(estimated read time: 7 minutes)

THIS POST MAY NOT BE ACCEPTABLE FOR CHILDREN OF ALL AGES!

SONG MEANING: “Body Say” by Demi Lovato is about having sex. She describes portions of the process and provides pornographic fantasy material for listeners of either gender. Keep reading for details…

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Breaking it down…

After Demi Lovato put out “Cool for the Summer” last year, we knew that she was up to something. She’s twenty-three now, and she began as a child star on the Barney & Friends television show and quickly moved onto the Disney channel. But if you’ve read my explanation of “Cool for the Summer,” you know she’s not one to be kid-friendly or to uphold “traditional” values.

“Cool for the Summer” was about lesbian experimentation and could possibly have been about lesbian experimentation with a minor–no one’s really sure on the last account since the lyrics are rather vague. With her newest single, “Body Say,” Lovato continues to push traditional boundaries and to test what will and won’t be accepted by listeners.

The Meaning

Because of the nature of this song, I don’t feel comfortable explaining it line-by-line, so I’m going to give an abbreviated explanation and then continue onto deeper discussion. As the cover for this single (Lovato in bed, braless, with her back to us) and some cleverly almost-but-not-quite-explicitly graphic lyrics suggest, this song is about sex. Lovato knows she’s pushing boundaries with “Body Say,” and she’s using double entendre, metaphors, and vague wording to do it.

However, despite all of that the song makes three points clear to its listeners (and you can confirm this for yourself by reading the lyrics):

  1. She “wants your sex.”
  2. She has very specific ideas about what will happen during this sex.
  3. She is not clear about the gender of the person she is singing to.

My deeper questions for the song meaning community:

  1. Do you think “Body Say” is a form of musical pornography?

  2. Do you think this song is focused on any one particular gender?

Deeper thoughts…and Bisexual Pornography…

“Body Say” has many problems as a song, and I’d like to explain what I think about it to you. Understand that my perspective is that of a conservative Christian and that while I have no argument against sex in general and didn’t care about the United States ruling in favor of homosexual marriage, I think that there is a proper place and time for sex, and I encourage others to keep sex within heterosexual marriage. I am also heavily against pornography because it barbarizes the wonderful thing sex normally should be, ruins lives, and kills relationships.

That being said, let’s get into it. Most people think that porn is something visual and is only portrayed through pictures or video when in fact there’s no reason that pornography can’t also be an audio experience (especially since pornographic films, like any film, make intentional use of their audio capabilities).

Since porn is the enablement of  a person to sexually experience or live vicariously through a sexual depiction of a person or a sexual activity, our definition of porn doesn’t have to be limited only to things we see. Like a Google definition explains, pornography arouses “erotic rather than aesthetic or emotional feelings.” This can happen audibly or visually.

But there are some songs that discuss sex that aren’t necessarily pornographic. How can we tell the difference between a song that’s purposefully sexual and one’s that more thoughtful? Let’s talk art and authorial intent for a second. There’re plenty of paintings out there that show naked people, but it would take a lot for someone to be erotically aroused by Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus or other classical paintings like it. This is because those paintings are designed to engender aesthetic/artistic feelings of admiration, not sexual ones (like the Google definition talks about).

How can artists choose one over the other even when they’re making pictures of the exact same thing (a naked body)? It’s a question of what they emphasize or make important–what they intend a viewer to get out of their painting. With The Birth of Venus the point is obviously not to lust after the near naked woman in the picture. The point is to admire the beauty of the painting and to understand how it depicts what the title says it depicts.

The difference is between a Playboy magazine or a porn site and The Birth of Venus is clear. One intends viewers to have sexual feelings, and the other intends aesthetic or emotional feelings. It’s all a matter of the author’s purpose: the sexiness or the beauty of the subject of the picture.

And just like paintings, songs also can be about sexual or relational topics without engendering erotic feelings–they can be simple discussions of a person’s thoughts or feelings about a sexual topic (Mumford & Sons has alluded to sex before without being graphic before)–but an artist can also intend his or her song to go beyond mentioning sex, implying sex, or being about sex as a topic of abstract thought.

Many artists make their songs into concrete sexual experiences for their audience. They sing about details or events in a sexual process that helps the audience to feel like they’re living the experience (just in the same way that books like Fifty Shades of Grey can empower our sexual imaginations). And just like Fifty Shades of Grey, “Body Say” empowers its listeners to imagine being part of the sexual experience and to experience erotic arousal. Thus, it is musical pornography.

Let me be clear that I’m not trying to use “pornography” as an insult right now. I’m using it as a clear definer for the things that the word represents. If you agree with me that porn is an awful thing, then you understand the gravity of the situation. If you think porn is not a bad thing, you’re still able to agree with me that “Body Say” is porn–you just don’t agree that songs that stimulate people sexually are a bad thing. We can talk about that later, and you should check out Fight The New Drug.

Following the above arguments, “Body Say” is clearly a pornographic song. Lovato sings lyrics like, “Speed it up, baby, make me sweat,” and “If my body had a say, I’d get it off my chest / Show you all the red lace underneath this dress.” The first line is an obvious reference to sex and calls on a receptive audience to imagine a particular event; the second line describes undressing and provides visual imagery of that event.  Together, lines like these in “Body Say” serve as starting points for an audience to imagine the song’s sexual encounter for themselves or to join in the experience–exactly what pornography and erotic literature do.

(On a side note, notice that this song has no lyric that specifies a particular gender. It applies equally well to heterosexual men and homosexual women, an obvious move on the part of the outspokenly pro-LGBTQ+ Lovato, making it pornography for two very distinct groups and suggesting a strong pro-bisexual message from Lovato.)

This song’s purpose is not to provide innocent entertainment, aesthetic beauty, or fulfilling emotions. Demi Lovato’s “Body Say” is pornographic because Lovato intends several of its lines to awake listeners’ sexual imaginations and to encourage them to take part in a sexual experience while listening to the song.

Why does all of this matter? No matter what your opinions on a song are, it’s important to know the truth of what a song means so that you can test it against what you believe and make decisions about that song based on logical thought and honest truth.

Based on what I’ve learned about this song, I’m not going to be listening to it.

And now it’s your turn. You know what “Body Say” is about. Make your decisions wisely.

(I realize this is a heavy topic and that many people will not agree with my premises or my conclusion, but I value discussion with anybody about these topics and would love to talk with you about them more. Feel free to email me at jugglingcliff@gmail.com or to comment below.)

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Clifford Stumme

Thanks for reading! I’m a college English instructor, university writing center director, and online entrepreneur (college for under $15k, anyone?) who cares deeply about TRUTH and MEANING. I’m married to the gloriously beautiful Wife April and love to swing dance and juggle.

  • Jane

    In my opinion this song certainly isn’t art and doesn’t even qualify as entertainment. I don’t like to feel like I’m part of someones agenda because they have a microphone and can say it loudly. Thanks for your integrity with this explanation, well said and hard to refute.

    • Thanks, Jane. It’s tough to find the truth sometime, but when we’ve got it, we should share it.

  • Kay

    I actually really like Demi Lovato. For ‘porn’, this song is not very good porn. It’s sexy and does cause some arousal, but isn’t nearly graphic enough to be considered porn; porn usually has few innuendos, and little to no vagueness–two things found in Body Say.

    Even movies with steamy sex scenes manage to escape the dreaded NC-17 rating. I think Blue is the warmest color managed to not get that rating, and there are some vivid sex scenes in that. So it abused being porn. I mean some stories pivot on their sex scenes because they’re stories of sexual awakening and exploration.

    I mean even sex has a lot to do with the human condition, and lgbtqa visibility is important. I mean sexuality is an important part of identity, and the media of music, film, and art are safe places of expression. Just because it feels lowbrow to some people doesn’t mean everybody feels that way. One man’s pop music trash is another man’s revelatory treasure.

    • Thanks for sharing that, Kay. You’re right, if it is porn, it’s pretty soft porn–that’s a good thing to consider.

  • C M

    I realise I’m a little bit late, but I hope that doesn’t matter too much to you.

    I would like to point out that sexy songs are not a rare occurence in the media. But in Demi’s music, they are. Not once has she written a song like this, so the same way she experiemented with bisexuality, she experimented with this type of song. Personally, I think it’s wonderful. I think it’s so romantic to have such an incredible experience that you have to write a song about it. Sex isn’t a disgusting thing. It’s called making love for a reason. And it’s not like she HAS to write about sex. She writes about experiences.

    I also do believe this song is about romance with another woman.

    • No, it’s fine. These posts tend to stay alive as long as the song does. What about “Cool for the Summer”? I thought was very much like this song.

      • C M

        Sorry, I mean how the way this song is obviously about sex. Cool for the Summer is just about experimenting with girls. I do believe there is a link between both songs, as they both were released on the exact same day. But Cool for the Summer, there isn’t really anything that says sex. Body Say is very obviously about sex.

        But you know, Demi has written other songs, not about love. Confident, Skyscraper, La La Land. All songs about accepting yourself or your individuality. She just tried something new, and absolutely nailed it imo.