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The Shuffle: Bi-Sexuality Tops the Charts

August 1, 2008

By Blake Hannon, St. Joseph News-Press, Mo.

Aug. 1–I have to admit, I had never heard of the pop singer Katy Perry before June 2008, and there’s a good chance you hadn’t either. Heck, there are probably some of you reading this right now wondering who I’m talking about. But thanks to her poppy dance single “I Kissed A Girl,” Ms. Perry has been on Top 40 radio all summer long thanks to a beat straight from “The Hey Song,” an infectious hook and plenty of hinted bi-sexuality.

While Perry’s single has been on top of the Billboard charts for several weeks, it’s gathered its fair share of controversy along with it. Some protest its promiscuous lyrics about throwing a few too many back and praising all things grand about making out with another woman, all the while hoping her boyfriend is cool with it. There’s a good chance the same kid who has Hannah Montana posters on her wall is humming this tune, and that’s probably got a few parents somewhat freaked out.

But Perry isn’t the first artist to sing so openly about bi-sexuality. Far from it. Does anybody remember a mid-’90s folk artist named Jill Sobule? She also had a catchy little tune called “I Kissed A Girl,” only this one was about two women making out to get over their boring suburban lives and boyfriends (it also had Fabio in the music video. Bonus points there for humor). It didn’t chart nearly as high on Billboard when it was released in 1995 (it went to number 67). It did, however, get banned from radio stations in many southern states.

Singer/songwriter Ani DiFranco also sang a deeply-felt confession in 1995 on the song “Light of Some Kind,” but DiFranco’s shunning of any mainstream success assured it wouldn’t be anything you heard on the radio.

What a difference a decade makes. Perry’s single got the attention and the airplay it did in large part to this generation and the “Girls Gone Wild” mentality. In the past, if a celebrity was caught making out with another person of the same sex, they would be shunned by the public at large. If they’re caught now, they just get more tabloid press or their own reality show. And as sad as it is, there is a double standard present. Let’s see a male artist release a single called “I Kissed A Guy” and see if conservatives don’t come after him with torches and pitchforks.

Perry is all too aware of the common male fantasy triggered by her lyrics and the acceptance of the behavior her lyrics imply. It’s more of a publicity stunt than a heartfelt confession of sexual confusion, and even though it may have gotten Perry to number 1, it won’t get her much in the way of credibility. VH1 will undoubtedly have another countdown show featuring the greatest one hit wonders. Katy Perry, consider your spot reserved.

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