If you’ve been around a radio wave or computer lately, you’ve probably heard the newest song to take over the United States – “#SELFIE” by New York’s very own DJ duo, The Chainsmokers. It’s easy to understand why. With a hot dance beat, fun electronic drops, and female sing-talk vocals that humorously capture the silliness of our obsession with self-documentation, “#SELFIE” has lots of appeal as a song, video, and viral campaign.
It might’ve had the potential to call on the cyber citizens of today to be more reflexive in their day-to-day-lives in an unprecedentedly bold way. The track could’ve been the first direct challenge for us to move beyond ironically making fun of selfie culture and actually changing it. But for all of the good it might’ve done, “#SELFIE” ultimately ends up perpetuating the same ole’ sexist norms as usual.
Two white men created “#SELFIE” and THIS IS IMPORTANT. It’s easy to overlook the history of women being silenced as men tell their stories because, well, that’s pretty much most of what history consists of. The problem with “#SELFIE” doesn’t lie in the fact that two dudes wrote a song about how stupid it is when people (especially women) take selfies to impress others — it’s that they characterize a woman’s night at a club without incorporating feminine lines of thought, critique, or experience. Although the song focuses on the act of the selfie, a strong current throughout involves the nuances of voyeurism and performance inherent with being a modern Western woman. Effectively, The Chainsmokers end up co-opting a dynamic social plot line, transforming it into a catchy slogan not truly their own, and silencing more authentic voices.
D’you know the woman doing the not-sing-talk-sing in “#SELFIE?” Her name is Alexis Killacam, but it’s OK if you didn’t know that. Although her voice is the only one you hear in the entirety of “#SELFIE,” the track excludes any official mention of her. Arguably, the vocals she contributes may not be something worth taking much credit for, but Alexis herself has been very open and proud about her involvement in the project on social media, despite the small amount of attention she has received in comparison to the DJ duo she worked with. It’s true that many artists go uncredited in songs that they contribute to for a variety of reasons, but when a song like “#SELFIE” is distributed as a fun dance hit that critiques specifically feminine indulgences into narcissism and desire, official props to the main woman involved in the creative project seem logical, at least for the sake of justifying the lyricism. (If y’wanna make the case that her anonymity actually serves to advance a relatable satirical agenda about how little we matter, I’d contest that The Chainsmokers should’ve done the same).
The other uncredited women involved in “#SELFIE” make their appearance in the songs official video. Primping and contorting themselves in front of a bathroom mirror, a beautiful brunette and blonde demand the attention of the camera and critique of the crowd. Unfortunately, they don’t get it. They are carelessly objectified. Instead of using the video for “#SELFIE” to mock the dynamics of selfie culture or the sexploitation that seems inevitably entangled in pop culture success, The Chainsmokers go along with it. Their video vixens turn into lifeless caricatures that are spliced up between (largely male) fan-submitted selfies and indulgent dance sequences.
I’ll still probably dance to “#SELFIE” while it sticks around, because it’s catchy and stupidly fun. But if you’re looking for a dance hit that manages to poke fun at a problematic system while turning it on it’s head, keep looking.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on April 1, 2014