This case study examines the ridiculous innuendo utilized in songs by Ariana Grande, DNCE, and Fifth Harmony in 2015/2016.
“I’ve been here all night / I’ve been here all day / and boy, got me walkin’ side to side.” Sigh, that’s a key line – the chorus to be precise – from Ariana Grande’s “Side to Side,” featuring Nicki Minaj, from her latest album, Dangerous Woman. It’s one of many songs where the innuendo is simply “larger than life” to say the least. In 2016, innuendo has been “kind of a big deal,” fueling a number of popular songs. Are they ridiculous? Yes. Are they catchy AF? To quote Gretchen Wilson’s “Redneck Woman” or Ginuwine’s “Hell Yeah,” “hell yeah” They are!
Starting with the cited example, Grande’s “Side To Side,” if you take the sex out of it, perhaps Grande is being metaphorical about the relationship with this guy. She’s clearly tempted by him (“…I know you got a bad reputation / doesn’t matter, cause you give me temptation…”), so perhaps he indeed has her “side to side” because she’s torn between a reasonable decision and temptation. It’s not an unreasonable interpretation mind you – some of the Genius annotations fall in line with this – but it’s also giving the writers and Grande too much credit if you don’t believe they didn’t see the remarkable opportunity to deliver incredible, ridiculous innuendo.
“Side to Side” is best seen as being shallow. Why? Pop music as of late is shallow, with the abundance of profanity, selfishness and overindulgence, and of course lust. The references to Grande’s love interest’s body, alongside with the repetition of lyric, “And we don’t gotta think ‘bout nothin’,” seems to suggests this is a passionate night of… – fill in the blank.
While “Side to Side” may be the preeminent example, Grande didn’t stop there on her Dangerous Woman album. “Touch It” ends up being a fantastic double entendre which definitely doesn’t require the mind to stretch exactly WHAT is being “touched.” Sure, there is more legitimacy to the metaphorical in this instance, but lyrics like, “I’m tired of being patient, so let’s pick up the pace / take me all the way / ain’t nobody gonna touch it, touch it, touch it,” definitely signal sex without any doubt.
Another perfect example of ridiculous innuendo comes by way of DNCE’s “Cake By The Ocean.” Clearly, the title is a play on “sex on the beach,” hence, the lyrics illustrate a clear sexual fantasy. “Talk to me baby / I’m going blind from this sweet, sweet craving, whoa-oh,” Joe Jonas sings on the naughty hook, continuing, “Let’s lose our minds and go f*cking crazy / ah yay a yay, I keep on hoping we’ll eat cake on the ocean.” Interpretation: “S-E-X.,” to quote Lyfe Jennings.
Need more evidence of the dirty mind of DNCE? “God damn / see you licking frosting from your own hands / want another taste, I’m begging yes ma’am / I’m tired of all this candy on the dry land, dry land.” Licking is clearly erotic, while “frosting” – typically white – seems to be synonymous with bodily fluids, clearly exchanged…we’ll leave it there.
One last example of the ridiculous innuendo might just be the best: Fifth Harmony’s “Work From Home.” This song is hella catchy, yet utterly ridiculous. Just look at the hook and the innuendo is out of the bag quick: “You don’t gotta go to work, work, work… / but you gotta put in work, work, work…/let my body do the work, work, work… / you can work from home, oh, oh, oh-oh.”
Essentially, Fifth Harmony suggests that their men don’t have to work, but by working their bodies (aka sex) is sufficient. The problem is, if that’s the case, where’s the money coming from? It takes money to live and lust and carnal pleasures won’t supplant the bill money, right? Is Fifth Harmony going to cover the lights, the rent, the car payment? Sheesh!
So ultimately, case(s) in point…innuendo has gone plumb wild – truly crazy – in 2016. Yes, songwriters may be able to tie in a more moral, meaningful message, but when they are formulating catchy lyrics and song titles, don’t think that sex, which sells, isn’t a motivating factor. Be as moral as you want in interpreting any of the four above-mentioned joints, but all of them is chocked full of sex without question.