Candy Shop by 50 cents - A Semiotic Analysis (CIU 210 Audio-Visual Essay)
CIU210 Audio Visual Essay
A Semiotic Analysis of the music video of “Candy Shop” by 50 Cent
Candy shop is a top hit track on the Billboard Hot 100 written and created by the Hip Hop Legend 50 Cent. Being a former drug dealer and now amongst the wealthiest of rappers, Curtis James Jackson III, better known by his rapper name 50 cent, certainly grow up and dwells in the hip hop lifestyle. During an interview, 50 Cent has stated that, “I attempted to be as sexual as possible, from a male perspective, without being vulgar or obscene.” (Reid, 2005). Throughout this track and its music video, we can see how the rapper depicts modern day male’s common desire and reflects the current male-shared culture under the influence of sexism in popular culture. However, at the end of the music video, when 50 Cent snaps out of his daydream, the audience would realise that it was all nothing but a fantasy as depicted by many others. This semiotic analysis attempts at looking into the signs which 50 cents used to represent his ideas and to question some of the sociocultural aspects of the hip hop lifestyle and the modern media as a whole.
(Waking up from the daydream)
“Candy Shop” is the song title and also the place where most events of the music video happened. However, this place is no ordinary candy shop, but rather strangely located in an old luxurious mansion not actually selling candies. In the video, when door of the candy shop open, all we see in the candy shop are actually attractive women in revealing outfits. It is beyond doubt that the term “candy shop” here is actually a metaphor for brothels, where women are bought and consumed just like candies. This act is a classic example of female sexual objectification, which women are treated as mere objects of sexual desire, a commodity, without regards to their personality or dignity (Mulvey, 1999). Such theme of sexual objectification of women is very common across popular culture, but more prominently in hip hop culture in which sex, woman and money are some of the basic themes in rap music (Brooks & Conroy, 2010).
The idea of female sexual objectification is further reinforced with the use of language, colour and outfits. The lyrics featured even more suggestive and obscene metaphors of various sex acts and fetishes. From the tone and phrasing of the lyrics, we can clearly notice that they are assertive and commanding, with the male being the subject and women being the object . Examples are everywhere in the song, and maybe most importantly inside the main hook of the lyrics, “I'll take you to the candy shop. I'll let you lick the lollipop. Go 'head girl don't you stop. Keep going 'til you hit the spot, whoa”, as well as in the verses such as “Give it to me baby, nice and slow. Climb on the top, ride like you in a rodeo” or “I ain't finished teaching you 'bout how sprung I got ya”. The commanding lyrics echoes with the theory of sexual objectification of women which they are portrayed as submissive and passive, while in contrary men are dominative and active (Szymanski, Moffitt & Carr, 2010).
(Dancers and Actresses in revealing outfit of red and pink)
(Examples of usages of red and pink to portray female as sex objects)
Furthermore, the theory also suggested that women are constantly desired and judged by men sexually or aesthetically, which is represented by the use of colour and outfits in the video. Women portrayed in the music video are wearing revealing outfit in bright colours, predominantly red and fluorescent pink. The two colours are often regarded as feminine, seductive, dangerous and sexually appealing especially in American culture (Aslam, 2006). The usage of these two colours are commonly used in various media to help portray the female as attractive and desirable. Such usage of colour also suggests a segregation between the two sexes. Throughout the video, bright colours are associated with female while 50 cent, the male is often wearing duller colours. The segregation between the two is common in the modern society, in which red and pink are often associated with women while blue is associated with men.The difference of the colour tone suggests that women are “warmer” and more emotionally, while men being “cooler” and more rational although that is not necessarily the case (Aslam, 2006). Beside the colour, the outfit also echoes with common male sex fantasies and fetishes such as the nurse uniform, latex clothes, bikinis and mini-skirts (Rowland, n.d.). Again, under these fetishes, women are sexualised and represented as objects.
(Female portrayed in painting and within frames)
(Sexual interaction within Sexual interaction)
Perhaps the most deliberate sign of 50 Cent’s effort of questioning the whole idea of sexual objectification rather than just feeding into it beside the daydream reveal at the end is the use of frames and paintings throughout the music video. There are multiple shots of women posing in seductive postures, within frames that resemble fine art paintings, as well as posing or sexually interacting with the male while being shot by camera as shown in the backdrop. Such deliberate usage of elements that are out of context strengthens his point on how both men and women have been shaped by the media for centuries. Film theorist Laura Mulvey describe this long happening phenomenon as the “Male Gaze”, which the world and women in visual art, literature or various media are depicted through a masculine, male point of view, while on the other hand, female are being observed as are as object of male pleasure (Mulvey, 1999). Just as in the music video, during these shots, the camera movement of tilting sideways further strengthens the idea of gaze as it resembles surveying motion. Both men and women take this perspective or relationship as truth while consciously and subconsciously shape themselves to act like how its depicted in media, forgetting the fact that all media are just merely representations and perspectives. From the women perspective, it is depicted in the video like only girls that are physically attractive would be considered as desirable and would live happily. Such depiction falls into the ideology of lookism in which women are supposed to look a certain way or else they would be discriminated against. In this case, the slim body figures, full breasts, full lips and a low waist-hip ratio (Nettle, 2002) of the actresses and dancers are shown to “set a standard”. As John Berger suggests in his book Way of Seeing, women are conscious of being surveyed by men and they also see themselves through the “male gaze” (Berger, 2012). The “unrealistic" body figure are sets of chains on women when they spend their time and effort on achieving it and baring them from fulfilling their own lives (Tietje & Cresap, 2005).
(Female looking at the observer in a male perspective fully aware of the male gaze and they see themselves through the others' gaze.)
Apart from sexism and female sexual objectification, the song and the music video also circles around racism, class, neoliberalism and materialism which are also common themes of hip hop culture and rap music (Peterson, 1994). One dominant sign of racism in the video is that the actresses and dancers are all black women. Black women are often portrayed as the “seductive whore stereotype” (Hooks, 1981) since historically white women were protected by white conquerers and black women were treated as sexual objects (Hooks, 1981). Examples of this idea in the lyrics can be found in “If you be a nympho, I'll be a nympho.” or “So seductive you should see how her wind her hips”.
The representation of racism is further represented in the contrast of the two characters singer Olivia plays in the video, one being the brothel host in the context of daydreaming and the second being fast food joint server when 50 Cent snaps out of the dream. There are strong obvious class differences between the two characters although they are played by the same person, namely their language, occupation and outlook. As the brothel host, Olivia speaks standard English dressed in luxurious lingeries while as the server she speaks English with vulgarity, profanity and slangs dressed with exaggerating golden earrings and necklace. Such depiction of black people being under-educated and having low-income is the centre to racism in media and popular culture (Hooks, 1981). Even black people discriminate themselves of speaking and living this way and they look up to people with higher economic statuses that do not speak or act like lower class black people.
The idea of better economic status leads to a better life is one of the main ideas under the ideology of neoliberalism consumption and materialism. The idea is that the highest values or objectives lie in material well-being and in the furtherance of material progress (Castree, 2010). In the music video, the male character is shown joyful and confident with his alongside his sports car, while contrastingly miserable and shy inside his ordinary car when he wakes up from the dream. The same situation happens on the female character of Olivia as well in which she is shown cheerful in the “Candy Shop” while being shown short-tempered and distressing in the fast food joint. Again, these representation may not necessary be true but the media made us believe in such way.
In conclusion, although the music video of Candy shop shares many common ideologies with other hip hop music and their music videos, the usage of signs are being pushed to extremes and are well thought-out so they do not seem overly vulgar or obscene. The mainstream media has been projecting and spreading the aforementioned ideologies since the age of classical fine art and literature until now with pop music, TV, films and many more. Both women and men are being shaped under these influence, in which they mistreat themselves and one another while believing in representations of the world which are not necessarily true. These ideologies and stereotypes restrict people from reaching their full potential and living a fulfilling life without them consciously knowing so.
(Other examples of hip hop music video with sexism as theme)
(The lyrics of Candy Shop)
[Intro: 50 Cent] Yeah, uh huh So seductive [Hook: 50 Cent & Olivia] I'll take you to the candy shop I'll let you lick the lollipop Go ahead, girl, don't you stop Keep going 'til you hit the spot, whoaa I'll take you to the candy shop Boy, one taste what I got I'll have you spendin' all you got Keep going 'til you hit the spot, whoaa [Verse 1: 50 Cent] You could have it your way, how do you want it? You gonna back that thing up or should I push up on it? Temperature rising, okay, let's go to the next level Dance floor jam packed, hot as a tea kettle I break it down for you now, baby, it's simple If you be a nympho, I be a nympho In the hotel or in the back of the rental On the beach or in the park, it's whatever you into Got the magic stick, I'm the love doctor Have your friends teasing you about how sprung I got you When you show me what you working, baby, no problem Get on top, get your bounce around like a low rider I'm a seasoned vet when it come to this shit After you work up a sweat, you could play with the stick I'm trying to explain, baby, the best way I can I melt in your mouth, girl, not in your hand (uh huh) [Hook: 50 Cent & Olivia] I'll take you to the candy shop I'll let you lick the lollipop Go ahead, girl, don't you stop Keep going 'til you hit the spot, whoaa I'll take you to the candy shop Boy, one taste what I got I'll have you spendin' all you got Keep going 'til you hit the spot, whoaa [Bridge: 50 Cent & Olivia] Girl, what we do, what we do And where we do, and where we do The things we do, things we do Are just between me and you, yeah, oh yeah, yeah [Verse 2: 50 Cent] Give it to me, baby, nice and slow Climb on top, ride like you in a rodeo You ain't never heard a sound like this before ‘Cause I ain't never put it down like this Soon as I come through the door She kept pulling on my zipper It's like a race, who can get undressed quicker Isn't it ironic, how erotic it is to watch her in thongs? Had me thinking about that ass after I'm gone I touched the right spot at the right time Lights on or lights off, she like it from behind So seductive, you should see the way she whine Her hips in slow-mo on the floor when we grind Long as she ain't stoppin', homie, and I ain't stoppin' Dripping wet with sweat, man, it's on and poppin' All my champagne campaign, bottle after bottle, it's on And we gonna sip that heavy bubble, man, every bottle is gone [Hook: 50 Cent & Olivia] I'll take you to the candy shop I'll let you lick the lollipop Go ahead, girl, don't you stop Keep going 'til you hit the spot, whoaa I'll take you to the candy shop Boy, one taste what I got I'll have you spendin' all you got Keep going 'til you hit the spot, whoaa
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