Have you ever seen a butt before?: Image vs Referent in the Songs of Jason Derulo

Have you ever seen a butt before?: Image vs Referent in the Songs of Jason Derulo

Butts, butts, butts, and butts. Butts butt butts butt butt, but butt booty butts.

So, butts. They are everywhere. They are on everyone. They pervade our culture and now our Pop Music.

Let’s Talk Butts

Okay, butts in pop music are not a new development, but they have recently reached the point where the idea of the butt has surpassed what actual butts look like. Nowhere is this more ridiculous than Jason Derulo’s recent hit “Wiggle,” which reached #5 on Billboard’s Hot 100. Yes, America, you made the following song the 5th most popular song in the country.

I hope you are all proud of yourselves.

I would like to draw your attention to the line, “Your booty like two planets.” Basically, Derulo is saying that “your” butt looks like this.



As you can tell, this is not what a butt looks like (I’m not going to show you a real butt because everyone has one and according to recent butt developments you’ve probably seen one on the internet recently). The butt has gotten to the point where the idea has begun to replace the reality.

Now, I know Todd in the Shadows made this observation in his review of the song (its hilarious, watch it immediately). I am going to use this ridiculous line to discuss the post-modern concept of image over referent.

Postmodernism (discussed here) holds the image of a thing above the actual thing. The image is more important than the referent. The above image of two planets, two spheres sitting next to each other, is definitely not a butt, but the image of butt has come to replace actual butts in our cultural consciousness. This image continues to be perpetuated, at this point, because songs about butts are enormously popular. As far as marketing departments are concerned, butt songs are the perpetual motion engine of money.

 The Problem

The image is the ideal. Its the picture of the burger on the fast-food restaurant’s menu that you desperately want but will never have. The ideal does not exist, which is great for marketing departments but terrible for everyone else. The image goes back to essentialism (so many problems lead back to that well), as it suggest a single image to replace the multiplicity and nuance of real people. When the image replaces the referent, we lose the reality that keeps us grounded. Without the referent, we will forever chase the image and never achieve it. The pervasive nature of the image is what led Jason Derulo to suggest an astronomically large butt that cannot exist, to work with a sample of an Imogen Heap song with out realizing what the song means, and to use synthesized trumpet sounds in a song called “Trumpets.”

Unfortunately, the marketability of butts does not look to be declining in our near future, so we can look forward to evermore Anacondas and bases for which we can be all about,  furthering and distorting the reality of our hind parts into an unattainable ideal. Butts are not going away anytime soon, but when we find ourselves bombarded with unrealistic images created by the marketing departments and artists eyeing your wallet, we can keep reality in mind.

So, to review

Butts butt booty butt, but butt butts butt. Booties butt butts…

...and ass!

…and ass!