Dystopian Dance Mix Vol. 32: The True Meaning of Ishtar

This Sunday, millions of Christians will observe Easter, a religious holiday celebrating the resurrection of Christ and traditionally marking the end of a 40-day period of fasting and penance. But let’s be honest: for most contemporary Westerners, the things we actually associate with the Easter holiday–eggs, bunnies, etc.–have a lot less to do with Christian theology and a lot more to do with pagan notions of fecundity, procreation, and birth. In other words, most of us aren’t celebrating Easter so much as Ishtar, the Mesopotamian goddess associated with love, sex, and fertility. So today, for all the non-churchgoers out there, we’re sharing a playlist of songs exploring the true meaning of Ishtar—or, as noted scholar of ancient spirituality DJ Assault put it, ass and titties. It’s not exactly religious music–at least in the Judeo-Christian sense–but we happen to think these things (and them thangs) are pretty sacred.

Side A

© King Magazine

1. Trina: “Pull Over”
(from Da Baddest Bitch, 2000)

Even in Trump’s America, thank god, having a fat ass is not against the law. But on her 2000 single “Pull Over,” Miami rapper Trina dared to imagine a bleak dystopian hellscape in which Trick Daddy is given free reign to place big-booty women under arrest, like some kind of R-rated “No Parking on the Dance Floor.” It’s a sobering idea, and it’s on us to do everything in our power to make sure that it never becomes a reality: let’s make sure that women with “more ass than the average bitch” remain free to walk the streets, preferably in stretch pants or something equally form-fitting.

© Polydor Records

2. James Brown: “For Goodness Sakes, Look at Those Cakes”
(from Look at Those Cakes, 1978)

James Brown recorded some pretty demented songs in his time, but few were more demented than 1978’s “For Goodness Sakes, Look at Those Cakes,” a surreal 11 minutes of an aging Godfather of Soul cackling maniacally and yelling about butts. He even repeatedly implores Ray Charles and Stevie Wonder to take a look–implying that these “cakes” have the miraculous power to restore sight to the blind. They certainly have the power to make James Brown speak in tongues; guess this playlist is religious music after all.

© Singhala Music

3. Big Freedia: “Mo Azz”
(from Just Be Free, 2014)

The stereotype about butt songs is that they’re perforce exploitative, leering expressions of the straight male gaze–and, to be fair, in most cases that’s pretty accurate. But, as Callie observed in her post about New Orleans bounce artist Katey Red last month, there’s also a dimension of genuine women’s empowerment to bounce music and twerking, which is reflected in the prevalence of female, queer and transgender artists associated with the genre. When Katey Red’s fellow “sissy bounce” pioneer Big Freedia barks out instructions to twerk until she sees “azz everywhere,” her ecstasy is undeniably sexual, but not in the same way as, say, 2 Live Crew’s would be. Indeed, there’s something almost Dionysian about the image of shaking asses literally “all over”; it transcends the gaze and becomes a religious experience. Side note–this is the only kind of thing that would get me to go to church.

© TVT Records

4. Ying Yang Twins: “Jigglin'”
(from Chemically Imbalanced, 2006)

Sometimes, the act of beholding one great work of art will inspire the creation of another one. W.H. Auden, for example, was inspired to write his 1938 poem “Musée des Beaux Arts” after looking upon the painting “Landscape with the Fall of Icarus” by Pieter Bruegel the Elder. And Atlanta crunk duo the Ying Yang Twins were similarly inspired to write their 2006 song “Jigglin'” after witnessing a talented stripper make her left cheek jump, then her right cheek jump, then roll, roll, roll, roll, roll that rump. The results are similar: two articulations of awe and humility in the face of breathtaking, transcendent beauty.

© Downtown Records

5. Major Lazer: “Bubble Butt (Remix)” (featuring Bruno Mars, 2 Chainz, Tyga, and Mystic)
(from Free the Universe, 2013)

Western art and culture finally reached its peak on April 16, 2013, with the release of Major Lazer’s “Bubble Butt.” Or at least, so we thought–because just a month later, the superstar trio of electronic producers actually improved upon perfection in the only way possible: by adding a verse from 2 Chainz. In years to come, after the inevitable nuclear holocaust leaves us to rebuild in a Mad Max wasteland, cults will be formed around this song, the remix, and the Eric Wareheim-directed music video. I only hope I live to see it happen.

© Embassy Pictures

6. Spinal Tap: “Big Bottom”
(from This is Spinal Tap, 1984)

If there were any justice in the world, the genre of “butt rock” would describe rock songs that are literally about butts, and Spinal Tap’s “Big Bottom” would be the perfect foundation. Like most things Tap, it’s a parody of chauvinistic hard rock so note-perfect it threatens to make the “real” thing obsolete; did KISS ever write a snickering double-entendre as clever as “how can I leave this ‘behind’?” (Trust us, they did not.)

© G.O.O.D. Music

7. Big Sean: “Dance (A$$) (Remix)” (featuring Nicki Minaj)
(from Finally Famous, 2011)

Nicki Minaj is famous for two things: stealing the show with charismatic guest verses–which she does here, handily–and having a big ol’ butt. The latter in particular has been the source of controversy, as it’s frequently alleged that her rear end has been surgically or otherwise medically enhanced: she even refers to it in her verse, proclaiming that her ass is “finally soft” and shrugging, “I don’t know, man, guess them ass shots wore off!” But to worry about the ontology of Nicki’s ass is sort of missing the point: there are such things as manmade wonders, and if her backside is the Colossus of Rhodes and not Mount Everest, that doesn’t mean it isn’t an inspiring sight to behold.

© Databass Records

8. DJ Assault: “Ass-N-Titties”
(from The Ass-N-Titties EP, 1997; available on Greatest Hits Vol. 1)

What can I say about “Ass-N-Titties” that hasn’t already been said? It’s a masterpiece of sophomoric humor: a song so mind-numbingly dumb that it goes all the way back to brilliant. This shit makes me proud to be from Southeast Michigan. And who doesn’t love ass and/or titties, anyway?

Side T

© Warner Bros. Pictures

9. Sir Mix-a-Lot: “Put ‘Em on the Glass”
(from Chief Boot Knocka, 1994)

For whatever reason, boobs aren’t as well-represented in hip-hop as their cousins from around the corner, as it were. So leave it to Sir Mix-a-Lot–who knows a thing or two about butt songs–to bless us with another anthem for the ladies who carry more of their weight up top. This time around, his focus is a little more narrow: he’s not honoring big boobs in general, but the specific act of pressing them against his windshield, “fillin’ up the passenger window with Jergens.” Guess Mix-a-Lot is a Cool Hand Luke fan.

Jayne Mansfield; photo stolen from somebody’s Pinterest.

10. Joe Walsh: “I.L.B.T.’s”
(from You Bought It – You Name It, 1983)

Meanwhile, here’s Joe Walsh with what might just be the most gloriously stupid song ever written: if you don’t think Joe Walsh is a genius, or at least a savant, just consider the fact that he manages to wring a full two verses and a bridge out of the premise of liking “B.T.’s,” an acronym you can probably figure out on your own if you think hard enough. My favorite lyrics, and the ones he sings with the most feeling, come near the end: “They give me shivers / When they bounce around / Buckled up or hanging on the ground.” Forget Bob Dylan, when’s Joe Walsh getting his Nobel?

Photo stolen from Down with Tyranny!

11. Peaches: “AA XXX”
(from The Teaches of Peaches, 2000)

So far, we’ve been focusing a lot on size, which makes sense: big boobs take up a lot of real estate, both physically and mentally. But Canadian electroclash artist Peaches makes a strong case for celebrating breasts of all sizes with her self-explanatory 2000 song “AA XXX.” Just like James said back on Side A, it isn’t always the size that gets one’s eye–and in any case, Peaches isn’t the type to let cultural preferences for larger busts detract from her sexual self-confidence.

Photo stolen from jeremiah jones on YouTube

12. Bog Log III: “Clap Your Tits”
(from Trike, 1999)

Speaking of people who celebrate breasts of all kinds, meet Bob Log III: a helmet-wearing punk-blues one-man band whose live show involves getting volunteers from the audience to sit on his lap and dip their boobs in his glass of Scotch (he has a whole song about that, in fact). But I’m partial to 1999’s “Clap Your Tits,” a ferocious, barely-intelligible Delta-blues-on-amphetamines hoedown punctuated with slapping sounds that may or may not actually be what you think they are. “Clap your tits along with the one-man band,” ladies (and bustier guys–we don’t judge)!

13. The Holy Modal Rounders: “Boobs a Lot”
(from Good Taste is Timeless, 1971)

The 1960s counterculture valued transgression above all, and no group embodied this more than the Fugs, a group of Greenwich Village beatniks who mixed virulent anti-Vietnam War protests with, well, “Boobs a Lot.” Written by Steve Weber, from fellow psych-folk group the Holy Modal Rounders, “Boobs a Lot” is exactly what it sounds like–and is probably a pretty solid argument for why Second Wave Feminism had to put the rest of the New Left in check. But that didn’t stop Weber and the Rounders from re-recording the song on their 1971 album Good Taste is Timeless; it may not be politically correct, but the heart wants what it wants.

© Star Trak Entertainment

14. Kelis: “Milkshake”
(from Tasty, 2003)

To be clear, “Milkshake” isn’t necessarily about breasts–singer Kelis has described it as “the thing that makes women special… what gives us our confidence and what makes us exciting,” which could be anything from literal sexual ability to a passion for bird-watching. But the use of “milk” in the title gives the song undeniable mammary associations, and Kelis definitely shows mad cleavage in the music video. Hell, I’ve literally spent the last 14 years hanging out in Kelis’ yard, just because of “Milkshake.” It’s like a refugee camp out here.

Photo stolen from Autre

15. Frank Zappa: “Fembot in a Wet T-Shirt”
(from Joe’s Garage Act I, 1979)

Few would ever accuse Frank Zappa of being a feminist, at least in any conventional sense of the word. But in his usual jaundiced, misanthropic way, Zappa makes some surprisingly prescient points with “Fembot in a Wet T-Shirt” (originally titled “Wet T-Shirt Nite”). Like the rest of Zappa’s 1979 satirical rock opera Joe’s Garage, “Fembot” is concerned with commodification: in this case, the ugliness and stupidity that happens when sex becomes something to leer at through a “thoroughly soaked, stupid-looking white sort of male person’s conservative kind of middle-of-the-road cotton undergarment.” The picture he paints is dripping with contempt for everyone involved, from the empty-headed men “laughin’ and dancin’ and payin’ entirely too much for their beer” to the equally vacuous Mary, who will do “anything for 50 bucks,” to the sleazy announcer who eagerly exploits her. It’s a deliberately inhuman vision of sexuality perverted by cynicism and commerce–and on this, at least, I think Frank and some feminists could see eye to eye.

Photo stolen from Medical News Today

16. Prince: “Peach”
(1993 single, available on 4Ever)

For an artist so thoroughly saturated in sex of all kinds, Prince was surprisingly short on odes to specific body parts (the unreleased “Wonderful Ass” notwithstanding); his vision of pleasure was, I suppose, too all-consuming to be truly fetishistic. But 1993’s “Peach” is an exception: the moment when he realizes the titular dream girl is “pure, every ounce” is when he sees “her titties bounce”–a sight that is accompanied by a delightful “boing” sound effect. Look, I realize this post was stupid–maybe the most stupid thing we’ve written, and it has plenty of competition–but our point is, the appreciation of the female form has a long and illustrious history; and while sometimes that appreciation can tip into skeeviness, for some of us, it’s the closest thing to a genuine religion we have. So while you’re hunting eggs this holiday weekend, remember that all that ovate imagery has less to do with the resurrection than with women’s bodies–and those, in themselves, are their own kind of miracle.

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