It’s a good time for self-esteem pop anthems. Two that sounded very similar were released almost at the same exact time. For those with taste, we have Sara Bareilles’ “Brave.” For those with color blindness, we have Katy Perry’s “Roar.”
I think you can tell which one we like better.
Since there’s been so much talk about how similar these two songs are, we thought that for this hate review we would compare the two and show you, our dear reader, which is superior.
Both songs have the same basic theme: trying to inspire disenfranchised people to speak up and take charge of their lives. Roar does this by focusing on a bad relationship that Katy Perry was involved in, and her video depicts a plane crash in the jungle. She explains:
I used to bite my tongue and hold my breath
Scared to rock the boat and make a mess
So I sat quietly, agreed politely
I guess that I forgot I had a choice
I let you push me past the breaking point
I stood for nothing, so I fell for everything
In the video, the role of douche-bag boyfriend is played by this man:
who is promptly eaten by a super fake tiger.
The rest of the video shows Katy Perry getting over her fear of the jungle by conquering nature and surviving in the wild. She also makes some animal pets.
Then, she faces down the tiger that saved her from the douchebag! She roars at him (see what she did there?) and the tiger is cowed enough to become her pet.
Meanwhile, the song is all about Katy:
You hear my voice, you hear that sound
Like thunder gonna shake the ground
You held me down, but I got up (HEY!)
Get ready ’cause I’ve had enough
I see it all, I see it now
To be honest, the lyrics on their own might not be too bad – marginally inspiring, even! – without the video. But with the video, the message only becomes more confusing. Is Katy advising women who feel voiceless to tame the “wild” around them? Because she only tames the literal wilds around her in the video by playing into stereotypes. At various points she paints an elephant’s toenails, makes herself some lipstick, and takes obnoxious selfies with her new animal friends.
At no time in the video does Katy stand up to anything. The only other person shown is the dude-bro boyfriend, and the tiger takes care of him. She doesn’t stand up to him. She later conquers the tiger by roaring at it, subsequently making it her cute pet. Her island paradise is conquered when she has cute new pets to play with, figures out how to make lipstick, can take a shower, and is able to wear more revealing clothes. Essentially, everything is overcome by a makeover and pets. How is anyone supposed to relate to this situation she puts herself in? It shows a lack of understanding of what the average woman struggles with.
Yes, women are silenced and told to be polite, but they’re also told that they have to be worthy of the male gaze at all times. In this video, Katy sacrifices a perfectly good source of food so she can make lipstick. She rips apart her only set of clothes to show more skin (to the mosquitoes, we guess?). And, to top it off, instead of facing down the person who actually “held [her] down,” she faces off with a tiger.
Compare this with Brave‘s video and lyrics. In Sara’s song, she’s talking to us about our own experiences:
You can be amazing
You can turn a phrase into a weapon or a drug
You can be the outcast
Or be the backlash of somebody’s lack of love
Or you can start speaking up
In the video, Sara has collected a series of backup dancers with a variety of body types and races. Then, they dance in public.
And they try to get the public to dance with them:
Now, dancing in public is admittedly less brave than facing down a tiger, but the thing that makes Sara’s act of bravery more meaningful is what it stands for.
Society tells us all that we must conform to a certain standard before we will become “acceptable.” Certain body types, skin color, and sexual identities are considered less acceptable and therefore we’re subconsciously taught to be ashamed of them. The variety of people represented in Sara’s video are shown embracing the characteristics that make them unacceptable.
Considering the backlash that some people get just for posting a single picture to the internet, doing silly dances in public for a music video that will then be posted to the internet is pretty damn brave.
What it really comes down to for us is the singers’ comparative credibility on the issue of female strength. In this, Sara is the clear winner. In her repertoire is such female-empowering songs as “Fairytale,” “King of Anything,” and “Love Song.” She has songs with layers of meaning like “Between the Lines,” “Gravity,” and “Once Upon Another Time.” And though the song itself isn’t all that empowering, the video for “Gonna Get Over You” shows that Sara has a history of showing diversity in her videos. It also happens to be A’s absolute favorite.
On the other hand, Katy Perry sings about how sexy California girls are while spraying “whipped cream” from her nipples. Yes, she sang “Firework,” but one song does not make her credible.
So, we’re sorry Katy Perry. We just don’t believe you give a crap about empowering women. More importantly, we don’t think you know how to empower women. Here’s a hint: “Roar” isn’t it.