Warpaint

We’ve seen this time and again, but if you’re a marginally famous person and you say a bad word about Beyoncé, the entire internet will recoil in horror from you. The latest offender is Theresa Wayman, guitarist for the adventurous L.A. dream-pop band Warpaint, who had some words for the “hyper-sexualization” of pop music in a recent Q interview. The passage everyone is quoting is about Beyoncé’s near-unanimously praised self-titled album: “It just gets worse. Every song on Beyoncé’s last album has her basically looking like a slut, and she does not need to do that. She’s gorgeous and so fucking talented. And they all take it as women’s liberation!”

It’s worth noting here that Beyoncé is a married woman, and in fact she is one of the most famously married women on planet earth. You can say a lot of things about an album full of sex songs, but when the sex in question is married sex, “looking like a slut” is a weird, weird way to talk about it.

Anyway, Wayman also talked in similar fashion about Rihanna: “[Rihanna] has an insane voice; she could’ve done something so much more subtle and artful.”

I don’t doubt Wayman’s sincerity, but it’s never a good look for non-pop-star musicians to tell pop stars what they should be doing. Also: Pop music has been hyper-sexualized for its entire history. There were probably people who wished Elvis or Jagger or Prince or Madonna or Donna Summer would’ve been more “subtle and artful,” too, and these people lost.

UPDATE: Wayman has already apologized for and clarified her statements on Facebook. Here’s Wayman’s apology, which suggests that none of the stuff I just wrote actually applies to her feelings:

First and foremost, I want to apologize with regards to the Q article. There were many long conversations behind that statement and it’s heartbreaking and painful to see it presented in such a hyperbolic and crude manner. We LOVE and ADORE Beyonce and Rihanna, genuinely, and that’s what makes this all the more difficult.

A journalist came on our bus and casually asked us what we thought about women in music and we responded as fans and consumers and not as card carrying feminists. Not as anybody with power or influence either. We’re not trying to start a war, no fucking way. We would be crushed like little lady flies.

As we all know these days, sound bites and quotes are chosen not by their merit but by the level of sensationalism and that’s exactly what happened here. Beyonce and Rihanna are the last two women on earth who I would ever want to disrespect or disregard. Ultimately I am a consumer too, and everybody expresses their opinions about the artistic climate they live in. What I was referring to, specifically, was my take on the video clip for “Superpower” where I felt her role in that clip undermined the song – which is one of my favorites. That’s pretty much it. As a fan I was confused with her choice to sexualize herself in that particular moment. On the other hand “Drunk in Love”, in my humble opinion, is so powerful in it’s sexuality. I could watch that on a loop forever. Ultimately she can do whatever the fuck she wants. Anyone can. I’m a fan and like any other fan – I have my opinions which are no more or less important than anyone else’s.

As far as Rihanna goes, if I had that voice I could die right now a happy woman. The journalist and I were discussing a hypothetical situation in which Rihanna was an artist active outside of the mainstream music scene. What would her music sound like? What would she wear? What decisions would she make? PURELY hypothetical.

There’s not a shred of self-importance in these words. I’m not trying to cover my tracks but this is really upsetting to me. I apologize for being careless with my words. I apologize to fans of Beyonce and Rihanna, I fucking love them too. Me and and my big mouth.

Sorry,

Theresa

p.s. I never said shit about twerking…don’t know how that got in there. By all means, twerk away.

Comments (51)
  1. Sylvia Patterson is the interviewer for Q, not one of the guitarists in Warpaint. great journalism guys!

  2. Theresa has offered an apology, explaining her comments were takes out of context by the journalist who interviewed her. It was published 7 hours ago thru Warpaint’s Facebook account. You guys should update on that!!

  3. …aaaaand their apology per Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/warpaintwarpaint/posts/10152319640790186

    “First and foremost, I want to apologize with regards to the Q article. There were many long conversations behind that statement and it’s heartbreaking and painful to see it presented in such a hyperbolic and crude manner. We LOVE and ADORE Beyonce and Rihanna, genuinely, and that’s what makes this all the more difficult.

    A journalist came on our bus and casually asked us what we thought about women in music and we responded as fans and consumers and not as card carrying feminists. Not as anybody with power or influence either. We’re not trying to start a war, no fucking way. We would be crushed like little lady flies.

    As we all know these days, sound bites and quotes are chosen not by their merit but by the level of sensationalism and that’s exactly what happened here. Beyonce and Rihanna are the last two women on earth who I would ever want to disrespect or disregard. Ultimately I am a consumer too, and everybody expresses their opinions about the artistic climate they live in. What I was referring to, specifically, was my take on the video clip for “Superpower” where I felt her role in that clip undermined the song – which is one of my favorites. That’s pretty much it. As a fan I was confused with her choice to sexualize herself in that particular moment. On the other hand “Drunk in Love”, in my humble opinion, is so powerful in it’s sexuality. I could watch that on a loop forever. Ultimately she can do whatever the fuck she wants. Anyone can. I’m a fan and like any other fan – I have my opinions which are no more or less important than anyone else’s.

    As far as Rihanna goes, if I had that voice I could die right now a happy woman. The journalist and I were discussing a hypothetical situation in which Rihanna was an artist active outside of the mainstream music scene. What would her music sound like? What would she wear? What decisions would she make? PURELY hypothetical.

    There’s not a shred of self-importance in these words. I’m not trying to cover my tracks but this is really upsetting to me. I apologize for being careless with my words. I apologize to fans of Beyonce and Rihanna, I fucking love them too. Me and and my big mouth.

    Sorry,
    Theresa

    p.s. I never said shit about twerking…don’t know how that got in there. By all means, twerk away.”

    • Wow, that’s kind of a game-changer.

      I think Stereogum just jumped on the opportunity to run a sensational headline, like this was some kind of catfight, maybe hoping to stoke some of those indie purist v. poptimist debates (because that hasn’t gotten fucking old / isn’t basically the one idea that gets regurgitated in nearly 100% of Stereogum’s editorial content). Or maybe they just saw the story that went up on Pitchfork last night and decided to run with it. They pull the exact same quotes and just add a little commentary.

      • More Q than Stereogum, I think. Also think Wayman still deserves a good portion of the blame for poorly explaining herself — I don’t think context can change “she looks like a slut” it’s still an annoying sex negative judgment to make. I know she meant in the mind of her mind that she disagreed with a specific choice in a specific song, but we can only judge you by the words you actually say.

        • Yeah, calling people sluts is not cool. but based on the reaction to my comment below I’m assuming Warpaint’s fans / Beyonce haters don’t see it that way. And I think there are plenty of female artists who explicitly position themselves against the trend of “hyper-sexuality” (Janelle Monae comes to mind, lots of terrible white girl music like Sara Bairelles) without slut-shaming.

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    • Seriously?

      I said the comments were dumb (calling anyone a slut is dumb, unless they like just fucked your boyfriend, calling a married woman a slut is STOOPID), I took a few digs at Rihanna, and then I said I could see where the Warpaint girls were coming from.

      Hilarious that Warpaint fans are acting like Beyonce is beyond criticism, but I offer a sympathetic criticism of their comments and get down-voted off the page. Fucking hive mentality fools can’t engage with an opinion that doesn’t echo their own precisely, and they want to act like they know what the word “authenticity” means.

  5. jammies  |   Posted on May 1st +12

    Two things:

    Firstly, they have a good point, if we’re all honest we see it and agree with it. So good for them for speaking up rather than just going with the constant stream of media that only seems only acceptable if it’s positive and encouraging.

    Secondly, why is it a bad thing for them to speak up, and why is Stereogum discouraging this?

    • This sentence wreaked of double standardization: “…but when the sex in question is married sex, ‘looking like a slut’ is a weird, weird way to talk about it.”

      Obviously, the writer of this post hasn’t been exposed to the wealth of amateur porn site communities where there are married couples who post pics and videos of themselves where the wife is being fucked by the husband and like, 8 random guys off Craigslist, or she’s got a face full of jizz, dressed up as the Easter Bunny and you can hear the husband calling her his dirty little whore, or whatever Requiem for a Dream ass-to-ass scene grossness is going on. Just because you liked it and put a ring on it doesn’t make it any less judgmental than if it happened to someone who is not married.

  6. i guess maybe it’s worth mentioning bill o’reilly took this topic on earlier this week on the factor:

    http://www.thewire.com/politics/2014/04/bill-oreilly-blames-beyonce-for-black-teen-pregnancy/361385/

    i know it’s not exactly what warpaint was trying to express, but they do share the same opinion in a way.

    • Oh, god no, just NO.

      Nothing Bill O’Reilly says is EVER “worth mentioning,” especially not when its racist garbage like that.

      • well like i said, not the same thing, but i felt it was newsworthy because it involved beyonce and it was a totally ludicrous statement. not to mention they’re both commenting on the hyper-sexualized nature of her videos, one argument much more reasonable than the other.

  7. Kinda sad she apologized for that (if she really said it) cause it’s just true. Beyoncé’s fans are pretty blind since she is being portrayed as the most “influential” (if that even means a thing) “independant” woman on earth.
    Her songs and videos (and her appearances with Jay-Z on stage) become more and more sexist, showing her as some kind of sextoy. I guess she plays on both sides, she can be the wealthy independant woman, but when it comes to her husband, she’s like a moaning doll doing everything he pleases.
    Not that I care about their life, but let’s not be blind on that, just cause “Beyoncé’s the best/most beautiful woman on earth/untouchable”

  8. The criticism lodged at Beyonce may be a bit misguided (though the apology clarifying it is much less so), but also not completely batshit ridiculously awful either. I don’t think it’s a healthy environment for discussion when an artist is put up on a pedestal and it is officially decided that he/she is perfect and beyond any sort of criticism and fuck you if you say anything negative.

    Also, the writing in this post is pretty terrible. The whole thing about how Warpaint isn’t in a position to tell pop stars what they should be doing is reactionary and complete bullshit in a way that kind of implies that Warpaint are lesser artists or musicians or something because they aren’t pop stars. Do they even want to be pop stars? Do Rihanna’s millions of dollars mean that nobody can say anything negative about her if they aren’t also on Top 40 radio? Is it really blasphemy to say that fucking Rihanna of all people has pretty bland music and it might be interesting if she did something a little more subversive or out there? Pop music isn’t categorically bad, but it is also most definitely not categorically good and immune to criticism either.

  9. God forbid an artist criticize a manufactured pop star in 2014, and make a statement about authenticity.

  10. That apology came quick as hell. I hate how often current artists apologize for things they say. If you say it, stand by those words. And lmao @ Rihanna having an insane voice . What lean was she sipping when she made that statement?

  11. If people would stop being offended on Beyonce and Rihanna’s behalf for a moment, they’d realise the comments she made were accurate. Both women do rely on hypersexualisation to sell their music and (in the case of Beyonce particularly) they don’t need to.

  12. I’m sure they anticipated massively unfair and reductive headlines like this one and got cracking on that apology pronto.

  13. I’m sorry, is Beyonce is beyond criticism or something?

    And what they said is completely true.

  14. The fact that so many people seem to be missing the point here is really frustrating. Literally nobody who had a problem with this is saying that Beyonce is above criticism or that pop stars in general are not over-sexualized, but there is a more mature and nuanced way of talking about that rather than reducing these women to “sluts.” That’s such a misogynistic and ugly word, only ever used against women who dare to be sexual in any overt way. Whether Theresa likes Beyonce or not isn’t the issue, but why call her a slut? Why call any woman a slut? What does that accomplish?

    • Especially when for all intents and purposes, Beyoncé is in a happy, monogamous relationship of several years. It’s funny that someone like Jason Derülo can stand shirtless on his album cover, and release a song called “Talk Dirty,” but no one would ever call him a “slut.” It’s tiring how quick we are as a society to label women with the easiest, laziest descriptor available but seldom do the same in regards to men. We’re not in Victorian fucking England. Women are allowed to desire/enjoy sex.

  15. She ain’t wrong. I thought it from the moment I impulsively ordered the new YONCE album and have thought it ever since I stopped listening to it out of boredom a few days later.

  16. I also want to say, for the record, that I’m a huge Warpaint fan and will continue to be so. But I was disappointed with Theresa’s remarks.

  17. As an American cultural criticism website, Stereogum, you’re doing pretty wel,l but as a British tabloid you’re bloody rubbish.

  18. “Rihanna has an insane voice” – Warpaint must do much more acid than I thought.

    You know, if Beyonce didn’t dye her hair blonde and have light skin, white people wouldn’t care about her any more than Kelly Rowland. I find her superstardom kind of creepy.

    • This shouldn’t be downvoted.

      Totally right about conforming to white standards of beauty. People who think that variances in black skin tone don’t matter to pop cultural approval have got their blinders on.

      • Thanks. I don’t take downvotes personally. More like someone who wants to give me a thumbs up so bad that they don’t want to admit it.

    • thank goodness for someone having to balls to point that long, long, long standing fact out. Just another one of a million elephants in the room never paid any mind by the likes of Stereogum or Pitchfork or whatever ‘cos of endless paychecks, payola, and written agreements.

  19. This entire debacle is a complete shitshow.

  20. beyonce is a yeller, not a singer. she yells quite well.

  21. When I first saw this on Pitchfork last night it was pretty obvious the quote was taken out of context and the story was short enough that it only implied one thing and thats that Wayman wants to start something with Beyonce. It’s just kind of sad because I love that new Warpaint so much and this just makes them look like amateurs.

    I have nothing against Beyonce or Rihanna, in fact i think they are very talented artist, and calling them sluts is definitely a misjudgment on Waymans part. She should know better than to just slander somebody like that especially with the aesthetic Warpaint represents. Still, the is no reason that Wayman can’t say what she thinks Beyonce could do better, she not a lesser artist she’s just not a pop star. And as someone mentioned I don’t know if she’d even ever want to be a pop star.

    The one thing I keep thinking about though is if Beyonce or Rihanna will listen to the new Warpaint now

    • galb  |   Posted on May 1st +2

      After Wayman’s apology/explanation, I’m totally pro-Warpaint,
      However, consider that maybe the problem with calling somebody a slut is not that you might be misjudging them, but that it’s an oppressive word.
      I agree that some artists are “over-sexualizing” themselves for $$$ with the excuse of women’s lib, but
      1. It can still help the goal
      2. Sometimes these artists are victims of the industry (see Sinead O’connor’s letter to Miley)
      3. Just find a way to say your thoughts without calling people sluts

  22. Dear everyone backlashing to the backlash:

    The problem is not criticism of hypersexualization or that these people are beyond criticism, it’s about the way her WORDING reinforces anti-slut thinking. If she had used the words, “I disagree with the hypersexualization to sell a song when the song stands by itself,” it wouldn’t have been a blip, but “she looks like a slut” is the type of judgment that is pervasive in western culture that tells us if a woman is into sex she is a bad person and should be shamed.

    • Auto  |   Posted on May 2nd 0

      Agreed, ‘slut’ is a terrible word. It is used to oppress female sexuality, which in my opinion is a terrible thing.

  23. Beyonce’s also kind of bossy, too.

  24. I’ve never listened to a single Beyonce song willingly. And I’m proud of that.

  25. The Warpaint guitarist was trying to say that Beyonce performs in skimpy outfits because she feels pressured by the pop music machine to do it, but she shouldn’t have to.

    That’s it! It has nothing to do with her real-life sex life. It’s her stage performances.

    As a guy who likes gawking at pretty girls I actually like seeing Beyonce writhe around stage. But I can totally get someone female disagreeing, and thinking that it might make people take her artistry less seriously.

    I mean really, picture Joni Mitchell, Bjork or Aretha Franklin doing what Beyonce does on stage. Do you think it would get them more respect?

  26. Lol sluts! Also Rihanna isn’t as hot as she thinks she is. She’s kind of frumpy. Did they make that point in the article?

  27. ts24  |   Posted on May 4th +1

    I appreciate real talk on the POS album (although it’s shitty qualities don’t entirely have to do with how Beyoncé chooses to present herself)

  28. oh my Christ in Heaven, she said something bad about Queen Beyonce, shame on her, ban her from the planet she’s gloriously married women’s lib so so so so so talented reaching musical plateaus no other woman in the history of womaness has ever dared near, she deserves the pedestal she’s thrust half-nakedly upon, and each member of Warpaint should have their lips sewn shut for all eternity whilst we continue to eat out of everyone’s palm whose influence is hoisted up by endless media attention and multi-million dollar marketing campaigns so sleekly designed and distributed that they could probably sell us an album’s worth of field recordings of the homeless taking shits in the corners of subway stations with a picture of the most Anglo-saxonised “ethnic” beauty ever developed in a plastics laboratory on the cover and convince us that it’s the next Great Work. Fuck Warpaint for ever and ever and ever and ever long live the queen.

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