Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Sexuality Reflected in Three Different Versions of "I Want Candy"

I Want Candy was a hit for the group Bow Wow Wow in 1982. They didn't have much other success, but that one song has retained a lasting power exceeding the songs of groups that had more hits (*cough* Flock of Seagulls *cough*). Something to do with its great Buddy Hollyesque beat.

I Want Candy was a remake of a song originally recorded in 1965 by a group called The Strangeloves, who also didn't have much other success. In the last decade, others have recorded the song, including Aaron Carter (whose version is so pre-teen and bubbly that it inspired a sarcastic reaction song called I Want Candy Dead) and Melanie C as a one-off for a movie.

I Want Candy is a sexual song, that's pretty clear. The lyrics are suggestive, but relatively tasteful.
I know a girl who's soft and sweet
She's so fine, she can't be beat
Got everything that I desire
Sets the summer sun on fire

I want Candy, I want Candy

Go to see her with her hair hung down
Ain't no finer girl in town
Candy's just what the doctor ordered
She's so sweet, she makes my mouth water

I want Candy, I want Candy

Candy on the beach, there's nothing better
But I like Candy when it's wrapped in a sweater
Some day soon I'll make her mine
Then I'll have Candy all the time

I want Candy, I want Candy
The above are the original lyrics. Here's a video:

The male singers demonstrate not the slightest sexuality, let alone expression. Meanwhile, a troupe of cheerleaders dance in and around them in somewhat short, but mainly fun clothing. The atmosphere is one of fun and dancing, without much overt sexuality.

Now here's Bow Wow Wow doing the same thing, twenty years later:

The men are barechested; they're sex symbols in the same caliber as the members of The Clash, something on the level of fraternity dudes. But the lead singer, Annabella Lwin, is a different story, she's twirling around phallic candy canes, licking ice cream, kneeling with her thighs revealed, and soaking water up the back of her dress.

The lyrics have changed from "a girl who's soft and sweet" to "a guy who's tough but sweet", and from "with her hair hung down" to "when the sun goes down". Still makes the mouth water, though. She expresses sexual desire, is sexually desirable, but is still mostly just having fun. She doesn't fondle the guys or look like a whore, for instance.

Now here's Melanie C's version, twenty years later:

Melanie dresses in tight leather, dances like a stripper, fondles fluorescent lights, rubs her breasts, licks her parted lips, and otherwise acts like a whore. Furthermore, the men are half-naked beefcake sex objects for her playthings. But it doesn't end there, no.

She's a girl now singing about "a girl who's tough but sweet", which could be construed as either lesbian or straight on straight girl activity, either one representing an uninhibited, gender-blind sexuality: she can sleep with men or women and she can do it in public.

This video is pretty representative of how female performers present themselves nowadays: as strippers, soaked in sexuality, without any inhibitions, mysteries, innocence, shyness, or self-respect. I won't say that it can't get any worse; it certainly can, and I fear that it will. In another twenty years, they'll simply be having sex on stage.

I kind of miss the 80s version, though. There should still be some child-like fun left in the world.
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