Cool for the Summer
Seven years after Katy Perry confessed that she kissed a girl and liked it, Demi Lovato explores what might happen next.
On Lovato's hit "Cool for the Summer," we hear another story about another "curious" young woman who's decided to indulge a same-sex fling for the summer. Katy Perry never got much past that kiss. Lovato strongly suggests she's going a lot further.
Indeed, "Cool for the Summer" wastes no time plunging into some serious innuendo about sexual satisfaction. The first line of this pulsating, guitar-fueled dance-pop anthem teases, "Tell me what you want/What you like …"
From there, clues that the physical encounter Lovato's talking about is a same-sex fling pile up quickly.
Clue No. 1: "It's OK, I'm a little curious too."
Clue No. 2: "Tell me if it's wrong/If it's right/I don't care/ … I can keep a secret, can you?/ … Don't tell your mother."
Clue No. 3: "Take me down into your paradise/Don't be scared 'cause I'm your body type/Just something that we wanna try/ … I just wanna have some fun with you."
Clue No. 4: "Got my mind on your body and your body on my mind/Got a taste for the cherry, I just need to take a bite."
Clue No. 5: "Even if they judge/F--- it/I'll do the time."
Resistance Is Futile. You Will Be Re-Assimilated.
Demi Lovato has had an erratic, at times difficult celebrity journey. She rose to fame as (of course) a Disney starlet, then cultivated (as Disney starlets often do at first) role-model status, suffered a high-profile professional flame-out after a publically humiliating breakup with Joe Jonas, endured the requisite racy photos scandals, retreated into rehab and obscurity for a time, and reemerged with inspiring messages of self-acceptance and perseverance.
Until lately it seemed that perhaps Lovato had turned a real corner and was serious about charting a course out of sadly predictable self-objectification and sexualization. Just five months before this track was released, the singer and actress told Entertainment Tonight, “I had a lot of people that I looked up to when I was younger that weren't the best role models, so for me, it's a responsibility to hold myself accountable and to be that inspiration for young girls and even people who are older than me. I have a little sister and I wouldn't want her looking up to other people who don’t necessarily use their voices for good.”
That was a great message. The reckless glorification of casual hookups (of any sort) delivered via Lovato's latest hit is not.
And the images delivered by the song's video come off as cynical, exploitative and calculated. As little more than brazen appeals to male-fantasy lesbian lust. Lovato vamps sensually in skimpy outfits in bed and in public, pouting suggestively as she cavorts with a group of young women in a car and at a party. She kisses another woman passionately. And more than once she gives the camera a brazen stare, as if daring viewers to be offended.
So it's difficult for me to square the song's lusty appetite for a curiosity-satisfying tryst with Lovato's talk about accountability, inspiration and using her voice for good. Lovato, though, doesn't seem to see the disconnect.
Responding on Twitter to critics suggesting that she was shamelessly ripping off Katy Perry, Demi said of her song, "Sounds nothing like it. And with all the advances we’ve made in the LGBT community… I think more than one female artist can kiss a girl and like it….. ;)”
Girls Just Wanna Be Cool for the Summer
Sexual fluidity is all the rage right now, of course, with Miley Cyrus, Kirsten Stewart and Cara Delevingne currently in high-profile relationships with other women. And Lovato is perhaps working her way onto the list. Wrote Ruby Rose (of Orange Is the New Black fame) on Instagram in 2013, "Im like the one person demi has slept with that didnt sell on naked photos of her so eff off."
Demi Lovato, then, is but the latest high-profile—influential—female entertainer to suggest that our sexuality is an amorphous possession to be shaped and used in whatever way maximizes our own pleasure. Her libertine perspective is an increasingly common one and sadly in synch with our culture's permissive mores.