Here’s a song about sex, and all of this week’s songs are going to be about sex. Disingenuous, I know: most, if not straight-up all, songs are about sex. I could put it out there that most human endeavor is in some way about sex, because humans are simplistic like that. But definitely most music, though some people do try to put on a genteel scrim by dragging ‘love’ into it. Some people are so masterful that they don’t mention interpersonal relationships at all, but it’s understood that deep down inside, their artistic motivation is the same as the guy screaming about his love rocket. (It’s always the hope that their showmanship will increase their chances of finding someone to bonk genitals with, and frankly it’s failproof.) But, by and large, most songwriters stick with what they know and what sells: sex is fun and it sure would be great to have some. This school of songwriting is inexhaustible, and inexhausting. This song by Die Antwoord is a straightforward example of sex-focused songwriting; it delivers the message that sex is fun and it sure would be great to have some; it has a bedroom-suitable beat and a hook that, besides selling sex, could also be used to sell alcoholic beverages, tropical-smelling beauty products and any number of other sexuality-enhancing products. Of course, we all know that two of the three members of Die Antwoord do, in fact, have sex with each other and even have an offspring to show for it, which lends it an element of authenticity often missing from sexy songs made by people who don’t actually have sex with each other and therefore lack that certain sizzle when they perform together. Which is the thing about sexy songs: there needs to be an element of real passion behind the dirty talk or else they just sound stupid.
Here, a lesson in zef aesthetics. For Die Antwoord music is only part of the story; their personas and visual style make them a complete package. There’s some debate as to how real those personas really are. It’s a bigger issue back home in South Africa, where some critics have accused Yo-Landi and Ninja of being middle class poseurs, much like white performers in America often get called out for trying to act like they from the hood. But for us viewing audiences here in the States, a lot of the context gets lost, and we don’t really care if their zef is the most authentic zef, because it’s the only zef we know. You don’t need an in-depth cultural history to enjoy what’s clearly an image that’s heavily dramatized for the stage. Die Antwoord’s visual cues are uniquely theirs, from their love of rats and freeky people to their clever takedowns of American hip hop culture. If you didn’t get it already, the sleek pimpy fellow getting his throat ripped out at the beginning of the video is a doppelganger of the aggressively mediocre and wildly popular Miami rapper Armando Perez aka Pitbull. Die Antwoord have consistently set themselves against what they call “one big inbred fuck-fest” of a music scene, meaning the endlessly generic, overhyped, overproduced products of the mainstream pop machine. Rap music used to be an outsider culture, but it has been cannibalized by the music industry and turned into another bland mass market product ruled by stereotype and cliche. The same has happened to rave culture and electronic music. Die Antwoord are a rap-rave outfit, drawing inspiration from – and satirizing – both cultures. One of the most enjoyable things about their inventive videos is seeing them send up, invert, and overturn the tired tropes of the standard music video.