In 2005, auto-tune aficionado T-Pain changed the modern-day love song with his hit, “I’m ‘n Luv (Wit a Stripper).” The R&B star crooned about a strip tease dancer unlike any other; making the song raunchy, fun, and surprisingly romantic in an obscure way. Since then, singers have seemed to take quite a liking to the sultry strip-tease figure in music. From Trey Songz to Bobby Valentino, it would appear that some of today’s stars spend more time at Spearmint Rhino than actually looking for love. Rappers like 2 Chainz and Nicki Minaj described the music industry's view on strippers quite clearly and simply on “I Luv Dem Strippers,” a record from the Atlanta rapper’s debut under his new name, B.O.A.T.S.
So why the sudden outpour of support for dancing vixens of the night? Did the good girl next door put tassels on and hit the pole? Well, originally these songs about strippers seemed to be written as a way for men to separate seductive songs dealing with forbidden lust from the traditional, wholesome love between an average man and a woman. After all, few genres have such a rich and textured variation of love songs like R&B.
Themes of seduction and passionate love are often encrypted in the very core of R&B, so it’s a natural progression into a more erotic territory that isn’t exactly surprising. After all, Billy Paul's Mr. & Mrs. Jones was far from the first couple to be up to no good, and they're most definitely not the last. This pursuit of desire and seduction without the limits of certain kinds of respect manifested into a wave of songs that addressed the gray areas of love. Those gray areas of love have thrived in the music that focuses on the stripper as the object of desire and affection.
These love letters to erotic dancers have more than hit the mainstream, and definitely sell by the millions. Why shouldn’t they? They’re lyrically freeing, expressive, and often the perfect jam to bump on the right kind of night.
What’s more interesting is the after-effects of these bedroom bangers. In our current diva age where we love to see Beyonce in a tight catsuit and Rihanna in, well, hardly anything, hyper-sexualism is often perceived as new-age feminism. When Beyonce hits the stage in her blue, sparkly catsuit, we’re quick to remind her that she runs the world. A female in control of the sexual power manipulated by her body is praised. In fact, what is arguably one of the year’s biggest water-cooler debates (the Miley Cyrus VMA twerk-fest) was a product of this kind of rationality. Miley vocally defended her choices and the way in which her body was displayed as an act of feminism.
What seems to have happened is that the new female depiction of sexualization as empowerment almost blended incoherently with these songs about strippers, and the result is a new era of songs with many “blurred lines” of sexual identity. (Pun intended.) The diva seems to now also be the stripper. And right behind the stripper is a man in a striped suit waiting to serenade her.