What’s in a pop song?

Whenever someone comes out with a pop song or a female actress says something about how feminist she feels, a Great Bellowing generally issues from deep within the bowels of the Internet. A thousand voices cry out, and what they cry out is generally something between “This is not quite right, but I see what you’re trying to do” and “This is completely wrong in every way, has set back the movement a half-century and makes me want to burn all your paraphernalia and write dismissive things about you on the walls of public restrooms.”

Roxane Gay wrote about “Blurred Lines,” which was the Most Problematic of All Problematic Pop, that, “In truth, I like these songs. They make me want to dance. I want to sing along. They are delightful pop confections. But. I enjoy the songs the way I have to enjoy most music — I have to forget I am a sentient being. I have to lighten up.”

On the one hand, constantly being up in arms is exhausting. The best stomachs, as Voltaire used to say, are not those that refuse all food.

But this isn’t all food. It is possible to be catchy and fun and also a little careful about the message you are actually sending. For instance, is every inch of you perfect from the bottom to the top because it just is, or because “boys like a little more booty to hold at night”? You can’t be careless about these things. Every word counts, if you’re going to sing it often enough with the windows rolled down.

We appreciate the thought! (Credit: Epic Records)

Meghan Trainor’s new single, “Dear Future Husband,” has been arousing lots of strongly worded opinions. On the one hand, it’s a playful pop throwback to the 1950s, complete with a barbershop quartet, more of those candy hues with which we have come to associate Trainor, and enough pie-making, floor-scrubbing and offers to buy groceries to melt the frozen heart of the most die-hard “Leave It To Beaver” viewer. On the other hand, it is maybe not as self-aware about its message as it seems to think. (The same was true of “All About That Bass,” which would have been a little more empowering if it hadn’t be contingent on what boys liked to hold at night.)

I have attempted to revise the lyrics of “Dear Future Husband” to make them as unproblematic as possible. I cannot say that the result rhymes, but the chorus is definitely better.

Dear Future Husband individual with whom I hope to form a relationship of mutual respect, to a degree of permanence and intimacy with which we are both comfortable

Here‘s are a few things (grammar is important)
You need to know if you want to be
My one and only
assuming we have committed to monogamy
which is one choice but not the only valid choice
although now I worry that “my” was a poor choice
for can a person ever possess another person
with all the rich worlds that are in that person?

Take me on a date
or allow me to take you on a date
or mutually let us agree upon an activity we can both enjoy
and we can arrange to split the bill in a way that places no undue burden on either person’s earning capacity
and taking into consideration the challenges that women face when it comes to advancing in the workforce, if one or both of us is a woman,
or other forms of discrimination in terms of earnings to which we may be subject
And don’t forget the flowers every anniversary
or do forget the flowers on the grounds that they are an outdated ritual from a society that linked
a woman’s so-called purity to her value
and could contain messages that most modern flower-readers would consider rude or objectifying
’cause if you treat me right
I’ll be the perfect wife
this is just so fraught
perfection is such a dangerous concept. I will not suggest that I will be perfect, as Sheryl Sandberg I believe said “Done is better than perfect” and so
I will be, let us say, a willing and enthusiastic participant in this relationship

buying groceries
buy-buying what you need
or contributing to the household in some other way
as stated above
taking into account our financial situations.

You got that 9 to 5
But, baby, so do I
Unless one or both of us works from home or in a non-traditional office setting or is a stay-at-home parent, which is a valid choice that I do not mean to undervalue in any way
So don’t be thinking I’ll be home and baking apple pies
unless I am home and baking apple pies, which is also an acceptable choice
I never learned to cook
But I can write a hook
Sing along with me
Sing-sing along with me (hey)

You gotta know how to treat me like a lady person
Even when I’m acting crazy
Tell me everything’s all right

accurately describe to me the things that are going on
(oh dear oh dear where to begin with this
this part is actually where your critic begins to get off the catchy bus that is this song
if someone’s definition of treating her like a lady is to, quote, “Even when I’m acting crazy/Tell me everything’s all right” then this is a very odd concept of lady and if this is indeed her requirement to be in a relationship, you should politely decline
all in all, this sounds very throwback-y to the bland, reassuring days of “don’t worry your pretty little head about it.”)

Dear future husband, see above
Here’s a few things you’ll need to know if you wanna be
My one and only all my life  
Dear future husband,
If you wanna get that special lovin’
Tell me I’m beautiful each and every night
or compliment me in some other, less objectifying way
like you could say “I admire your zest for living” or “Your intellect really inspires me”
it does not have to be all about your appreciation of my physical form
which is bound to change with time
not that within a framework of trust and mutual respect a little objectification is always unacceptable
it really depends on the framework of trust

After every fight
Just apologize
perhaps after some fights I will apologize
if this is indeed such a healthy long-term relationship that we are willing to commit to one another in perpetuity the odds seem good that you would not be wrong 100 percent of the time
And maybe then I’ll let you try and rock my body right
yes okay consent is important
Even if I was WERE wrong
You know I’m never wrong I have already been wrong several times in the course of this song
at least about what constitutes treating someone like a lady
so perhaps I am indeed sometimes wrong
and should reevaluate this hard-line stance
Why disagree?
Why, why disagree?
we might have something legitimate to disagree about
but we will discuss it respectfully and amicably
(hey baby)

You gotta know how to treat me like a lady human being
Even when I’m acting crazy
Tell me everything’s alright

please do not reassure me falsely
with inaccurate information
heyyyyyyy heyy

Dear future husband,
Here’s a few things
You’ll need to know if you wanna be
My one and only all my life (hey, baby)
Dear future husband,
See above
Make time for me
Don’t leave me lonely
although time to yourself and space within a relationship is of course important and different people have different needs
And know we’ll never see your family more than mine
unless maybe they live closer and offer to babysit
or something
there are plenty of reasons why this might turn out to be the case
we will deal with this appropriately

I’ll be sleeping on the left side of the bed (hey)
that is my preference
Open doors for me and you might get some kisses
our romantic exchanges are not predicated on outdated concepts of gentlemanliness
though it is just nice to hold the door for people full stop
I will open doors for you also from time to time
Don’t have a dirty mind
Just be a classy guy
though neither of us will engage in slut-shaming
because that would not be the sign of a good relationship
Buy me a ring
Buy-buy me a ring, (babe)
unless we have decided that this is an antiquated symbol
but possibly we have not
we will discuss this

You gotta know how to treat me like a lady
Even when I’m acting crazy
Tell me everything’s alright

do not do any part of this
I am a human being

Dear future husband,
Here’s a few things
You’ll need to know if you wanna be
My one and only all my life
Dear future husband,
If you wanna get that special loving
Tell me I’m beautiful each and every night

Future husband, better love me right
my worth and value as an individual does not depend on my ability to please others
especially men
I will live my own life
my body is beautiful regardless of how much booty men wish to hold at night
I have objective worth, dang it, outside of my marital status
I will learn to please myself

Look, Taylor Swift got way better at this, over time. I believe you can, too!