Monday, January 10th, 2011

Jessie J – Do It Like a Dude

And where better to start than with the grand champeen…


Doug Robertson: You have to admire the BBC for bravely sticking their necks out and giving their coveted Sound of 2011 prize to the sort of obscure artist who’s been all over the radio like a surprisingly enjoyable rash, has already had a top 40 hit and who’s been earning a crust writing for such struggling and unknown acts as Miley Cyrus. Having said that, though, it’s hard to argue with their choice as this is all kinds of rumbly sass pop aceness that has just the right amount of swagger to keep you interested without overwhelming the listener in a cloud of imitation testosterone. 2011 is sounding pretty good if this is anything to go by.

Alex Macpherson: How many ways is it even possible to get it wrong? Jessie J confuses gender subversion with phallocentrism and swagger with mugging to the camera like a twat. That’s before you even get to her declaration to “do it like a brotha”, a line so inappropriate that you wonder how the hell it made it past the legions of people involved in this relentlessly buzzing gnat of a major label campaign (at this point, the “noise” around Jessie J emanates so disproportionately from the UK music industry rather than the real world that I’ve come to think of her purely as a campaign rather than a person, let alone a pop star or artist). And then she only goes and outdoes all the above by gurning “man dem man dem” in the manner of a Kingsland Road hipster hag at a colonial-themed fancy dress party, and we have the worst pop moment of 2011 sewn up already.

Kat Stevens: This song is very catchy but Jessie strikes me as the kind of child who will sweetly give you a lovely chocolate brownie as a present to make up for being so horrible earlier on, but actually the brownie had fallen on the floor and now everyone is LAUGHING at you and Jessie keeps calling you a tramp who eats off the floor.

Jonathan Bogart: I like the colorful, smeared-crunch backing, and I like her even more, a personality jumping out of the speakers and demanding, in the aggressive, slightly mocking fashion of modern pop, to be heard. If this isn’t quite the first UK hip-hop I’ve heard through the Jukebox that can step to its American counterpart without being given a handicap, it’s close.

Mallory O’Donnell: Attention the British people: if this is your attempt to prove you can create and wrongfully enjoy music as tasteless as anything from the states, it’s a decent stab. You almost got it. But while this is undoubtedly some pretty sub-moronic stuff, replete with corny street-gal vocalizing and gender cliches that were worn out decades ago, y’all gonna have to try a bit harder if you want to compete with even just the crapulence emerging from the state of Florida, much less the whole of these here United States.

Iain Mew: The opening ‘J-J-J-J-Jessie J!’ is an idea which seems kind of obvious afterwards but is still rather funny in isolation. However, it’s difficult to imagine Jason Derülo or JLS (from that Rotem reference) or Ke$ha (from almost everything else) singing anything resembling “B-I-T-C-H-es on my dick like this”, and as the song goes on (and on) it’s clear that it’s basically taking the Meet the Spartans approach to parody — throwing in disparate unrelated but vaguely recognisable elements in the hope that the humour of recognition will be enough to sustain the whole thing. It largely comes across as a parody of ’10s pop music for people who don’t actually listen to pop music, with not enough wit of its own, affection or attention to detail to make it something other than a more annoying version of the things it’s poking fun at. And if it really was meant for Rihanna, it still wouldn’t have been as subversive as “Want you to love me like I’m a hot guy”.

Anthony Easton: I have been listening to this for most of the year, and it almost ended up on my Pazz and Jop ballot. I am a sucker for aggressive, ugly, and strange. Though this might not be the third, and the gender politics are stale, her voice is on the right edge of the bracing/grating spectrum.

Katherine St Asaph: Jessie clearly wants us to find her badass and original for acting like a crotch-grabbing, dick-waving manbro. But doing it like a dude doesn’t cut it as a gimmick in 2011 when Gaga and Ke$ha already do it implicitly, not to mention Ciara and Beyonce outright. Especially not when you accomplish it by shouting over watery mush in grossly appropriated patois — she got her start in Whistle Down the fucking Wind. Ultimately, its gender politics are downright traditional, both in the Female Chauvinist Pigs sense and musically. See, Jessie’s just too dudely for awful girly things like restraint, good taste and not sounding like shit.

Edward Okulicz: Show, don’t tell. No doubt the “buzz” that Jessie J is a great performer and song-writer might lead up to something, but this is less the fully-formed result of a talented artist producing her best work and more a sort of checklist of pop in 2010’s most annoying tics. And that was so last year.

Chuck Eddy: Reminiscent of sundry early ’90s riot grrrl records in its ability to demonstrate that ladies of whatever-genre-this-is can make music every bit as fair-to-middling as the guys. That the words actually address the issue might be worth something; otherwise, her sort-of-toasting has more going for it than her sort-of-singing. And the way she says “dooooood” is halfway cute.

Frank Kogan: Jessie may be doing it like a dude, but her voice is in a good old catfight with the guitar, all fingernails and scratches, somehow combining a 3-year-old’s sound of wonder and an 80-year-old’s tooth-eating cantankerousness.

Jer Fairall: A UK Ke$ha who looks like a UK Katy Perry, Jessie J has ’em both beat songwise; as far as party-girl trash-pop goes, there is a full-bodied propulsive urgency to this that you won’t find in any chintzy Dr. Luke monstrosity. But really, this is just more boorishness as feminism and vulgarity as wit, and even if she delivers it with energy and sass (and a hoot of a sleazy guitar riff), this is still something we hardly need more of.

Tom Ewing: Unpleasantly crunchy backdrop for the “I Kissed A Girl” of gender essentialism. The Campaign For Real Ale will be delighted though — at last, a high-profile backer for their endless attempts to get women drinking beer.

Martin Skidmore: She has an impressively forceful voice, is my immediate impression. This grinds along well enough, but it could have used a bit more structure and shape. Nonetheless, a striking enough debut.

John Seroff: Having forced my way through the entirety of this week’s BBC Sound of ’11 short list, it seems a safe bet that the brunt of poor Jukebox opinion is likely to fall at the feet of winner Jessie J’s infamous, minstrel-pop pastiche “Do It Like a Dude”. I’m certainly not contrarian enough to rep for this puff-chested frippery; the sole reason for “Do It” even existing is the success of Minaj, Ke$ha, Gaga, etc. Even so, at least there’s something populist and reptile-brained underneath all the false bragging and grimy Droog posturing that makes it… okay, not quite enjoyable but almost bearable. That might sound like small praise, but I’d be surprised it it’s not among the best this crowd has to offer.

16 Responses to “Jessie J – Do It Like a Dude”

  1. Wow, has this already beaten Ke$ha’s controversy score?

  2. Count me in with the haters here.

  3. Massive transatlantic divide too, it seems.

  4. LOL @ how the Americans are the ones who find this shit acceptable.

    Lil’ Kim was telling us to suck her dick a decade ago. In 2002, Trina rapped, “WAIT – for his bitch to leave / Miss Trina got a trick up her sleeve / Open up the door, I walk straight in the house / Put your man down, and put my COCK IN HIS MOUTH.”

    Mentioning gender ? doing anything interesting with it. Jessie J, go home.

  5. If this isn’t quite the first UK hip-hop I’ve heard through the Jukebox that can step to its American counterpart without being given a handicap, it’s close.


    Jonathan…no. Just no. To the idea of Jessie J being “UK hip hop” in the first place let alone the best example of it.

  6. I just missed out on reviewing today’s tracks (tragic, as I had about fourteen paragraphs to say about the James Blake track… maybe not so tragic, actually) but with this I was apparently (going to be) the only one to interpret it as mocking rather than homage? Jessie isn’t trying to smash gender boundaries, she’s marginalizing macho-ness: look, I can grab my crotch and act like an idiot, too. With that reading, I’d give it a [7]. Without it, maybe a [2].

  7. Oh hell no, this is not remotely acceptable in any way.

    Not seeing it as a parody, either; if anything, levity would make this tolerable, but Jessie seems pretty deadly serious throughout. Makes sense considering this was written for Rihanna.

    Except maybe levity wouldn’t make this tolerable, actually, because that would involve her making fun via appropriated patois, which if anything is even worse than what we get.

  8. She’s said:

    ‘Sometimes I get a bit intimidated by a big group of boys or guys in a club who are forceful in the way they act.
    I wanted to do a tongue-incheek parody and mickey-take of it. It’s not me being serious or a well thought out or poetic song. It’s supposed to be funny.’

  9. Hmm link didn’t seem to work there.

  10. @ lex:

    I tend to write these without doing any research on the artists, just responding to the sounds coming out of the speakers. Sounded, and still sounds, now that I know more about her, like (club-oriented) hip-hop to me.

  11. (But then so does some Ke$ha, so, you know.)

  12. Ah, the “My sounding this bad is a joke, I swear! Can’t you take a joke?” defense. I figured that was coming.

  13. Making fun via appropriated patois would be bad. Making fun of the appropriated patois of others would be more acceptable. I really have no idea which she was going for. Sadly, the debate is more interesting than the song and the song is more interesting than anything else she has yet to come up with.

  14. Indeed, the first 2011 track is a big-time frontrunner, though not as controversial as Ke$ha or Das Racist. I’m keeping these on a Google spreadsheet now so I don’t have to keep listing ’em here to remember. Here’s 2010.

    And for the people who don’t obsessively follow TSJ comments while we’re on break, the “hey, I thought Dave didn’t like Girl Talk?”-style 2010 Controversy Mix: stream + download.

  15. @ Tom: Just what CAMRA needs

  16. Lord, that fake patois.

    I’m sure she means Do It Like a Coloured as all the tropes of masculinity employed here are markedly afro-diasporic.

    This reminds me of a decade spent watching middle class white girls try to pout their lips and ‘booty’ dance (see race-aping) to R&B tracks at nightclubs.