When a band dares you to be offended, you’ve got to be careful. Ask yourself: Are they using music to raise subversive points that demand attention? Or are they just slapping everybody’s buttons until they get a reaction?
It’s not always easy to tell. For one thing, all bands want their music to succeed, no matter how sincere their politics are, so any message is colored by the hope we’ll download a single or buy a concert ticket.
For some people, that implied message—”please buy my music!”—is enough to invalidate every pop star. Some people see everything as a callous marketing move, and they will thank you to stop reminding them that Lady Gaga has changed gay America or that U2 has saved, like, a billion starving babies.
I’m not one of those people. Not always. I think Lady Gaga is sincere about her support for gay rights (and her love of Sharon Needles). I think Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan really wanted to make a difference in the sixties, and I think LMFAO believes “Sexy and I Know It” will create world peace. (Well… maybe.)
But that doesn’t mean I accept every message that comes my way. Sometimes, I have to call bullshit.
And I’m calling bullshit on Chester French. They’re an indie pop duo that a lot of famous people love—singer D.A. Wallach’s Twitter feed includes shout outs from Solange Knowles and Ashton Kutcher—but most people haven’t heard of them yet. So right there, they’ve got a reason to push buttons and hope for a reaction.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. First, you need to know that Chester French just dropped a single called “Black Girls” that explains why Wallach, a white man, loves dating black women. He also assumes that people are going to hate him for it, so in the lyrics, he says, “Ignoramuses keep lookin’ my direction/They’re so frustrated I don’t keep it in the race/Like they’ve never seen this before/Like it’s 1954/But the whole world’s turnin’ brown/And who cares?”
And you know what? Great. I personally can’t imagine having a problem with interracial dating—like, I can’t even fathom it—but I understand that some people in the world do have a problem with it. If Chester French wants to call those people out, then good for them.
Heck, I might even believe Wallach sincerely wants to promote racial understanding. After all, tweets like these suggest he cares about the issue:
Despite all this, Matt Wild at The A.V. Club still isn’t buying it, and here’s his well-written dissent. But you know why I’m calling bullshit on the sincerity of this song? The music video. Here’s the NSFW version:
When I watch this video, I don’t see anything about the beauty of interracial relationships. Instead, I see soft-core lesbian porn designed to arouse straight men.
And I’m not saying that lesbian sex is always a ploy to arouse straight men. Not at all.
But in this context? I just see exploitation. If Chester French is so serious about the message of their song, then why aren’t they in the video? Why are we only seeing half-naked models as they sexy-dance and make out and rub each others’ heaving bosoms?
By making the video purely sexual—and by removing themselves from it—the band makes their song primarily about lust, not love. And by making both of the performers women, while the song itself is performed by a man, they make an obvious effort to be titillating. It’s like they’re saying, “Dudes, look! Two chicks getting it on! One of them is in the ‘male role!’ Isn’t that naughty?!?”
That attitude suggests the band doesn’t quite believe in their song—that they think they have to tart it up to get noticed. It also suggests there’s something naughty about lesbianism. It suggests that lesbian sex is somehow dangerous and taboo.
And that’s just a ignorant as suggesting that interracial love is wrong.
So no matter what Chester French actually feels about interracial relationships, their decision to release a gay-negating video makes it impossible to take them seriously. You can’t disrespect one type of love in order to support another. It just makes you seem like a hypocrite.