The Song: Brian McFadden, “Just The Way You Are (Drunk At The Bar)”
The Crimes: Setting sexual assault fantasies to the dulcet strains of “Cotton Eyed Joe,” as remixed by a David Guetta clone.
As has been the case for too many years now, 2011’s year-end polls have ended in a wave of proclamations that the past 365 days, for real this time, constituted what could be called a Year Of The Woman; pieces of evidence cited to back up this claim include the sales successes of Adele, the artistic peaks of PJ Harvey and St. Vincent, the media blitzes of Gaga and Beyoncé, and so on. Few of these laurels, however, talk about whether the year was a good one for the woman listener, i.e., how easy it was to navigate the musical landscape in toto without tripping across even the mildest forms of sexism multiple times. As it turns out, 2011 was yet another year to perform pretty lousy on that particular front, from L’Affaire “Lyin’ Ass Bitch” to the whole Tyler mess to the reflexive way culture mocked the bulk of Justin Bieber’s fanbase for committing the crimes of being young and female while enjoying a particular artist’s musical offerings. One of the most odious examples of this sexism, though, came from the ex-boybander/Aussie reality-TV judge Brian McFadden, whose hyperactive “Just The Way You Are (Drunk At The Bar)” comes off like an amphetamine-fueled date-rape fantasy focused on an inebriated paramour who he dragged to a hi-NRG line-dancing club.
“I like you just the way you are/ Drunk as shit dancing at the bar,” McFadden croons to his paramour. Romance! So he goes on: “I like it/ and I can’t wait to get you home/ so I can do some damage.” Surely this tepidly hurried rewrite of Rednex’s baseball-stadium staple “Cotton Eyed Joe” has already done a fair amount of that, Brian? Oh, wait, you mean “damage” in the “potentially traumatizing because of not remembering whether or not we had sex while I was blacked out” way! Sorry, I was confused there for a second.
Honestly, I could go on and quote all the lyrics—the passive-aggressive-greeting-card aphorism “Sometimes it’s the little things we like/ but we pretend to hate them/ These things make other people fight/ but in you I love them”; the bit where he hallucinates a halo—but really, it’s worth giving the song just one spin to hear how many depths a single piece of music can plumb simultaneously, from unpleasant aesthetics to barely coherent lyrics to lazy songwriting that someone’s presumably claimed was deliberately done in order to mirror the feeling of being drunk. And hey, they might be right: to mimic the effect people repeating themselves annoyingly while they’re totally blotto, one verse about the bar’s other patrons “looking at you, looking like a ten” while the object is “all messed up [with] no place to go” is both sung and rapped. It makes the whole proceeding all the more creepy, too.
McFadden proudly tweeted its assault-happy chorus after it came out, then pulled the old “wait, I didn’t mean to say that, even though the professional polish of the song and the fact that I had many decision-making opportunities between devising its concept and putting it for sale on iTunes might indicate otherwise” double-switch, complete with vow that he was giving the single’s proceeds to charity. Could it be that this depressing pile of bravado and banjo was rushed out to get McFadden’s name back in the papers in advance of his second season on Australia’s Got Talent—which just so happened to start not long after “Just (Drunk)” dropped onto the Internet? At the very least, the song being a cog in a particularly inept marketing campaign helps explain the absolute shoddiness with which it was constructed, from the lousy Rednex aping to the casually deployed misogyny seen through a mean, drunk squint.
The 11 Most Infuriating Songs Of 2011
11. Kreayshawn, “Gucci Gucci”
10. will.i.am feat. Mick Jagger and Jennifer Lopez, “T.H.E. (The Hardest Ever)”
9. Katy Perry feat. Missy Elliott, “Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.) (Remix)”
8. Tyler, The Creator, “Bitch Suck Dick”
7. Maroon 5 feat. Christina Aguilera, “Moves Like Jagger”
6. Bon Iver, “Holocene”
5. Rihanna, “S&M”
4. Brian McFadden, “Just The Way You Are (Drunk At The Bar)”
3. [White Person], [White Person Cutely/”Seriously” Performing Urban-Radio Hit]
2. Lana Del Rey, “Video Games”
1. Jessie J, “Price Tag”
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on December 28, 2011