Thursday 13 December 2018

Millennial Diary

Rita Ora Photo: PA Wire
Rita Ora Photo: PA Wire

Ciara O'Connor

With Ed Sheeran otherwise engaged, every other pop star in the world is taking the opportunity to release a single in the hope of becoming 2018's song of the summer.

Last week saw the release of countless slick, autotuned earworms - designed to get into your head and never leave, to be played driving on a sunny day with the windows rolled down. Pharrell, Diplo, Black Eyed Peas, Christina Aguilera, J.Lo and even, tragically, The Backstreet Boys have all crawled out of Sheeran-winter hibernation to compete for a place in our hearts and summers.

But this joyous time has been marred by controversy. Rita Ora has rubbed some people up the wrong way with her offering, Girls, which features the lyrics, "Sometimes, I just wanna kiss girls, girls, girls/Red wine, I just wanna kiss girls, girls, girls".

Upon its release, Hayley Kiyoko, a former Disney Channel star whose fans call her pop music's "lesbian Jesus", tweeted to criticise the song, saying she fully supports artists opening up about their sexuality, but felt "a song like this just fuels the male gaze while marginalising the idea of women loving women".

The tweet soon gained traction. Some didn't see the big deal, while others believed it to be entrenching a fetishised view of gay and bisexual women. Mostly, it didn't sit well that a straight artist was making money off the queer experience.

Before the backlash, Ora had said that Girls was meant to dispel labels and send a message "about freedom and acceptance... It's not actually that deep. It really is just about that. It's a free message, and for me, really fun."

When asked if the song, which opens with the lyrics "I ain't one-sided, I'm open-minded/I'm 50/50, and I'm never gonna hide it", revealed anything about her own sexuality, she said: "If people look at it like that, it's very narrow-minded, and I don't think that's what this record is. I don't think that that even matters."

However, soon it would matter a whole lot, and she would have to change her tune. The criticism forced her to tweet her own wordy explanation, writing: "Girls was written to represent my truth and is an accurate account of a very real and honest experience in my life. I have had romantic relationships with women and men throughout my life and this is my personal journey."

Was this a coming-out? I really wasn't sure. Did I know that Rita Ora actually liked kissing girls sometimes, or had I just assumed? In any case, the public response was a resounding ''meh''. We could barely rouse ourselves to raise an eyebrow when Harry Styles released his own ''bi anthem'' last month, so pretending to be in any way moved by Rita's ''revelation'' was too much to ask. Once upon a time there were rumours about her and Cara Delevingne - but sure what red-blooded millennial woman wouldn't make a move on Cara if they had half a chance?

There were some who saw her admission as pure ass-covering, because when confronted with accusations of homophobia, isn't it as easy to just say you're a bit gay? Most millennials are loath to admit that they're totally straight anyway - those of us who haven't done anything remotely gay-ish still like to believe that we would or we could.

I can see why Rita Ora didn't think she needed to come out.

However, this is all probably moot. Because Rita Ora didn't write the song - it was written mostly by straight men. So critiquing the male gaze and how it portrays bi women in pop culture is very much allowed - it might even be necessary. Sure, a close reading of the song reveals some problematic lyrics and sentiments. But this isn't Leaving Cert English - the bit we'll all have stuck in our head, whether we like it or not, is Rita Ora joyfully singing, ''I just wanna kiss girls, girls, girls''. And maybe that counts for something.

Either way, one thing's for sure - Sheeran would never get mixed up in this stuff.

 

*******

Last week, millennials read the news that an exploding vape killed a man in America.

The autopsy report was fairly harrowing: the vape hurled fragments into the man's head, killing him and starting a fire that burned most of his body. And yet we had mixed emotions.

You see, vapes just are really really lame. And making fun of the dragon-people who use them is a generational hobby we can all enjoy - unlike the music of Rita Ora.

The vape has become the millennial trilby - a decisive outward sign that you're a dick. Sure, we all know in our hearts that the biggest dickheads are still the real smokers, but there's something unbearably smug about the vaper, who whips out their ridiculous cyber-flute in the pub, while the miserable bastards still on Camel Blues slink outside to be pelted by judgemental rain.

The problem is, you've never looked at a person smoking a Marlboro and thought: "God that looks stupid." You have to admit it: smoking retains an element of cool. Entering the room in a literal cloud of smoke like Dumbledore on The Flying Scotsman is not cool.

Now came the time for the rest of us to feel smug: we sparked up a ciggie knowing that while they will inevitably kill us slowly and agonisingly 20 years from now, they will never explode our faces off. The comfort.

 

*******

Since Vogue Williams's whirlwind engagement and pregnancy announcement, my alarming addiction to her social media output has intensified beyond all imagining.

Vogue's been very busy: she's away filming Getaways for RTE, interviewing her little heart out, and keeping up with her gruelling personal training schedule. The latter, I watch every day with Hobnobs and grim fascination.

She mentioned that Spencer was getting all excited, putting the foetus's name down at his old schools. His old school is, naturally, Eton. Something in us instinctively rankles at the idea of Ireland's own royal baby being sent to that most English-in-the-derogatory-sense-of-the-word of establishments. Can the fruit of Vogue's most pure and Irish loins possibly be sullied by English public school? Of course, these are the conversations you have to have when a baby comes, and compromises have to be made.

Co-parenting a child with an Englishman, the whole of Ireland and 290,000 Instagram followers isn't always going to be easy. But we can do this, Vogue - though haven't you thought about coming home for it?

Sunday Independent

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