident queens like Lizzo, and staunch feminist’s like James Blake.

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