Pop is Not A Dirty Word: How 'men are trash' became pop's new mantra

In this week's Pop is Not a Dirty Word, columnist Douglas Greenwood unpacks the trend of pop star's putting shitty men on blast in the form of Top 40 hits. Watch your back.

All around the world, jovial misandry is making men quiver in fear and anger – and it’s sort of amazing, isn’t it? The very notion of ‘man-hating’ is still considered a taboo in society, despite centuries of well documented oppression of women at the hands of the patriarchy – but in 2019, pop’s music narrative is tuning in to it ever so slightly. Not in a vindictive, poisonous or demeaning way. It’s just that men – often fawned over objects of affection – are finally being called out for their bullshit. ‘Men are trash’ is becoming a genre in itself, and we need it.

Of course, the clap-back anthem has been present in the world of pop for sometime now. Beyoncé’s Irreplaceable, an ironically rather irreplaceable pop tune, has been a shining example of how to put your foot down in the presence of a domineering dude for 13 years now. Charli XCX has the ability to switch from lusting over Boys in her track of the same name, to calling them “slugs” that can’t catch her on Vroom Vroom.

Yep, women have been calling out men for their trashy behaviour and narcissistic tendencies in music for a while now, but the message has become pretty potent in this week’s charts. For one, Lizzo is still taking over the Top 40 with her two-year-old ‘fuck you’ bop Truth Hurts. “You tried to break my heart? Oh, that breaks my heart, that you thought you ever had it, no, you ain’t from the start,” she licks on the song’s second chorus, before saying she puts the “sing in single”. Lizzo’s pop lens prioritises self love and puts the men that have tried to screw her over under her boot. She’s moving on. Fuck you.

But women are not the only ones pushing the ‘men are trash’ mantra: Sam Smith’s turned their beef with boys into a slinky, sexy pop song that’s deservedly doing numbers on the Top 40 too. How Do You Sleep?, one of the most underrated pop songs of the year so far, has the kind of ‘calling you at 4am wishing you were with me’ energy on the surface, but when you cut through its foliage, there’s that line that reeks of agony and spite: ‘I’m hoping that my love will keep you up tonight’. Maybe, in fact, there’s a particular mix of self loathing and being done with other guy’s bullshit that harnesses separate parts of Sam’s song. Either way, that idea of boys being dickheads that deserve everything that comes to them – even if it’s lusting for us after we’ve given them the peace sign and pissed off to be with someone new – is laced through every line.

For good reason, there’s very little nuance in the sheer savagery of Ella Eyre’s comeback single, which is, perhaps, the biggest clap back ‘men are trash’ anthem of the year so far. Inspired by a past relationship, ‘Mama’ recounts Ella’s experience with an ex-boyfriend who fucked her over in so many ways that she compiled a list of his trash behaviour and told his oblivious mum all about it. Iconic.

So if you’ve learned anything from looking at the charts this week, it’s that women (and queer people) are no longer willing to fight over men who treat them like crap. If you screw them over, prepare to have a hit song written about you.