A Review of Cheerleader by OMI
For those of you who have not heard the song yet, here is the video.
“Cheerleader” is a lighthearted tune with a baseline of drums and a heavy beat. The singer seems to stay mostly in the alto’s range, and sounds somewhat synthesized to get the desired result. Overall, that’s not what I’m going to be discussing. I’m going to be talking about lyrics. Why lyrics? Because even if we don’t realize what they’re saying at the time, the lyrics are what come out of our mouths after we’ve heard the song.
Also I’m more of a poet then a musician so it’s only natural I’m drawn to words.
From the perspective of language, “Cheerleader” is balancing on a dangerous blade talking about relationships openly, along with talking about cheating. It has been something of a normal thing in songs to discuss relationships for a long time, but recently, there has been a trend of language about cheating for as long as I can remember, which is really only since “Wasn’t Me” but that sort of tune with lighthearted songs being about how to get away with cheating hasn’t let up.
If we look at “We Are Young” by Fun. which has lines like “…asking ’bout a scar /and I know I gave it to you months ago/ I know you’re trying to forget” the song “Cheerleader” comes off as a refreshing change of pace. This is a song not only about a strong woman, but a happy relationship. It’s not perfect from a feminist standpoint, but it has a more stable idea of relationships than “We Are Young” and many other songs out today.
So let’s look at the lyrics. In some ways the song is dangerous because it is speaking about girls being temptresses and needing them to be perfect. The song begins with something that is crucial to its blatant disregard for the female side of the relationship. “When I need motivation” is the opening line and while it is hidden behind the intriguing beat to some extent, it is something we can pick up on when we watch the video. he reason this is the cornerstone to the song’s defense is because it discounts everything that has to do with what the girl needs. This isn’t a song about relationships in general, it is a song strictly about when our speaker requires support. Without this line, it is a song about a man who requires everything of his woman and the only reason he’s not cheating is because she’s doing everything in her power to keep him. With this line, it is a song about a small slice of their relationship narrowing the playing field down to just when the speaker is feeling poorly.
This is one of the reasons why it is a refreshing song. In some other songs we get too much view of what is going on in the relationship. Here, we are invited to assume the rest of the relationship is healthy through inference such as “Mama loves you too, she thinks I made the right selection” showing that outside opinions approve of the relationship as well, but in the end, we’re still only talking about motivation.
Another refreshing aspect of this song comes when the speaker first discusses the woman, while it’s short, it is powerful to imagine, finally, that a woman is someone who can give motivation because “she stays strong” and not because she can coddle and coo over someone, although apparently she “gives love and affection” with the right balance because she stays strong and gives love and affection. This combination of woman is a good role model for people to follow.
I do have some problems with how “Cheerleader” talks about the girlfriend. Considering this is about motivation, it seems almost to undermine the independent model of female that it produces by saying that she “walks like a model” because that is not something that should be required for motivation. Motivation doesn’t come from a walk unless you want motivation to walk better. While models have to have a determined, powerful walk, it completely negates the voice that goes with being strong. In fact, the song never says anything about her intellectual support. The closest we get is “I’m empty when you’re gone” in the second verse which could mean a number of different things.
Another problem I have with “Cheerleader” is less feminist and more of a realist opinion. Atop not saying anything about her in a human sense, the song also puts her up to a high pedestal of dedication to the speaker saying she grants all wishes. While granting wishes is fine, it’s not always the best idea or the most supportive action someone can take. If someone in need of rehab was supported by an individual who granted all wishes, they would never get away from their stupor and into the help they need. Because of this, it seems short-sighted to judge the girlfriend positively based on the fact that she grants all wishes. This is not exactly a desirable state of doing things. Sometimes people need that push of figuring it out for themselves to get them to grow as a human.
Of course, in a short song, it seems dismissable when compared to other songs out there today such as mentioned before. It does, however, create a balancing act for “Cheerleader” to carefully maintain it’s location as a positive influence. The deeper you look at the lyrics, the easier it is to tip “Cheerleader” towards the negative side when you consider the chorus juxtaposed with the first line.
It is easy to believe that “Cheerleader” is about a man who is tempted to cheat and in need of motivation to not cheat, in which case the earlier points of her needing to walk like a model and do everything her counterpart wishes creates a poor identity for women despite her being a strong woman. There is also the fact that “She is right there when I need her” is part of the chorus which could mean that despite being in a healthy relationship, the man is still conflicted about cheating but decides against it because his girlfriend is always at his side and if he were alone, he might choose differently.
The redeeming quality becomes the line about missing his girlfriend, and the fact that in the song he repeatedly expresses the ability to deny someone wanting to cheat with him. This is redeeming because even though he may or may not disregard the intelligence and individuality of his girlfriend, he is showing the ability to say no.
In today’s culture it is a common misconception that if someone tells you “no” about something, they then have the right to try to shame you into doing it, and you are supposed to feel guilty when you say no. This song does not have that misconception at all, which helps put it above the bar despite the problems that it may or may not have depending on your reading/listening of the song.
Overall, I approve of “Cheerleader” because with as much attention as people pay towards lyrics, this one has a positive message that can help support equality among women and men in the game of dating. It promotes a positive relationship, give or take, and the support two individuals should show towards one another.
As a final note, I’d like to look at the song in terms of gender bending and relationships in general
If we changed the lyrics to the opposite genders to maintain a heterosexual relationship, the song would push the boundaries of our understanding of relationships in media, which is, in itself, refreshing. In media it is often seen that a woman needs to be strong and if she is, she cannot accept a strong man or show her feelings. She, in some ways, has to become the man of the relationship instead of accepting that two people can be together, be strong, and not fight about every little thing. Compromise is rare. If we had a woman singing this song talking about her man as someone who walks like a model, it would be a very strong stance, and she would still be showing the vulnerability of a woman who needs love and affection as the man does in the current version of the song.
In the end, I’d give this song a 7/10, above average, but could use improvement. It does good in a lot of areas, but it still needs some work. The main work it needs is not in the chorus at all, but the second verse where the girlfriend is dehumanized to a genie who can walk well and shows no real active or vocal support for the speaker’s plight. The relationship also could use some work in the chorus, minorly, because the girlfriend’s presence seems to be required to avoid the speaker cheating, but because of the positive tone towards a good relationship, and the simple fact that someone is saying no to cheating and the song is still catchy. In the end, it would have been a stronger song if it was gender-swapped, but it is a good song.
Have a song you want me to review?
Comment! Tell me what you’d like to read and I’ll see what I can do.