Ex’s & Oh’s


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Adam R. Holz

Album Review

Myriad male musicians have ogled and objectified women over the decades. Now newcomer Elle King, looking, sounding and acting a lot like Meghan Trainor’s much naughtier alt-rock sister, turns the tables on the guys.

King’s first big bluesy hit, the retro-sounding “Ex’s & Oh’s,” breezily brags about her long list of lovers. And the accompanying video? Well, it amply illustrates her point, shall we say.

You Can Do It … Too!

Elle King, the 26-year-old daughter of Saturday Night Live alum and Waterboy star Rob Schneider, apparently has little interest in long-term romance. Unlike Meghan Trainor, there’s no pining for the perfect husband here. Instead, it’s all about short-term sexual satisfaction. And whenever her current beau stops providing that benefit, it’s buh-bye.

That’s obvious from the get-go on “Ex’s & Oh’s.” “Well, I had me a boy, turned him into a man,” King brags. “I showed him all the things he didn’t understand/Whoa, and then I let him go.”

Elle King—at least on this song—seems to enjoy bagging “boys” for the sheer sport of it, kind of like big-game hunting. “Now, there’s one in California who’s been cursing my name/’Cause I found me a better lover in the U.K./Hey, hey, until I made my getaway.” The next verse tells the same story, with only the locale changing: “I had a summer lover down in New Orleans/Kept him warm in the winter, left him frozen in the spring/My, my, how the seasons go by.”

The chorus gushes, “One, two, three, they gonna run back to me/’Cause I’m the best baby that they never got to keep.” Those lines are followed by this suggestive double entendre: “They always wanna come, but they never wanna leave.” And more saucy shenanigans turn up later as Elle oozes, “I get high, and I love to get low/So the hearts keep breaking, and the heads just roll/You know that’s how the story goes.”

Indeed, this has been a go-to story for pop musicians (most often male) over the years. And I’m sure there are likely some “go-girl” feminists out there who would stand up and salute Elle King’s coy sexual “empowerment” anthem here as appropriate revenge on all the guys who’ve gotten away with the same kind of self-centered behavior in the wake of the sexual revolution.

But whether it’s men or women indulging the kind of casual, self-absorbed promiscuity that King glorifies, the end result—whether those entertainers can acknowledge it or not—is emptiness and brokenness. As Solomon wrote in Proverbs 14, “There is a path before each person that seems right, but it ends in death.”

Hot Dogs and Beefcake

If the song’s lighthearted dalliances with promiscuity weren’t problematic enough on their own, the video pairs that message with acres of male muscle.

King plays the part of a woman who dismisses her hunky ex in the middle of the desert, then drives off. She ends up at a trailer (also in the desert) surrounded by shirtless, tight underwear-clad men seeking her attention. She and the camera both leer at the overgrown boys competing (sometimes physically with one another) for her fickle attention. Hot dogs and erupting food stand in as sexual metaphors while Elle enjoys her sensual reign as a seductive desert queen, soaking in a bubble bath and even reaching under one guy’s shorts.

And now I’ll end right next to where I began: Male rockers and rappers have been making similar videos for decades, of course. Elle King wants us to believe that turnabout is fair play.

Don’t believe her.

Adam R. Holz

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.

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