Songs We Wish We Could Forget: Ricky Martin's "She Bangs"

Truth hurts: this song stinks...
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Ricky Martin is a gay male. This is not a big deal. Sure, it took him a long time in the public eye to admit it, but that’s not exactly egregious. It’s not like he was one of those people who went to the point of getting married and having kids to hide his sexuality. No, he just performed lousy songs about getting with ladies that, in retrospect, smack of the lady who doth protest too much. Ricky Martin - She Bangs - Worst Song EverIt’s not that Martin is gay that makes these songs bad. Stephen Merritt has made a habit of having people sing songs told from the perspective of the opposite gender. Merritt often sings love songs toward ladies even though he’s gay, and they are often very good songs. My point is that “She Bangs” wouldn’t have been any better if it were called “He Bangs” or even necessarily more honest. However, if Martin were openly gay at the time it probably wouldn’t have happened, and we’d all be better for it.

In actuality, the song gets off to a good start, by which I mean I enjoy the first 14 seconds. The song slowly builds with a bit of a Latin flare and with some muffled talking. It’s subtle… but what follows is unapologetically bombastic. As soon as that first horn blare, we’re in for a wall of hollow sound that rings vaguely of generic Latin influenced pop music, if that makes any sense, and if it doesn’t then I must sound like an asshole.

Ricky Martin is not a very good singer, but at least unlike some musicians he actually tries to sing. However, that doesn’t stop him from sounding sort of odd on this song. It almost sounds like there is anguish in his voice, which would have been more apt for “Livin’ la Vida Loca” which was about a woman who wore him out and who he didn’t really sound like he was happy to be with. The woman in this song, the one who bangs, appears to be much more coquettish than the major whore from Martin’s first hit sans Menudo. Man, Martin has had a painful life has he not? He was stuck in that hellscape that is being a child star and he spent many years as a closeted homosexual. Granted, one of those things was his own choice, but the mental and emotional strain he must have undergone in his life is fairly sizable. Is Ricky Martin a tragic figure for our times? Can somebody whose music is so thoroughly mediocre inspire enough sadness in the zeitgeist? Not that somebody’s ability coincides with the tragedy of their lives, but it certainly doesn’t hurt in terms of the scope and scale of the mourning for you. Of course, that just might be because the media is a voracious, parasitic pile of shit that will try and turn anything into a profit, and the death of a major cultural figure makes dollar signs appear in their eyes. Dicks.

“She Bangs” starts off reasonably enough lyrically wise: “Talk to me/Tell me your name/You blow me off like it’s all the same.” OK, so that last line doesn’t make any sense, but I get the gist of it. He’s interested in a woman but she blows him off. Then, he sings, “You lit a fuse and now I’m ticking away like a bomb,” which is concerning. He appears to have an unhealthy and disconcerting interest in this woman, particularly since they just met. There are a litany of popular, classic songs about people blowing love way out of proportion. They are all in the vein of, “I can’t live without you,” which is always an irrational way of thinking, but some of these songs are pretty terrific, such as the Righteous Brothers’ “(You’re My) Soul and Inspiration.” However, the fact that Martin is “ticking away like a bomb” because of this woman sounds dangerous. If this metaphorical fuse reaches its end, what happens? I don’t want to find out. The fact that he follows this statement with, “Yeah, baby,” feeling terribly out of place, incidentally.

Once again, Martin implores her to talk to him, this time following that up with, “Tell me your sign/You’re switching sides like a Gemini,” and now this song is off the rails. I have on the occasion considered asking a woman what her sign is, but of course only as a joke since we all know horoscopes are a bunch of garbage. So, you know, clearly Martin isn’t a smooth operator, at least in this song. The line about her switching signs, meanwhile, is utter nonsense. For starters, Geminis (as in people born “under” that “sign”) don’t have any sort of propensity to switching sides. Neither does Gemini in the Roman sense, i.e. the twins Castor and Pollux. Also, what is she switching sides on? Is she literally just like turning back and forth or something? This is truly a terrible lyric. At least the next line, where he talks about her playing games and hitting his heart like a drum, makes sense.

Now, Martin proclaims, “Well, if Lady Luck gets on my side/We’re gonna rock this town alive!” Ugh, first he mentions horoscopes and now Lady Luck. It’s like he’s trying to push my buttons. Don’t you know fortune favors the bold, Ricky? However, while it takes a bit of mental gymnastics to unravel it, this line actually does make sense, I think. What I presume Martin is trying to say is that they are going to party it up so verily that the town is going to become vibrant with energy. Granted, it might be people who were trying to sleep yelling, “Keep the noise down, asshole,” but it’s something. There are a lot of nonsensical lyrics in this song, but this isn’t one of them… probably.

Things take a concerning turn with the next line, where Martin proclaims, “I’ll let her rough me up ‘til she knocks me out,” which sounds genuinely creepy. I see no way to take this other than, “I’ll let her have sex with me that is so rough and violent that is causes me to lose consciousness,” and while it is nice to have goals, ones like that are not the kind most have in mind. I almost wish there was a chance this line was literal in like, you know, a boxing sense or something. At least there isn’t much time to dwell on that line before we get to, “She walks like she talks and she talks like she walks,” which is dumb enough to be distracting. I mean, there are ways that makes sense. She could do both slowly or quickly or angrily or what have you. It’s just a stupid line to use without any further details. It just seems like a cheap rhyme, and that’s the worst kind of rhyme. I despise them every time.

We then get to the chorus, which starts with the titular, “She bangs! She bangs!” which when I write it like that reminds me of William Blake’s “The Tyger” which has nothing to do with this song. I do not know what this means. Obviously, “bangs” is a euphemism for what those in the know calling “coitus” so maybe he’s just saying that she engages in the physical act of fornicating, which isn’t all that interesting or special. Many women, perhaps most of them, do that. Of course, sometimes people refer to something that is really good as “bangin” so maybe that’s what is going on here, but I doubt it. At least he follows that up with an “Oh baby.” I get that… or do I? I should add that “She bangs!” is sort of yelled with vocal accompaniment behind him. I’ll give him credit that there is energy to it, but that’s all I have to say positive about the chorus. He then adds, “When she moves, she moves, I go crazy.” Again, this man clearly has an unhealthy thing going on with this woman.

Martin than muses that, “She looks like a flower but stings like a bee/Like every girl in history” which, you know, is a needle scratch moment. I hate, hate, when people make large, encompassing statements about people or men or women. If you say anything about every woman in history other than “they had two X chromosomes” you are talking shit. Plus, you know, Martin seems to be talking jive about women here. Nobody wants to be told they sting like a bee, and I wouldn’t be too keen on being told I look like a flower either. What is he trying to say here about woman anyway? What is the flower thing about, particularly? The bee thing makes sort of more sense except I don’t know what he means about “sting.” I just figure it is something about hurting people, presumably with words or non-violent actions. Also, if this woman shares traits with every woman ever, why bother mentioning it? What makes her so special then? Why can’t you control your damn emotions regarding her? I want answers, Ricky!

Things get more confusing with the next set of lines, when he states, “I’m wasted by the way she moves/No one ever looked so fine.” Well if no one every looked so fine how does she look like a flower like every girl in history? Then again, I suppose there could be degrees of fineness amongst those flowers. Still, it’s stupid, and we get it about how you really are infatuated with this woman to an unseemly degree. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say you were either a dangerous risk to her or overcompensating for something. Then, things get really dickish with the next line: “She reminds me that a woman got one thing on her mind.” Not only does the song break down awkwardly here, like it was getting ahead of itself and had to slow down, but that is just such an atrocious lyric on so many levels, and not just because it is grammatically incorrect.

Quite frankly, the idea that all women only have one thing on there mind is stupid no matter what you suggested that one thing was. The notion of a female hive mind is just obnoxiously dumb. Of course, Martin isn’t talking about politics or fruit punch or alligators here, I presume. Based on the rest of the song, surely he’s talking about sex. So yeah, as far as Ricky Martin is concerned, or at least the Ricky Martin of “She Bangs” women just think about balling all day and all night. As such, it manages to be stupid and sexist, which admittedly isn’t a tough duet to pull off. This song has been a barrage of bad lyrics over a swarthy Latin beat, and it has now hit its nadir, with about two and a half minutes to go.

Once again, Martin implores this mystery woman to talk to him and tell him her name, but she’s probably too busy thinking about screwing dudes to hear him. He then says, “I’m just a link in your daisy chain” which is a weird thing to say. Is it a sort of play on “notch in your belt” in a sexual sense, as opposed to in Gangs of New York where Brendon Gleeson’s character put a notch in his shillelagh for every guy he killed? Well, for starters, clearly these two haven’t been intimate at this point. Martin has made that abundantly clear. Besides that, “daisy chain” is still just a weird thing to say. I don’t even know what it is, unless it is like a lei.

Things get more confusing when he tells us, “Your rap sounds like a diamond map to the stars.” So now she’s a rapper apparently, to which I would advise Ricky Martin that if he is looking to get freaky with a rapping lady might I suggest Missy Elliott? Her music leads me to believe she might be willing to give it a go. I mean, obviously Ricky Martin isn’t interested in that but maybe the “Ricky Martin” of “She Bangs” is. Also, I have no  clue what a diamond map to the stars is, or how something could sound like one. Even for a simile, this makes little to no sense. According to Wikipedia, this song had six writers. This is the best they could come up with? You’d think at least one of them would have been functionally literate.

More lyrical bon mots from Martin: “Talk to me/Tell me the news/You wear me out like a pair of shoes.” So… very slowly then? I don’t tend to wear out shoes all that quickly. Also, what kind of news is he interested in? Lastly, can’t he just leave this woman alone at this point? Or at least stop telling us about it? I’m tired of his shenanigans at this point. Martin then says, “Well if it looks like love should be a crime you’d better lock me up for life.” Well, I don’t think anybody is saying love should be a crime, at least in most cases. What is a crime, however, is aggressively stalking women, as it should be. Just saying, Ricky. Martin follows with, “I’ll do the time with a smile on my face/Thinking of her in her leather and lace.” Here’s a lyric that takes on quite a different tone in light of the information we have learned since it was released. There’s a difference between an openly gay person singing a song in this vein and a closeted gay person doing it. It’s hard not to feel like he was trying to put up a façade, because he was, obviously. The leather and lace line just sounds so clichéd, but to be fair he didn’t write this shit. Also, at this point the music is really starting to annoy me, and there is still almost two minutes of song left. I am not happy with this arrangement.

Fortunately, there aren’t anymore new lyrics. Unfortunately, we get to relive the old, awful ones. More “she bangs” and “she moves” and another reference to the fact women only have one thing on their minds. At least at the end of the song some backup vocalists add some oh’s to the proceedings, and they sound pretty good actually. It’s kind of hard to describe the sound they are making in words, because the oh’s sort of blend together into one distinct sound. It’s kind of like “Ooohohohohohohooooh” and it’s the only thing worth a damn in this song after the beginning. It’s like a terrible sandwich on nice, but thinly sliced, bread.

“She Bangs” is a terrible song. It is an annoying song. Ricky Martin is fortunate that it is more associated with William Hung than it is with him at this point. If ironic appreciation and schaudenfraude weren’t alive and kicking today, Martin would have a lot more to answer to. However, due to Martin’s sexuality, this song takes on a new, different life than that of your typical lousy song. It’s a monument to a different era of music and of his life. It’s a song being sung by a closeted gay man in where he aggressively pursues an uninterested woman with a propensity for banging who, along with every other woman, only thinks about sex. That is a unique thing in this world, I presume. Alas, it doesn’t make “She Bangs” any less terrible.