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Wap It Good

Don’t run, walk, or crawl towards the Apocalypse. Dance. This most curious form of human movement, unlimited in its variety and meanings, and instantly recognizable even by other species (our dog would go berserk when her masters began shimmying across the living room of an evening) seems as pleasant a way as any to tip into the abyss—twerking or twisting, sashaying or salsaing. The reason to rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic is so that you can have one last dance before the icy waters close around you.

Yet even as Trump cranks up the speakers of Armageddon, he won’t move to the music. The bitterest of presidential pills is not the president himself. Still harder to swallow is the fact that he can’t dance. Moving images of him in the clinch at the 2017 inaugural ball gripping and grinning with Melania to “My Way” have caused lasting side effects in millions: vomiting, hives, intermittent blindness, irritable bowel, and, in a few undocumented cases, erections lasting more than six hours. Warning: click the link below only after consulting a physician; persons under 90 years of age require parental consent to view.

The more fitting—and clinically approved—Sinatra song for Trump is Kern and Hammerstein’s ”I Won’t Dance.”

Among the maddest ironies of the Trump presidency is that the Non-Dancer-in-Chief wants to cancel TikTok. Like Trump, I have no idea what TikTok is—or didn’t until the chest-thumping wallflower in the Oval Office began threatening to pull the plug. There has been tough talk of national security, privacy issues, and the escalating trade wars with China. It’s all pure bluster. The real reason is that Don can’t dance, and if he can’t, no one else should either.

But there’s nothing like a threatened ban to get one’s ears to perk up and eyes to peel.

The way into this wormhole was shown me by a woman of color: The Gray Lady. Late last month, New York Times pop music critic and critical shopper Jon Caramanica added his lump of sugar to this tempest in more than two hundred million (and counting) tea cups — WAP. At the risk of sounding like a Rip Van Winkle prodded awake by a selfie-stick, allow me to inform you that those letters aren’t just PAW backwards (as in what presidential gropers do to the non-consenting), but stand for Wet-Ass P-Word.

A dutiful reader of the offerings from Times music desk, I carefully considered Caramanica’s reasoned arguments in support of this unabashed extolling of the glories of female sexual pleasure. After all, the proud purveyors of WAP—two virtuosic, if triumphantly unvirtuous entertainers who do their thing under the names of Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion—were just having “good,” if not clean, fun. Caramanica reminded us that literary and cinematic giants from Philip Roth to Bernardo Bertolucci, not to mention Madonna, have already described the maneuvers and mechanics of sex, long before these two women turned their talents to the topic. Male Rappers have been talking dirty for years, so it was high time that women got into the act.

A couple of weeks before Carmanica’s piece on WAP ran, I soon learned as I dosey-doed from link to link, the Guardian jumped to the song’s defense against conservative culture warriors by deploying that most unsexiest of words: Empowerment.

The forces arrayed against WAP’s literal outpouring of female sexuality—naked statues spurt water from various organs, the steps leading up to the garish mansion in which pleasure is sought run with fluids—were led by the monotone and miserable Ben Shapiro. His outraged recitation of the lyrics on his Daily Wire podcast has assured him a place of dishonor in the hall of puritanical infamy. Ben was having none of the claims that WAP marked an advance in autonomy and fulfillment for women.

From what might be called the left, a glowering Russell Brand agreed that replicating the structures of capitalist male hegemony should hardly be lauded. WAP simply fed the insatiable Beast with more product, even if differently packaged: it was sex for sale, however gratifying it may be to some that two women were setting the terms of the exchange and reaping the proceeds.

There is much to feast on visually and poetically in WAP’s orgy of metaphors: mops get plunged into buckets; big Mack trucks get parked in little garages; golden-assed knockers on Prussian blue doors beg to be knocked; gilded serpents strike at the camera; boa constrictors slither around the swim-suited singers; CGI tigers engage in a striped threesome; a king cobra with a hook is yearned for; Cardi’s tongue licks the air between fingers spread in a V—for Victory and Vagina. When tired of the titillations of metaphor, these last-wave feminists happily turn to the explicit: “this pussy is wet, come take a dive … When I ride that dick …” etc. CGI leopards flirt with a human dominatrix in leopard rig. Women in fetish gear hump floors and do the same in the ankle-high water of an atrium pool, then turn over and raise their pelvises to the glass ceiling. Male voices chant menacingly that there are “hoes in the house,” but no man is in sight.

The beknockered doors of this pleasure palace lead to the limitless delights of TikTok. Even conservative peer Andrew Lloyd Webber boogies to the WAP beat then adds his own Phantom of the Opera organ chords to the legion of mash-ups. Top Influencer Addison Rae (nineteen years old; graduate of Calvary Baptist Academy and now student at Louisiana State) does her interpretation of the hip-grinding, floor-fucking dance for her 60 million TikTok followers (the second highest figure on the platform) along with and new admirers like the Musical Patriot. Rae’s mom posted her own version, then her dad, too. Here’s one compilation, a seven-minute epic.

Caramanica took an avuncular attitude to all the riffs and reactions to WAP. The platform provided a fun intergenerational forum to TikTok about sex, he argued, much looser and more constructive then talking about—or fulminating against it.

Yet with its blinding colors and numbing consumerism, the viral WAP video is strangely devoid of the sexual energy it purports to celebrate. One of the most revealing of the song’s metaphors casts the vagina as a credit card machine to be swiped by the nose. The fungible penis becomes a hassle-free form of payment. With WAP, Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion have literally created their own brand of hedonism, its wet wish-list reading more like a monthly statement than a hymn to eros.

That it’s all about the money is proven by the sheepish attempts of corporate hunks Microsoft and Oracle to get TikTok to be their partner, even while Trump flashes his switchblade from the wings. With the clock ticktocking down and the president’s killjoy curfew just days away, it looks like the Chinese visitor will be sent home, her love affair with Land of the Free and the Foolish cut—in a bit of poetic (in)justice—short.

But even if it runs into a fatal typhoon on the way home, the good ship TikTok’s celebration of the choreographed quickie will allow for lots of last dances on the way down.

(David  Yearsley is a long-time contributor to CounterPunch and the Anderson Valley Advertiser. His latest book is Sex, Death, and Minuets: Anna Magdalena Bach and Her Musical Notebooks. He can be reached at  dgyearsley@gmail.com.)

6 Comments

  1. Douglas Coulter September 23, 2020

    Women have ruled over men for centuries
    A touch of WAP reduces man’s critical thinking 50% right off

  2. Douglas Coulter September 23, 2020

    Post Romantic Stress Syndrome
    By Douglas Coulter

    Here’s a story that needs tellin
    Be it whispering or yellin
    To every young man leaving home
    True love is an infection
    Be sure to wear protection
    And medicate your heart to stone
    As Sampson was Delilah’s slave a poster boy for Burmashave his only exit was the grave, he died of post romantic stress syndrome

    Now girls read hot romances and meet simple boys at dances
    Just like a spider traps a fly
    With both her eyelids winkin his upper brain stops thinking
    And blindly he prepares to die
    If her lethal plans grow clear he may try to run in fear
    To drag him back she merely cries
    The praying mantis male is dead while mating she bites off his head a fact of life you may have read, it’s death by post romantic stress syndrome

    Several drams of Logavulin may leave a good man droolin
    But he sleeps it off in just one day
    While woman’s touch is subtle mans thinking skills are muddled
    The damage never goes away
    And when she reaches menopause she’ll shread a man without a cause ripped open with her sharpened claws to bleed with post romantic stress syndrome

    Old Lophroaig and I may wrestle underneath a railroad trestle
    I wake up in a small town jail
    All the whisky of Islay until the cops lock me away
    In a dungeon where my skin grows pale
    But prison can’t compare to a heart that’s been stripped bare
    By promises of love that fail
    Like Romeo and Juliet the only guarantee’s regret a dagger pay the final debt with poison posts romantic stress syndrome

    I was a passionate romantic tell she left me a frantic
    Broken down abandoned claim
    True love and devotion they are mythical emotions
    A receipt for endless pain
    I find it far less risky drinking single malted whisky
    Then let some lady light my flame
    After all the fires extinguished it is only pain they bring us we can always be distinguished by scars of post romantic stress syndrome

    a blues tune

    • Marco McClean September 25, 2020

      Douglas, have you recorded that blues tune? I’d love to hear it. Just as poetry it’s Poe-esque. I need a pronunciation guide, though, for the liquor names, in order to read it properly on the radio.

      • Douglas Coulter September 25, 2020

        That is on Soundcloud under my name Douglas Coulter 1
        The Coast radio also has it but rarely play any of my songs.
        Phil Ochs summed it up, “a protest song is one you never hear on the radio”
        La froig and Laga voolen are two of my favorite single malts from Islay Scotland

        • Marco McClean October 9, 2020

          Got it, Douglas! Thanks. I’ll play it on KNYO-LP Fort Bragg (107.7fm) tomorrow night on Memo of The Air: Good Night Radio. And I see the rest of your SoundCloud page. Please email me so we can communicate about music, and your music in particular.

          Marco McClean, memo@mcn.org
          https://MemoOfTheAir.wordpress.com

  3. Pat Kittle September 23, 2020

    I used to respect Yearsley as a music critic.

    What a pathetic way to try to be hip.

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