When Blast Magazine asked me to interview pop singer Girl Crush, my initial reaction was one of aloof confusion. At first glance, Girl Crush seemed to epitomize the exact opposite of what I considered to be “good music.” The rhinestones encrusted on her outfits blinded me.
As I watched video after video on Girl Crush’s YouTube channel, my dismay became increasingly tangible. All I could see in her videos was a garish blend of vivid colors and artifice. I wondered what kind of conversation I could have with Girl Crush, if I could have one at all; would we have anything in common?
However, I was overlooking two important concepts:
- What Girl Crush creates is art, and it’s negligent to separate art from the artist
- I was being a pretentious egghead whose prejudices against Girl Crush directly opposed my ideas of feminism
Girl Crush’s call was an immediate reality check. She started off by explaining the concepts for a few of her songs and their respective videos (“Bow On It,” “Call Me Trouble” and “Barbie Girl”), each of which I had grossly misinterpreted.
“Bow On It”, for example, is a song about embracing femininity, which I hadn’t realized when I listened to it for the first time.
“I wanted to create something that is silly and fun and not taking itself seriously, but also very feminine,” said Girl Crush. She went on to explain that she was able to involve many women with this project on multiple platforms, expressing a self-awareness that both surprised and impressed me.
“Call Me Trouble,” she said, is more about having silly fun.
“A lot of times as females, we’re told what appropriate behavior for a female is,” Girl Crush said. “It puts genders in certain boxes.” Call Me Trouble, she said, is really more about not feeling obligated to follow societal norms, a meaning that I didn’t pick up on when I watched it the first time.
Girl Crush’s third uploaded music video at the time was “Barbie Girl,” a cover of the song by Aqua.
“I love “Barbie Girl” so much,” Girl Crush said. “I don’t think there’s anything deep or meaningful about it.” During her description of the video, Girl Crush mentioned that she made sure diversity was present in this video; although it’s mostly just shots of Girl Crush lip synching, there are some scenes where the Kens she’s flanked by aren’t just white guys (many of the Kens, though, are still at least white-passing if not white).
A new producer that Girl Crush is working with has been guiding her in a different direction, though.
“’You’re really pretty, Girl Crush,’” Girl Crush paraphrased. “’If you make the songs a little bit ugly, they’re going to be interesting.’”
Her upcoming videos, under the direction of this producer, will still be “honest and organic,” but a little deeper than her previous work. While some of the influences listed on her Facebook page include “Madonna, Rhianna [sic], Lady Gaga, Nikki [sic] Minaj and Katy Perry,” this new music would incorporate a riskier, M.I.A.-esque feel.
“I never like things that are too normal,” Girl Crush said. “I like being challenged.”
One of Girl Crush’s other challenges is that of social media. The artist is particularly active on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. She was hesitant about using these tools when she initially joined the music industry, as she wasn’t particularly interested in technology and felt unnatural using it. Part of being a performer is having an active social media presence, though, and eventually Girl Crush grew eager to share content with fans, even posting descriptions of herself like “queen of goofy hot” and “fresh out of the shiniest, surliest toaster.”
“Those are all from other people,” she said, dispelling my thoughts that she was a self-described pop princess who could easily twilight as an SNL regular. “One person called me a gothic My Little Pony.”
In spite of that description, Girl Crush presents herself as a colorful person. She said she has always been interested in creative design, which contributes to the ostentatious outfits she wears both in her music videos and outside of them.
“Mom would always say, ‘school’s not a fashion show,’” Girl Crush said. “I’d say, ‘yeah it is,’ and wear these cockamamie outfits.”
Girl Crush attributes her creative spirit to her humble beginnings in Missouri, where she and her sisters would put on fashion shows at home and splash around in the local creek. Her upbringing in an area of Missouri that she described as having tense race relations is also responsible for the consideration Girl Crush gives to representation in her music videos; one of her favorite parts of Los Angeles, she says, is the diversity. Additionally, her relationships with her sisters have shaped her perspective on femininity. Girl Crush aspires not to compete with women but rather to build them up, through collaborations with other female artists, for instance.
After I spoke to Girl Crush, I realized how close-minded I had been to dismiss her work as shallow after watching her music videos. It’s evident that she doesn’t take herself too seriously; she frequently repeated during the interview that Girl Crush wasn’t created to be “self-serious”. I hadn’t seen the determination she put into embracing femininity and I hadn’t recognized the creative aspects of the art she was producing.
Talking to Girl Crush allowed me to realize the error of assuming that just because music isn’t alternative doesn’t mean it’s not art; Girl Crush exerts an enormous amount of creative energy into her music, videos and persona, and after hearing her speak both about that and her desire to uplift women I knew I had been wrong about her.
The perspective of an artist plays a large part in how their art is meant to be understood. While I wasn’t necessarily a fan of Girl Crush’s music without context, I respect what she’s going for and support her ideals.