Song of the Week: ‘Sexy and I Know It,’ LMFAO –

LMFAO takes great pains to be the dumbest act on the charts. Rappers Redfoo and Sky Blu lard their songs with shout-along choruses, hedonistic chants, clumsy dirty jokes and the cheapest-sounding Euroschlock synthesizers they can locate. Attention to the lowest common denominator has paid great dividends: “Party Rock Anthem” hit No. 1 all over the world.

Theirs is music that makes the Black Eyed Peas seem like Stravinsky by comparison.
Yet accidentally or otherwise, the duo has managed to produce something thought-provoking. Not any of the lyrics on their “Sorry for Party Rocking” album, all of which are the same low-wattage pop satire they’ve been peddling since first hitting with reality TV theme song “I’m in Miami Trick.” I mean the video for “Sexy and I Know It,” which has entered heavy rotation on MTV Hits as the electro-rap song continues its inexorable rise to the top of the Billboard Hot 100.

The clip is so gauche it really does manage to break some ground — muddy, miasmic ground, mind you. Shot in Venice Beach, it focuses on the jiggling, Speedo-clad genitals of the rappers and their friends. MTV built much of its empire on bikini shots. “Sexy and I Know It” subjects bouncing penises to the same kind of scrutiny. It’s something you’ve got to see to believe, but let’s just say it’s for the best if you know what you’re getting into.

This being LMFAO, the crotch displays are played for laughs. Redfoo and Sky Blu are not sexy; when they boast “I work out” with their underdeveloped pecs exposed, we’re meant to understand that as an ironic statement. In case we don’t get the joke, they’ve opened the floor to some truly repulsive-looking characters, including one overweight customer who wags his Speedo at the camera with glee. There’s a tradition they’re operating in: Theirs is essentially the same visual joke told by Right Said Fred in “I’m Too Sexy,” not to mention the Lonely Island in YouTube favorites like “D— in a Box” and “J— in My Pants.” But the gag has never been as graphic as it is here.

This waltzes by network censors because it is a spoof of a certain type of clip that has always featured women as eye candy. They’re poking fun at a very real double standard, and LMFAO are allowed — and frankly, encouraged — to shake their moneymakers in the name of satire. If a contemporary artist made a spot where the audience was sincerely encouraged to be aroused by bouncing male gonads, it’s probable that MTV would not let it air. “Sexy and I Know It” is permissible because both MTV and LMFAO are confident that you’ll never actually be turned on by it. The same clip played straight would be deemed obscene — demonstrating again that the dividing line between what’s okay and what isn’t is in the mind of the viewer.

They’re also calling attention to how uncomfortable MTV viewers are when forced to look at male bodies. In contemporary pop videos, the man is always the viewer and the dispassionate assessor: Lil Wayne or Kanye West drifting through a room of underdressed models who are begging for their attention. Female desire is every video director’s favorite topic, but so disturbing is male arousal that artists need to joke about it in order to get it into rotation. See, we’re really very prudish. Leave it to a couple of hit-making pranksters to make that clear — and in the grossest way imaginable.

Songs of the Day are posted Mon.-Thu. at 3 p.m. Song of the Week, which will focus on contemporary chart hits, will be posted on Friday. For past Songs of the Day, click here
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