The background to this post is that, in June 2009, I had been seeking a way to write a critique of why I really detested the hit single I Kissed A Girl by Katy Perry, but somehow never quite got down what exactly I was looking for as my words made me look like a real music snob while they also veered uncomfortably towards homophobia.

And then I discovered that Coxon Le Woof, of the now very occasional blog To Die By Your Side, had nailed it with a great piece of writing:-

Sometimes music isn’t just about music and lyrics.

It’s about context.

You could easily dismiss ‘I Kissed A Girl’ as little more than a catchy pop song.

The question is, should you?

Is music just entertainment or should it have some kind of social or moral responsibility? Now, I’m more than aware that last sentence makes me sound like an old fuddy duddy and spits in the face of everything that rock and roll is supposed to stand for but hey, maybe I am. Maybe I’m overanalysing it. Taking it too seriously. Either that or I’m a closet Daily Mail reader in disguise and this post should simply read ‘Ban This Filth!.

You see, while it may attempt to pass itself off as some kind of lesbian liberation anthem, I can’t help but find this song insulting and derogatory. Sung by the kind of social tourist that Pulp lampooned so well in ‘Common People’. Yet we’re supposed to accept that or ignore it because it comes wrapped in a slick, shiny bubble gum pop wrapper. We’re meant to accept it because flirting with lesbianism has been deemed cool. We’re meant to accept it because Katy Perry is an attractive, non threatening female. And we’re meant to accept it because she’s straight. I mean, imagine if she actually was gay. But then why waste your time imagining that?

Oh wait, no, that’s what we’re supposed to do isn’t it, because the whole thing is cynically designed to titillate us. So long as we remember that she’s not actually gay. This is the same kind of faux lesbianism that floods the insides of so called lads mags. The media constructed myth that lesbians are okay so long as they’re attractive to men. A lipstick lesbian cliche. Besides, we all know they love a bit of cock really, right guys?!?!

Wrong. This song does nothing to advance the acceptance of gays and lesbians in society. It trivialises an important issue. Mocks it. Leaves a series of outdated attitudes in it’s wake while strengthening stereotypes and doing lord knows what damage to both gay and feminist movements. But then what do I know? I mean, I’m not a girl and I’m not a gay girl so what do I know? Why should I worry? Why should I care?

Well I care because I worry what this song says to the kids it’s aimed at. In the same way that I worry about the over sexualised lyrics and imagery that a band like The Pussycat Dolls portrays to impressionable young girls. What are vulnerable girls supposed to take from this? That this is how they have to behave to attract boys? And what of those who are questioning their sexuality? Are they supposed to assume it’s just a phase? Won’t it just add to their confusion? Or am I missing the point? Maybe it is just a bit of fun?

Like I said, it’s all about context. If this song were written and sung by a lesbian then yeah, maybe it would be a proud, defiant anthem. A celebration. But it’s not, it’s about context.

And if you don’t believe that context alters a song, listen to this version by Travis. It’s the reason why I’m ranting a year and a half after the song came out and I think you’ll get a whole different take on it. No strangers to interesting cover versions, here Travis give the song a treatment that manages to start out seemingly innocent, coy and sweet yet somehow ends up seeming strangely creepy and sinister.

mp3 : Travis – I Kissed A Girl (live in session)

That final sentence, composed in the summer of 2009, describes the horror for any actress or starlet who had the misfortune to be offered career opportunities by Harvey Weinstein.



  1. Wowsers – that’s a blast from the past. Not so sure it is great piece of writing but thanks for saying so.

    I keep trying to blog more regularly but life gets in the way. Will be posting about my favourite albums of the year shortly.

  2. I too think it’s a great piece of writing, so thanks for posting as I hadn’t read it before. I’m particularly heartened to know it’s written by a male too. I sometimes want to express just this kind of thing – because I care about a lot of the messages we’re giving out to young girls (and boys), and it really is just about that, about caring. But apart from not being able to be as eloquent about it there’s always the added layer of me being female that can, so very ironically, add all sorts of warped ideas about the reasoning for expressing it in the minds of others. E.g. that I might be uptight, feminazi, a traitor to my gender, or simply just a bitch. Maybe even a jealous bitch. Ooh it’s complex, isn’t it…
    Anyway, great post!

  3. I concur, a really really good bit of writing and some excellent points made. As a father of two daughters, I’ve often worried about the world they’re growing up in and the attitudes they face. I think (hope) I and MrsRobster have done a pretty good job all things considered, but even though they are now young women (17 and 20), they still have a lot to experience. My eldest, however, has commanded a lot of respect from her male peers through her sporting achievements, with the local rugby academy boys being put through their paces by her. They were under no illusions – girls can be every bit as good as boys, if not better!

  4. Yup, another great post. I always regarded this number as being quite calculated and cynical, what with that faux-edge subject matter. I imagine it’s one of those pieces purpose-written for mild controversy. No surprise at all it was a big hit, but it’s less of a song and more of a centrefold.

  5. Another unmentioned crime that Katie P commits is that the title rips off the earlier, far better, Jill Sobule song.

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