BJ The Chicago Kid released his new song and video for "Perfect" this week, just as Meghan Trainor's "All About That Bass" rises more in radio ranks and singles sales.
Both of these songs are addressing body positivity, particularly for women who don't fit beauty standards found in fashion mags and, well, music videos. They both define what is "perfect" about "thicker" girls. And they are both imperfect in this pursuit.
BJ The Chicago Kid's fresh R&B jam is seemingly part of a suite, with his previous "Fly Girl Get 'Em" (which I prefer) playing part one. "I see you trying to disguise that potential," he sings in the latter. "She put her hair up in a ponytail / No make-up on her face / A wrinkled t-shirt and some jogging pants."
BJ's new ode "Perfect" turns his eyes again toward appearances, but more specifically to the body. He calls "Perfect" an "homage" to Fabolous' song "Thim Slick" feat. Jeremih, using that song's hook and beat. But you could also call "Perfect" a counter-argument to "Thim Slick"...
"Thim Slick" (a tip of the hat to "slim thick" girls, follow?) reaches into the D-cups, ogles his girl, wolf whistles over 34-24-36 dimensions.
"That ass in the gym; squat life... 'This is all from my mama, this is not knife.'"
Oh, well as long as it's authentic. Cue to girls in spin class with lacy daisy dukes because that's how we do spin class.
"Perfect," on the other hand, has BJ's lady love gazing into the mirror, shorthand for his gaze at her. It comes complete with NSFW ass shots and bare side-boob, sending her out to the balcony to pose in unmentionables (just like Fabolous says in "Thim Slick").
BJ departs from "Thim Slick" by showing the "ugly" side of getting into cute clothes, like that jump-and-jimmy move at 1:25 that any woman who's tried on slim-fit knows by heart. Her bathroom vanity is covered with crazy bottles and makeup kits. Her shoes are are in masses on a shelf.
And yet this woman, too, is "perfect."
"She say her ass ain’t big enough / She feel her breast ain’t big enough / She think her abs ain’t flat enough"
Well, I wonder who gave her that idea.
His lady flips through a fashion magazine. Skinny Rihanna is on a cover. Skinny white women hold perfume bottles and pose. (Shhh, she has not yet discovered YouTube.)
"That body perfect, ain’t matched / No matter what they say, everything be just right."
Wait, what are 'they' saying?
"You got that blessing in disguise."
If we can just get past the patronizing effect that a girl's weight/size has anything to do with "disguises," we're left with that whole "blessing" notion. Blessing for whom, exactly? Going back to what BJ sang in his "Fly Girl," those thick bodies with no makeup are apparently "disguises," disguising "potential" and "blessings."
That hot breath you feel on the back of your neck may be a pickup artist, who puts you down first.
"Real n*ggas need love too / just because she's thicker than you doesn't mean a n*gga can't have fun with you too"
Thanks for the reminder. We nearly forgot about the guys.
"Got better head than she got body"
OK, ENOUGH. This so-called body positive song and video emphasizes the "blessing" women's bodies are for men, for the sake of pleasing the man. This video showcases a beautiful black woman without those exacting 34-24-36 dimensions, but says her perfection comes not from within, but in the eye of the beholder, who is beholden to her blowjob whether her hair's up or down with no makeup and sweatpants.
This: in a line of pop and R&B songs that pander to women's insecurities, the "I see you're pretty, even if you can't" syndrome that drips from John Legend’s "You and I," Bruno Mars' "The Way You Are" or One Direction’s "What Makes You Beautiful."
"Every inch of you is perfect from the bottom to the top."
With newcomer Meghan Trainor singing the words, the delivery and context of "perfect" changes -- but only slightly. This adorable video for "All About That Bass" is matched with an equally memorable hook, hearkening back to 1950s and '60s girl groups and doo-wop, while also calling to mind Nicki Minaj's perfect* single "Super Bass." Lyrically, Trainor (who is GORGEOUS, btw) lays it out.
"I see the magazine, workin' that Photoshop / We know that sh*t ain't real... You know I won't be no stick figure silicone Barbie doll"
Again, the issue of The Authentic Women mixing with women/women's media prescribing unrealistic body standards unto other women.
"Cause I got that boom boom** that all the boys chase"
Which, as we've established, is very important.
"Yeah, my mama she told me don't worry about your size / She says boys*** like a little more booty to hold at night"
"My mama told me..." is a cliche that works well with this style of pop song. But, to paraphrase, "body acceptance comes from the sexual desires of men and not from within" means your mom needs to take a different tack.
"Go ahead and tell them skinny bitches that / No, I'm just playing, I know you think you're fat / But I'm here to tell ya / Every inch of you is perfect from the bottom to the top"
Do you remember the scene in "Young Adult," where Charlize Theron's character has a meltdown in the front lawn and plucks at Elizabeth Reaser's cardigan and whinnies "I love your sweater" in that high school girl voice where, back in the day, you couldn't tell she was being sincere or mocking you? Trainor frames her well-meaning "I feel your struggle" lyric against another stereotype, the music video's representative "skinny bitch" as a vapid, fun-hating, vain girl. It becomes binary, distinguishing girls with (b)ass from those with treble, right smack dab in the middle of a song that is purposefully celebrating bigger girls as superior. THIS IS WHAT THEY WANT, FOR US TO TURN AGAINST EACH OTHER.
"All About That Bass" says larger women's bodies are "perfect" because
1. Boys like them
2. Meghan Trainor says so
"Perfect" extolls "real-er" bodies as "perfect" because
1. Boys like them
2. BJ The Chicago Kid says so
As weight and size preoccupy many women, including young girls, I'm thrilled any song that spurs conversation has made its way up the charts. I love a loveable, smooth R&B song trying to project something "good" at its core female audience -- though it parades as one thing but doesn't hold up under scrutiny. I love a pop song from a bigger woman singing about bigger women, dancing with women of all colors and (many) sizes -- though it's flawed in its execution.
Women of all sizes deserve better.
* This song is not perfect but it's damn
** Boom-boom-boom-boom boom-boom-boom-boom you got that super bass
*** Not All Men, LOLOLOL