I love music. When life seems complicated and impossible, I like to turn on the radio. The top hits of the day always remind me that, no matter what troubles I may have, at least I ain’t no holla back girl.
As my young, hip readers know, that was a reference to “Holla Back Girl,” the recent No. 1 song by Gwen Stefani. It is probably the best song of all time.
Consider first the point of view of the song. It is set in the gossipy world of high school, where Gwen has heard that “you” (I don’t know who she means, but I don’t think it’s me) have been talkin’ crap and you didn’t think that she would hear it. Apparently what you’ve been saying is that she’s a holla back girl — which, as she explains in the chorus, she ain’t — and now she wants to meet you out back after school so she can beat the tar out of you. This is how I know she definitely is not talking to me, because everyone knows I would never show up for a meeting where the agenda included beating me up. I have former employers who will corroborate that.
The reason the song strikes me as funny is that Gwen Stefani is 35 years old and has not been in high school for nearly two decades. She has recorded the song in an obvious and shameless attempt to capture a teenage audience, even though she is old enough to be the mother of most of the people she is targeting, people who surely do not find their own mothers very interesting. It is so obvious and shameless, in fact, that I am going to copy it. I’m going to record a hip-hop song called “School Sucks and That Girl is Hot, Fo Shizzle.” What teenager in the country WON’T love it?!
Anyway, “Holla Back Girl” also highlights Gwen’s curious obsession with her own feces. She sings the phrase “this my s***” 33 times in the song. Of course, she means “this IS my s***,” but I guess leaving out linking verbs something very cool nowadays that the kids doing.
Anyway, I don’t know why she keeps saying it. Of course it’s hers. Who else’s would it be? Who’s arguing with her? If she claims ownership of some particular fecal matter, far be it from me to contradict her.
Later in the song, she observes that the gossip situation has gotten entirely out of hand. Maybe everyone is whispering about the creepy 35-year-old who keeps lurking around the school. I don’t know. But the situation has gone “bananas,” she says, employing a decades-old slang term for “crazy.” To underscore her point — and this is really very clever, poetically speaking — she spells out the word. She sings:
“This [crap] is bananas. B-A-N-A-N-A-S!”
Then she sings it about 11,000 more times. When she is finished, she has left us with no doubt: This crap is, in fact, bananas. I picture her looking at it, amazed, as she thinks, “Have I eaten nothing but bananas for the past three days?! I must have, for indeed, this crap is bananas. B-A-N-A-N-A-S, bananas.”
Speaking of food, there is also a band called the Black Eyed Peas, and they have a song whose title is “Don’t Phunk with My Heart,” so already you know there’s going to be trouble. This song contains the following couplet:
“Crazy is what crazy do
Crazy in love; I’m a crazy foo’.”
Here the singer has used the clever rhyming technique known as “making up words.” He realized that “does” and “fool” do not rhyme — but “do” and “foo'” sure do, foo’!
The shocking liberties he has taken with the English language should not overshadow the strength of his message, though. When you think about it, crazy IS what crazy do. What truth could be plainer? It’s not bananas at all, my friend. Not bananas at all.
When "Holla Back Girl" is played on the radio, all the S-words get bleeped, of course. So perhaps some listeners aren't even aware of Gwen's obsession. Download the original, though, and hear it in all its S-word glory.
What is a "holla back girl," exactly? UrbanDictionary.com offers several definitions, all submitted by users (i.e., some of them are stupid). The most popular usage, and the one I believe Gwen means in her song, is a girl who allows herself to be treated like a doormat by boys. She'll sleep with a guy and think that means he likes her and then sit by the phone waiting for him to "holla back" at her, which he'll never do, because he was just using her. That's the sort of girl Gwen most assuredly ain't.
Another possible definition for Gwen's song is a girl who will talk trash but won't actually get in a physical fight when it comes down to it. That definition would also be something Gwen ain't.
Third: The "holla back" girls are the ones in the cheerleading squad who, when asked to holler out "T-E-A-M" and then "What does that spell?," holla back, "TEAM!" Someone who ain't no holla back girl, then, would be the leader, the one who takes charge and asks the questions. Applied metaphorically to Gwen's situation, she's heard people are talking about her, and rather than just take it, she's going to take charge of the situation.
Another definition, which I think is more clever but which is apparently less-often used, is where you go to a club or party and you meet a really fine chick, and things are cool. But then you see a FINER chick across the room, so you go talk to her instead. But then things don't work out with her, so you go and "holla back" at the first girl. So in this case, a holla back girl is one who's a second choice -- a perfectly good one, one you wouldn't be embarrassed to be seen with -- but a second choice nonetheless.
A last definition for "holla back" girl is that it's derived from "hollow back," i.e., spineless. Surely this is not where the term actually came from, though.
When I heard "Don't Phunk with My Heart," I thought it said, "Crazy is AS crazy do" (not "what") -- you know, like Forrest Gump's, "Stupid is as stupid does." "Crazy is 'what' crazy does" doesn't really make sense to me, and it makes even less sense when it's "do" instead of "does." But this is why I'm not writing today's top hits.