Is Iggy Azalea's "Fancy" Really All That Fancy?

When I was initially introduced to the musical stylings of Iggy Azalea, I thought, "Interesting, a
female Eminem." Listening to "Fancy", from Azalea's debut album The New Classic (2014), however, I started to change my mind: she's more like a modern incarnation of Gwen Stefani. Picking through the lyrics to "Fancy" changed my mind once more: no, no, she's just another media doll who is willing to sell her talent in exchange for fast cash and splash-in-the-pan fame. It's a shame, really. I think she could be a really refreshing voice if she took the time to rap on some poignant and original topics, but no, it's just sex and money pretty much 24/7. B-o-r-i-n-g, I-g-g-y. And this is a real shame, not just because it means that our culture continues to be pummeled with nothing but egotistical smash-and-grabs instead of true art. That's a travesty in itself, of course, but the real-life tragedy is in Azalea herself: rather than taking the opportunity to truly set herself apart in the rap world, she chooses to squander her talent in the same cesspool as Jason Derulo and Chris Brown, which, in my opinion, is a pretty sad place to be. Azalea may be able to buy all the fancy things the name brands have to offer her with all the money she's after, but it can't buy her -- or any of us -- meaning or integrity.

Azalea's "Fancy" spends most of its time -- I mean, most of its time that isn't spent in self-aggrandizement -- harping on the same tired tropes you'll find in any female party song, from Ke$ha to Lady Gaga to Nicki Minaj to Miley Cyrus. All of the necessary chants in favor of one's own world status and Venusian power over men are present to make clear just how much of a goddess one is: "Film star, yeah, I'm deluxe, / Classic, expensive, you don't get to touch". The demands for first-class treatment and prestige are trotted out with due process: "Swagger on super, I can't shop at no department". And of course, it is made abundantly clear to everyone what kind of alcohol is being consumed (necessarily expensive), and that it is being drunk excessively: "Cup of Ace, cup of Goose, cup of Cris / ... Takin' all the liquor straight, never chase that / ... Champagne spilling, you should taste that". Because nothing says "fancy" like spilling your drink. Or wasting good alcohol just because you can. And, of course, nothing says "class" like flaunting your heedless waste and excess, especially for our environmentally-challenged, first-world lifestyle of decadence and opulence. Add a trashed hotel room to the alcohol abuse (classic "fancy" behavior, naturally), as well as some overtly expensive status symbols ("somethin' worth half a ticket on my wrist"), and you pretty much have the recipe for modern "me-generation" disaster. Recessions, and "global warming", and first-world poverty, and pretty much every other buzzword you can think of has its roots in this pattern of behavior.

I'm not trying to put the blame on poor Iggy. After all, this modern mess is over a century in the making, and Azalea is just as much a symptom of it as recession. But her example is a very effective way to hold a mirror up to ourselves and to see our own individual and social problems. Perhaps the most disturbing trend exhibited here is Azalea's obsession with money: "So get my money on time, if they not money, decline / ... Put that paper over all... / Never turn down money". She basically admits in this song that she is willing to do anything for money, suffer any degradation, give up any sort of integrity: the money is priority. Money is god. It is money that she worships, that she works for, that she chases after, that she lusts after. It is telling that the line "Never turn down money" occurs immediately after she has been tantalizing a supposed male with her desirability: the desire for money above all else almost instantly degenerates into prostitution. The lust for money is so all-encompassing that even the integrity of the body, the dignity of one's own person, can be sacrificed to it in a heartbeat. None of us are immune to this threat. Whether it's our bodies, our time, our talents, our families, even our opinions, everything about us can be sacrificed on the altar of money if we are willing to "put that paper over all". And the modern world tells us that we should do exactly that. Men and women should give up their ability to serve their spouses and raise their children properly in order to chase the almighty dollar. Young people should sacrifice their true talents and desires in order to pursue lucrative career paths they neither desire nor enjoy. Our governments are willing to cater to the whims of wealthy lobbyists rather than pursue the common good in order to maintain an exorbitant status quo. This is a pervasive problem; it starts with the fear and selfishness of the individual and spreads to affect the entire population. Intense individualistic greed is at the heart of the breakdown in our culture.

The more modern problem with our wealth -- at least, compared to how these problems appeared sixty years ago -- is that their destructive aspects are more evident and more consequential. Practically speaking, money cannot be an end in itself. We cannot really "put that paper above all". Money is just a symbol, a sign for other things. Our wealth has to be directed to some sort of end: the maintenance of a family, investment in societal goods, charitable work, and so on. The problem for most modern people is that their focus on money has no end goal. It has become an end in itself, and, when its uselessness is perceived by those who acquire it, its end tends to become destructive -- self-destructive first, and then socially destructive. Young starlets, like Iggy Azalea and Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus and whoever else, end up in trouble precisely because they have money without purpose. The media tells us that happiness lies in money because money can get you things. We are subjected to a veritable onslaught of advertising that convinces us to dump our money into alcohol, fashion, cars, technological gizmos, and whatever else, but even these things lack a purpose in our lives. Why do we want these things? The makers of "stuff" can't really tell us that. They can't give us purpose. Things can't give us purpose. And the frustration of wasting all of our time and effort on purposeless things tends to drive us to destructive ends. We try to tell ourselves that the end of alcohol is fun (which is true), but fun becomes drunkenness, debauchery, and destruction, none of which are really any fun and are harmful to both ourselves and others. Fashion and cars and gizmos, purposeless in and of themselves, take on a role as status symbols; they become a way for us to bring others down and build ourselves up. Azalea uses her "fancy" status symbols, her wealth and her fame, to put down other people: men are not good enough to have her, and women are not good enough to compare with her. Azalea, of course, is not unique in this; almost all pop music caters to this mentality. More importantly, we cater to this mentality. We want to be envied. We want others to see what we have and think we're somehow better because of it. We think that wealth and influence over others we will gives us meaning and purpose. We think that, as Azalea's rap collaborator Charli XCX says, it "feels so good getting what I want", so that must be what the goal of life is. But it's not. And persisting in this misconception is what is destroying our world, our culture, our relationships, and ourselves.

So what can we do about this? I think a good first step would be to rethink our priorities in life: what is truly important? What do we truly want out of life? What truly makes us happy in this world? What is a reasonable and balanced way of achieving that?  And perhaps a good second step would be to put our desire for money in its proper context, remembering that money is a means to an end and not an end in itself. Earning money must be for a purpose, and we should have an awareness of what that purpose is in our own lives. Finally, rather than encouraging individual wealth and success in our culture as the entire measure of our lives, we should really be encouraging personal integrity and social responsibility if we plan on living in a civilized society in the next century. Selfish individualism is a cultural dead-end. It's time to take a cue from the "fancy" lifestyle of Azalea and the rest, and make an about-face before we become the indentured slaves of the dollar bill.


The point of this blog is not to tell anyone what they should or should not consider entertaining, nor what films, books, lyrics, or television shows are morally or artistically good or bad. The point is to engage with the stories that are creating our culture on an intellectual level, to meet the morals with our minds before they go to our hearts. Once you know what's in the entertainment you imbibe and you're aware of how it may be shaping your perceptions of the world around you, well then, imbibe away!

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