As a kid, I was a die-hard Taylor Swift fan.

I have vivid memories of listening to "Fifteen" while playing Zoo Tycoon. I loved Taylor, all the way up through her "Mean" days. She seemed to stand for outsider girls like me, who like to turn events and feelings into words.

Taylor Swift - Fifteen www.youtube.com

Around the Red era, something changed. I became disinclined towards pop artists in general, but particularly Taylor. I also found it difficult to relate to Taylor as she switched from confessional country to pop songs that spoke about a way of life that seemed glamorous and utterly unattainable. She'd become a cheerleader and the leader of a clique overnight, and I suppose I felt betrayed.

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Opinion

Misogyny Disguised as Misery: We Need to Talk About Hobo Johnson

It's time we acknowledge the emo rapper's repeatedly sexist subject matter.

Note: This article mentions non-violent sexual assault that some readers may find disturbing. The alleged victim later recanted her statement on January 29, explaining that the incident was a misunderstanding between her and her friend, who shared the original Tweet referenced below.

In 2018, a YouTube clip of a Californian quasi-rapper by the stage name of Hobo Johnson went viral.

The video, an entry for NPR's Tiny Desk Contest, depicted a dorky, socially anxious 20-something and his band, dubbed the Lovemakers, performing a song called "Peach Scone" in a backyard. The lovelorn tune fuses minimalistic folk-rock with Johnson's slam-poetry style delivery which, more often than not, sounds like he's on the verge of tears. "She is like the nicest person I've ever met in my whole life / And I'm sure you know it 'cause you sleep next to her every night," goes one of the song's most bitter couplets.

www.youtube.com

Nearly two years and 17 million views later, Johnson is now arguably one of the most polarizing acts in the "emo rap" universe—if not the most outwardly hated. Though many media outlets praised Johnson for his vulnerability and outspokenness on mental health issues, an equally prominent portion of listeners swiftly labeled him an incel (short for involuntary celibate, a descriptor for men who blame their inactive sex life mostly on women alone rather than their own personality flaws). "My ex knows why my last one's my last one / Hey, guess why? It's all my stupid f--king actions," Johnson croons on "February 15th." "I'm gonna be alone forever."

This week, Hobo Johnson's name trended on Twitter because of a (now retracted) accusation. "Hobo Johnson has genital herpes," a now-private user alleged in a tweet. "This is nothing to be ashamed of, except he took off the condom while having sex with my friend, without her knowing, after one of his meet and greets. That's assault and he knowingly gave her herpes." But later the woman in question tweeted:

Though there are currently no laws in the U.S. that prohibit secretly removing a condom during sex—or "stealthing," as it's so cutely been nicknamed—the act is widely considered a form of non-violent sexual assault. Though the statement has since been backtracked and we'll never know for sure what happened, it's worth pointing out that in the original tweet's responses, Johnson received backlash that cited his previous behaviors and the subject matter in his songs. This incident underscores a trend of misogyny that exists in many men under the guise of radical male sensitivity.

In a track from his 2017 album The Rise of Hobo Johnson, Johnson pleads: "Mario's never getting some, and Link's never getting some / So why would princesses love me?" Somehow, he manages to incriminate himself and imply that video game damsels owe sex to their saviors in one fell swoop. "You know, it's something that I'd do / Like not text back for a day or two," he digresses on "Mover Awayer," a song about the anger he feels over the girl he likes moving away. "She deserves someone better, but / Every single guy she's ever loved to me sounds really f--king dumb." One of the worst offenders is "Sex in the City," a song featuring a chorus that earnestly speculates "sex in the city probably feels really really nice."

In other moments, it's evident that Johnson means well; he pretty explicitly denounces police brutality in "Demarcus Cousins & Ashley," and repeated references to his parents' severed marriage are likely to console listeners who are children of divorce. But if those same young children think Hobo Johnson exemplifies healthy relationships and sincere expressions of love beyond childish desires to "get some," then we're in a world of trouble. No matter how he treats women in real life, his artist persona and the attitudes he expresses in his music pose real dangers with potentially nauseating consequences.

MUSIC

Dear NPR Tiny Desk, Stop Having Repeat Performers

With all the love and respect in the world, NPR Tiny Desk, maybe consider using your massive platform to continue to uplift new artists as you have in the past, rather than inviting repeat performers.

I love the NPR Tiny Desk, and I love almost all the performers who have ever been featured on it.

I love the series' inclusivity and taste, and I appreciate the way the Tiny Desk Contest picks artists who deserve the major platform that the prize affords.

Naia Izumi: NPR Music Tiny Desk Concert www.youtube.com

However, there's one thing that's been bothering me about the Tiny Desk. The show typically doesn't have repeat performers, but in the past few years, several bands have been invited on to perform more than once. Yesterday, Sharon Van Etten came on to perform three new songs, though she first performed in 2010. Wilco was invited to return in 2016. Julien Baker performed two shows, one in 2016 and then one in 2018, and then came back to perform with boygenius in 2019, alongside Lucy Dacus and Phoebe Bridgers—both of whom had also performed before.

boygenius: NPR Music Tiny Desk Concert www.youtube.com

Even though I am a devoted fan of most these artists and think that boygenius is the future of rock music, the fact that these artists were invited to perform twice rubs me the wrong way, which makes me wonder how people who are not fans of these artists feel. All these repeats seem to contradict the intent of the show, which has always seemed to be about getting past layers of artifice and tapping into the true emotions at the core of a wide variety of music.

This annoyance isn't really directed at the Tiny Desk or the repeat performers, of course. One series certainly can't be held responsible for the corruption at the heart of the corporatized music industry or for breaking out of the media's elitist echo chambers.

Maybe the annoyance is rooted in the fact that so many artists dedicate their lives to music and yet never get the chance to be featured on a platform like the Tiny Desk. I have so many friends who have submitted wonderful videos to the Tiny Desk competition, and I've watched hundreds more submissions by artists who truly deserve recognition from NPR and other music outlets, yet receive little to none, especially if they don't have the cash or luck granted to others.

Maybe I'm annoyed because, in general, music is such an extraordinarily random crapshoot of a profession, and the truth is that most talented and hardworking musicians I know are sleeping on benches in the parks of New York.

As a music and culture writer, I'm also aware that I've absolutely fallen prey to the temptation to write repeatedly about artists and celebrities I know and love instead of prioritizing new and diverse voices. In that sense, I do understand Bob Boilen's desire to have his old favorites back in his office.

Maybe, Bob, both you and I can try to work on this. We can listen to Go Home by Julien Baker in private as many times as we want, while knowing that as music writers and content curators, we have the power to choose what stories and voices to elevate, and we have to constantly interrogate those choices and subconscious biases that may inform them. On the other hand, tokenization is never the answer, and nothing replaces having more diverse voices in positions of power in the first place.

MUSIC

Lizzo Performs at NPR's "Tiny Ass Desk" Concert

"If you can love my black ass at this tiny tiny desk you can love yourself."

NPR

It may be Megan Thee Stallion's Hot Girl Summer, but we're on our way to Lizzo's Fat Girl Fall.

But Lizzo is still our hot girl on her summer roll. This season she's continuously banged out music videos and infectious live performances after her critically acclaimed album, Cuz I Love You. On Monday morning, NPR released Lizzo's first Tiny Desk Concert to the enjoyment of many. The singer brought her energy, range, and charisma to NPR and continued to spread her self-love, positivity, and confidence to the stage. Lizzo performed three songs off her deluxe studio album, "Cuz I Love You," "Truth Hurts," and "Juice." She even graced us with a Sasha Flute appearance. We could not be more grateful.

Watch the full performance here!