In my elementary school days, I had a firm grasp of the way I thought gender politics should shake out: girls were as good as boys, if not slightly better. My year-older cousin with pretty blond hair told me that one of her new favorite songs was “Girls” by the Beastie Boys. As she was older, wiser, and cooler than me, I listened closely. The song didn’t grab me until the refrain:
Girls – to do the dishes
Girls – to clean up my room
Girls – to do the laundry
Girls – and in the bathroom
I was scandalized. How could my girl cousin listen to such obviously lady-derogatory lyrics? I made up my mind to hate the Beastie Boys. Anyone familiar with the absolutism of a preteen will understand the finality of this decision. They were dead to me for years.
Like all youthful passions, my enmity waned over time. It faded into a vague shrug of unfamiliarity as I progressed through high school and college. I didn’t think of them again until I was at the Queensland Art Gallery at the 2004 exhibit Video Hits: Art & Music Video and watched Spike Jonze’s video of Sabotage. And I loved it. I was studying to be a filmmaker and the frenetic-low-budget-freeze-frame-fake-mustache joy of the video impressed me with how well paired it was with the song. It got me to wonder what else the Beastie Boys might have done that I would like. Sadly, this was in the time before the ubiquity and instantaneousness of iTunes, so further exploration of my budding interest in them was shifted to my cultural back burner.
They would surface occasionally as disembodied heads in Futurama or someone’s snarky remark that since they were in their forties now could they really still be “boys”? Then tragedy struck. MCA died of cancer. I bought their anthology The Sounds of Science in the album purchasing bump that happens after the too-soon death of a notable musician. I hardly knew ye MCA, but I wanted to try.
They sat on my phone for almost a year before shuffle presented me with “Intergalactic.” It was a good entry point for me, being a fan of French electronica like Vitalic and Air. The robophilic refrain and buoyant beat guaranteed it earwormed its way into my brain, and lyrics rhyming “I’ll stir fry you in my wok” with “Like a pinch on the neck from Mr. Spock” sealed the deal.
From there, it was no trouble to jump into Fatboy Slim’s remix of “Body Movin’” then slide into the sonically eclectic “Shadrach.” At the moment I’m really into “Remote Control,” “Gratitude,” the most sincere cover of “Benny & The Jets” I’ve ever heard, along with the bossa nova-esque whisper singing of “Twenty Questions.” On the train in the morning, I lean back in my seat and scroll to “Fight for Your Right” and relish their artless call to adolescent arms.
It’s another dimension.