Bachelor #2: Mims 
Song: “Like This” 
Silly Dance Advocated: Doing It Like This
Pitch: Like T-Pain, Mims is in lust with a stripper and isn’t shy about rattling off his credits in a shameless attempt to get inside her G-string. He’s arguably even more shameless in his sales pitch than T-Pain. The top-hat enthusiast merely mentions his fortune and label affiliations; Mims hauls out concrete numbers. When the stripper in his sights whispers in her ear she enjoys Mims’ hit song “This Is Why I’m Hot,” he helpfully points out that it’s available on ringtone, was a top-10 download, and hit No. 1 on the ringtones chart. In the extended remix version, I understand he makes an impromptu PowerPoint presentation outlining the song’s performance in major markets across the country and internationally before crunching the numbers and offering an up-to-the-minute account of his total holdings, liquid or otherwise. Also, alcohol is involved.

Bachelor #3: Huey
Song: “Pop, Lock & Drop It”
Silly Dance Advocated: The Pop, Lock, & Drop It
Pitch: Huey states explicitly that he and his colleagues are not about “tricking,” or dispensing cash freely to desirable young women in hopes of attaining sexual favors, but, in the grand tradition of sleazy hip-hop come-ons, insists he’ll make a rare exception in deference to your remarkable beauty. Huey’s seduction game is heavy on belligerence. He tells his target she’s cute, then admonishes her not to let it go to her head. After all, as Huey charmingly notes, what this “cutie” won’t do to him, another, less discriminating woman will. Huey nurses a pessimistic take on human nature; he insists “You probably roll with me ’cause it’s money in my pockets” That seems like something of a self-fulfilling prophecy; considering how loathsome and brazenly insulting he is during the rest of the song, why on earth would anyone get with a creep like Huey if not for purely mercenary reasons? Like attracts like. It’s a testament to how disturbing Mims and Huey’s come-ons come off that T-Pain’s offer to have sex while blackout drunk almost seems swooningly romantic by comparison.

What these three caballeros really seem to want are prostitutes: women who will get drunk and have sex with them in exchange for money and proximity to fame and glamour. Ah, but the men of hip-hop and R&B are too innately arrogant to go in for prostitution; the very idea that they should have to pay for sex is an unforgivable insult to their overly developed sense of pride.

I wrote earlier that pop music captures an ongoing cultural conversation about sex. I like to think of Pink’s “U + Ur Hand” as a direct response to T-Pain, Mims, and Huey’s barroom/nightclub boorishness and wholly unmerited sense of sexual entitlement. In it, Pink hits the club with her girlfriends, only to be hit on and manhandled by some Huey-like asshole who seems to think buying cute girls a round of shots entitles him to a handjob in the parking lot at least.

Pink isn’t having it. In response to the barroom Casanova’s advances she howls semi-righteously, “Keep your drink just give the money / It’s just you and your hand tonight.” “I’m not here for your entertainment!” Pink howls pointedly to the Hueys and Mims and T-Pains of the world. Of course, in the real world Pink doesn’t need your drink or your money; she could probably buy and sell everyone at the bar. But pop singers, especially divas, don’t just sing for themselves and the few people in the world who breathe their rarified air. For young women inundated with pop culture’s constant, destructive messages, Pink’s Beyonce-by-way-of-Joan Jett theme of “Fuck you and your drink, I’m all the company I need tonight” must sound cathartic.

In a perfect world, a song like Carrie Underwood’s “Before He Cheats” wouldn’t raise too many eyebrows. But contemporary country is still sleepy and conservative enough that a song about a woman taking a baseball bat to her cheating boyfriend’s beloved car while he chats up some barroom skank still comes off gutsy. Of course, country is full of songs about cheating, but in the 1960s of Loretta Lynn, Kitty Wells, and Tammy Wynette, women generally took aim at other women for stealing their men rather than holding men accountable for their actions. So it’s a mark of mild progress at least that Underwood, a prefabricated pop-star if ever there were one, directs most of her vitriol at the asshole cheating on her rather than the bimbo he’s cheating with.

Like Pink, Avril Lavigne has gotten way too much praise for deviating ever so slightly from the teen-pop factory that gave the world Britney Spears and an army of imitators. Lavigne’s pseudo-rebellion is a matter of attitude and image more than substance or subversiveness. In a world of girly girls, she’s a tomboy rocking wife beaters and trousers instead of push-up bras and miniskirts. But by the time “Girlfriend” rolled around and Lavigne started bragging about being “the motherfucking princess” in a nyah-nyah-nyah sneer while playing dress-up opposite cute boys, she’d clearly left the stoners and skater boys behind and was sitting at the popular table with the cheerleaders, metaphorically speaking. It would only get worse: On “Hot,” Lavigne was reduced to trying to out-Britney Britney. And failing.

Underwood isn’t the only American Idol alum channeling her inner Medusa. On the acid-tongued kiss-off “Never Again,” Kelly Clarkson makes her bad intentions known from the opening couplets, “I hope the ring you gave to her turns her finger green / I hope when you’re in bed with her you think of me / I would never wish bad things but I don’t wish you well” over nervous guitar strumming and dark drums. I’d never thought much of Clarkson before this series, but I’ve developed quite a liking to her more rock-oriented songs. “Never Again” is ingratiatingly nasty and nervy, a rocker with guts. Apparently there is more to her than the explosive sexual chemistry she shared with Justin Guarini in From Justin To Kelly.

Now 25 gets less interesting the further it strays from the battle of the sexes template, but it’s not without its minor pleasures, like Ne-Yo’s silky R&B number “Because Of You” (which pales in comparison to the remix featuring Kanye West) and Lloyd’s pretty “Get It Shawty” (though the original pales in comparison to the remix featuring Li’l Wayne).

Since this column is all about women with the nerve to say, “Fuck you, I’m awesome” to the scummy men of the world, and the men who make that line of discourse necessary, let’s end things with Mrs. “Fuck You, I’m Awesome” herself: Beyoncé, who collaborates with the equally ferocious Shakira on “Beautiful Liar.” The song finds two of the hottest women of the past millennia sleeping with the same honesty-averse looker. But rather than engage in a musical catfight, the divas decide to put the blame where it belongs: on the no-good piece of shit who somehow isn’t satisfied with Beyoncé or Shakira alone. These wise elders understand intuitively that the only solution to the plague of male assholery is a big old helping of female solidarity. Amen, sisters. “Beautiful Liar” is a song with a strong, empowering message of sisterhood and you can masturbate to it! A win-win situation if ever there were one.

Up next on THEN!: Kanye West will not be told nothing, Sean Kingston is driven to suicidal depths by feminine attractiveness, the Plain White T's are all, “Hey there, Delilah!” and Nickelback lurches blearily further into the farthest reaches of self-parody with that horrible fucking “Rock Star” song.


Outside The Now Bubble: What else was happening in pop music circa Summer 2007