The lyrics of “Layla” are currently leading to charged discussions. But one shouldn’t forget that fantasies about killing sprees or songs about oral sex have topped the charts.
The party hit “Layla” by DJ Robin and Schürze is not only number 1 in the charts, it is also at the forefront of the exciting topics in Germany. Many feel the text is sexist and should therefore no longer be played at folk festivals in Würzburg and Düsseldorf. Above all, the line “I have a whorehouse and my whorehouse mom’s name is Layla / She’s prettier, younger, hornier”, bothers critics.
If you look at the song from a gender studies perspective, it is problematic in several ways. On the one hand, it replicates gender stereotypes and makes use of the phenomenon known in technical jargon as “doing gender”. “Doing gender” means that a gender does not only exist purely biologically, but that there are also social attributions and gender-typical behaviors that babies and small children are taught. A well-known example of this is the debate about children’s toys:
Boys are more likely to have toys associated with strength, such as swords or knights, and wanting to wear a skirt is promptly perceived as odd. Even today, girls’ clothes are typically pink and fluffy and glittery. Little girls should rather take care of their dolls or stuffed animals. The learned behaviors and attributions continue into old age and continue to develop. Girls become women and they should then be “beautiful and young and horny”, as the song “Layla” suggests.
“Layla” isn’t the baddest song to top the charts
So the criticism of the song is scientifically and morally justified, but these lyrics are only the tip of the iceberg: they reproduce stereotypes learned from an early age. It should be started very early, for example with gender-neutral toys in the day-care centers and proper education about gender diversity in schools. Topics such as intersex or diverse family models are still hardly discussed there. If this were to happen across the board, public awareness of such issues could be created in the long term.
Another model from gender studies is that of intersectionality. Roughly speaking, it means that different categories of difference are reinforced and lead to multiple discrimination. So if you take Layla from the song and imagine her as a real person, she could realistically be affected by Multiple Discrimination. Although the name Layla is also used as an alias in the dining scene, it is above all a typical Turkish girl’s name. And so, in Layla’s case, a specifically intertwined form of discrimination could emerge – based on gender, racism and field of employment. Also, this model should only be part of the curriculum in very few schools, although it can actually show connections very clearly.
But amidst the whole debate, it’s important to remember that “Layla” isn’t the only troubled song to gain widespread popularity. Travel back in time to 2012: Rapper Flo Rida releases his song “Whistle”, which tops the charts for weeks and is a must on every iPod with tangled cables. Young people dance to it at parties and above all have a catchy tune: “Can you blow my whistle baby, whistle baby?” The theme of the song is: oral sex.
2010, “Pumped Up Kicks” helps the band Foster The People to their international breakthrough and various chart tops, while the topic of the text is a schoolboy’s rampage fantasy: “All the other kids with the pumped up kicks / You better run, better run / Faster than my bullet” says the song. In 2011 he was even nominated for the renowned “MTV Video Music Award for the best rock video”.
A rampage fantasy was a catchy tune in 2011
In 1979, Frank Zappa’s song “Bobby Brown (Goes Down)” hit the radio. And there, between clear sexual allusions, there are always passages with descriptions of sexual practices that should only be understood by insiders. It says something like: “Eventually me and a friend / Sorta drifted along into S
In 2022, the most successful album of the first three months was “Pussy Power” by Katja Krasavice, although or probably precisely because it describes a lot of explicit content and scenes. In the single of the same name Krasavice sings something like: “Keep licking her until she gives pussy power / bubble butt and big tits pussy power / I fuck whoever I want pussy power”.
The list of obscene songs that glorify violence could be continued indefinitely, but it is only intended to clarify: Topics such as stalking, the glorification of drugs and violence and kidnapping have made it into pop culture and the charts. And: Other songs should also be questioned in the course of the debate, because “Layla” is not the baddest song to have made it to the top of the charts – and which is now enjoying greater popularity than ever due to the public uproar.