What’s the opposite of Spectacular?
Have you heard of Kiely Williams? She was a flash in the pan of my adolescence as a member of girl group 3LW, and later found fame in Disney’s The Cheetah Girls, but now she’s trying to ditch her good-girl past and reinvent herself for an edgier audience. That’s fine; artists do it all the time.
What’s not fine is that for her choice of comeback anthem, Kiely has decided to release “Spectacular,” a song that attempts to be sexually liberated but instead encourages binge drinking, unprotected sex, and rape. Some choice excerpts: “woke up in the morning, couldn’t get out of there fast enough;” “I hope he used a rubber or else I’ma be in trouble;” “I can’t believe I blacked out.”
Sounds awful, right? An experience that you definitely wouldn’t want to re-live? Not in this song: “even though I don’t remember his name, he could have it again if he wanted it.” And why? “Because the sex was spectacular.”
Really, Kiely Williams? This is the message that you are putting out there? Even though you just had sex with a stranger and are maybe pregnant and might have an STD and are, by your own words, ashamed of your actions, you would do it again? Because the sex was spectacular? Really?
Other people started asking those same questions and pointing out that the events of this song sound suspiciously like date rape—you can’t consent to sex if you’ve blacked out!—which prompted Kiely to release this message:
Young women across the country get intoxicated and have unprotected sex. That’s a fact. I recorded the song to bring attention to this frighteningly prevalent activity. It is absurd to infer or suggest that I am condoning this behavior.
Are Lady Gaga and BeyoncÃ© advocating murder with the Telephone video? Of course not. … Is Academy Award winner Mo’Nique a proponent of incest because of her portrayal of Mary in the movie Precious? Clearly, the answer is no.
I wrote Spectacular and made the video to bring attention to a serious women’s health and safety issue. Please don’t shoot the messenger.
The problem with this explanation is that it’s not true. This song and its accompanying video do nothing BUT condone unsafe sexual practices. Comparing the lyrics and images in this video to a performance like Mo’Nique’s or an obviously campy, over-the-top show like Gaga’s doesn’t make any sense. Mo’Nique is clearly the villain in Precious; her actions are framed as unquestionably negative. Gaga and BeyoncÃ© are kitschy; they’re cartoon characters in a make-believe world.
This video, on the other hand, is real. It’s incredibly true to life, andÂ it does nothing to show Kiely’s “character” as a criticism of culture, or even a cautionary tale, or even someone who is making poor decisions. It presents binge drinking and unprotected sex as fun, consequence-free activities.
She’s right that these things happen all the time, and she’s right when she says that they’re serious issues. But she is dead wrong when she claims that this video in any way speaks out against what is a very serious health and safety concern for young women. If anything, it’s contributing to the problem.