Most of us who survived middle school can remember exactly when the easy chumminess of our elementary years calcified into a concrete caste system. There were suddenly the “popular kids” and, well, everyone else. There was never any question about who was in power or where your place was. You were either in or you were out. And if you dared to flirt with the boundaries of your assigned social lot, well, the pretty people were ruthlessly quick to let you know you didn’t belong. I know. I tried.
“Pretty Girls,” a collaboration between Britney Spears and Iggy Azalea, reminds me of that nasty adolescent dynamic. It’s the perfect narcissistic anthem for vain, self-absorbed mean girls everywhere. They’re beautiful. They know it. They know how to use that beauty to get whatever they want. And they don’t care a whit about anyone who’s not as pretty as they are.
At least that’s what they want you to think. And that’s what this song wants you to think, too.
“All around the world, pretty girls,” Iggy raps, “Wipe the floor with all the boys/ … We’re just so pretty!/ … Jump the line, to the front/Do what we like, get what we want.” As for her thoughts about those other, less pretty people in the line of life? Who cares?! Call it pretty privilege. To paraphrase an old saying, it’s good to be the queen.
When Britney jumps into the lyrical fray, she mocks all the ways silly boys make fools of themselves in their failed attempts to impress the pretty girls. “Wherever the girls go, boys follow/We be keeping them up on their toes/They can laugh, but they don’t get the jokes/Just you watch, they’re so predictable.”
And then, even as she brags about boys following her around like lovesick puppies, Brit gets self-righteously annoyed with the objectification she so intentionally cultivates and celebrates: “Tell me, is it true that these men are from Mars?/Is that why they be acting bizarre?/Every time I walk out of my house, it’s like, ‘Hey, baby’/They don’t see me rolling my eyes.”
Not that she and Iggy really want to avoid the undue attention they get by leaving male onlookers dazed, confused and transfixed in their glorious wake: “The girls roll up/Windows roll down/Eyes on us/Jaws on the ground/Watch them go/It’s just so funny/Like bees to the honey.”
Then we get alcohol dumped onto the fire for a little explosive effect (“Pour the drinks, bring the noise”), as well as Iggy’s innuendo-laced double entendre comparing her body to dessert (“Slim waist, thick cake, the whole world want a piece/Bad girl good, ooh, would make you lose your mind”).
The song concludes with one last repetition of pretty privilege: “All around the world, pretty girls/Jump the line, to the front/Do what we like, get what we want/We’re just so pretty!”
Is this a satire? Some kind of social statement about girls gone wild? A wink and a nod at the way life is but really shouldn’t be? Um, maybe? The video is a send-up of the 1988 sci-fi comedy Earth Girls Are Easy, after all. But my wishful thinking in that regard is probably just echoes of my former life on the outside looking in.
About that video: Iggy plays the role of a beautiful alien who crashes in Britney’s pool. Britney, naturally, dresses her up in sexy 1980s-duds (which she’s sporting, too) so they can drive around with some other heavily accented Valley Girls, ending up at a nightclub. There’s lots of ’80s-level sensuality on display, of course: short shorts, tight outfits, cleavage, plus beefcake guys, too.
After serving as an associate editor at NavPress’ Discipleship Journal and consulting editor for Current Thoughts and Trends, Adam now oversees the editing and publishing of Plugged In’s reviews as the site’s director. He and his wife, Jennifer, have three children. In their free time, the Holzes enjoy playing games, a variety of musical instruments, swimming and … watching movies.