The music world is full of pretty shells, shelling out robotic and overly produced vocals; women who cake on make-up, get plastic surgery, and make most of their money by becoming an easily manipulated product. Despite the gorgeously maintained exterior, 28-year-old “Pretty Girl Rock” vocalist, [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Keri Hilson[/lastfm], is not one of those empty shells.
Rather, the Atlanta-native (who confessed to being called “Big Bird” in her childhood) is a like a beautiful nightingale regaling radio royalty with the philosophical tales of her travels down the sometimes treacherous path that is pop stardom.
[pullquote quote="I always am conscious of what I want women to take from a song. I love doing music that represents how we really are." credit="Keri Hilson"]
Keri Hilson is undoubtedly beautiful; she emanates a kind of beauty that portends a deep inner reservoir of strength. Women like this sometimes make me nervous, because I become enamored with their intrinsic power over the energy in the room. I proclaimed this to Hilson as she entered the room. She laughed in a good-natured way that dissipated most of my feelings of nervousness and we did our lip gloss together while talking about clothing. The typical things that women do to bond.
Wearing sexy black cut-out leggings, a tan leather and silk vest, and impeccably perfect snake-skin booties, Keri Hilson has an overtly feminine energy. While Hilson has an dramatic, affable personality, she does not try to assert her dominance in a “masculine” way. This quality gains her an immense amount of a rare breed of female power that is sometimes tragically devoid in society. And as shown from the title of Hilson’s sophomore album, No Boys Allowed, Hilson is also a proponent of other women embracing their similar gifts:
The energy that I like to get from women is a camaraderie. There’s nothing like us when we’re being positive and uplifting each other. Because we go through a lot. Women go through a lot. I mean, most industries are male dominated; we’re put down a lot, we’re looked at as too emotional. Only a woman understands a woman. So, there’s nothing like the energy you get.
And to women that look up to me, I think that it’s incredible. I mean, I always am conscious of what I want women to take from a song. I love doing music that represents how we really are. I think there is enough music that portrays the front that we put up. There’s a lot of “accessory” music out there. And I didn’t want to be that. I wanted to not be the front. I wanted to be the real.
[pullquote quote="This record is all about what you feel when you hear it. Do you feel like you want to listen to it while you are getting ready so you can feel beautiful? " credit="Keri Hilson"]
Keri Hilson’s first hit single from No Boys Allowed, “Pretty Girl Rock,” is all about that–representing the real beauty within women of all kinds. Being “pretty” on the inside; knowing that you are beautiful no matter what. Hilson explains the meaning behind the song and the accompanying video:
I knew that I wanted the video to not be surface because on the surface it sounds like I’m just arrogant and conceited. We got other treatments in and they were very surface. It was almost like they didn’t understand the way I wanted the record to be portrayed.
It was more than just me being conceited or me looking in a mirror the whole video, it had to be a deeper meaning to me, because that song is very layered to me…it’s about “not what you hear.
Part of the genius behind the “Pretty Girl Rock” video was the how it used powerful, sexy women in music throughout history like [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Janet Jackson[/lastfm], [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Josephine Baker[/lastfm], [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Diana Ross[/lastfm], and [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]TLC[/lastfm]. While the subtext of the video might be too “deep” for some, including these iconic female figures helped Hilson accentuate the many facets that go into being a “beautiful” woman:
This record is all about what you feel when you hear it. Do you feel like you want to listen to it while you are getting ready so you can feel beautiful?
You know, all those things. Joseph Kahn turned in the best treatment…and he included some of his favorites, but I had to commandeer that whole situation and put in Janet, put in TLC.
People listen to records in different ways. You have to make music and understand that there are many different types of listeners. There are some people that understand and only want the surface. They are only listening on the surface and there are others that listen on a deeper level.
[pullquote quote="I commend men that see beyond that. That see the natural beauty. I commend men that do that. I think it's awesome. " credit="Keri Hilson"]
In order to full encompass the true depth of a real woman, Keri Hilson had to represent every aspect of what it is to be this woman. Even if that meant uncovering the dirty, raunchy, sexually free and candidly real aspect of woman in her risqué video, “The Way You Love Me.”
While there has been some controversy over the video’s overt sexualization of Hilson, we got the impression that the video was more of a message to men. Hilson laughed and gave a few words of sage advice to the men of the world:
To represent women, I had to put myself among women. So I was in an imaginary clubhouse that said ‘No Boys Allowed’ on the door. It’s only me and my girlfriends. And really–everyone.
You were there. She was there. Everyone was there and we were all yelling to the top of our lungs what we would want men to know.
So my message to men on all the songs is: Look, we take too much. We tolerate too much–the ‘Breaking Point.’ Another one, on ‘Pretty Girl Rock,’ is: Look, every woman is beautiful. You may see surface.
You fall for the heels and the make-up and all of the accessories and the accoutrements of what it takes to be a woman these days, but I commend men that see beyond that. That see the natural beauty. I commend men that do that. I think it’s awesome.
[pullquote quote=" I'm not selling sex. I'm selling reality. " credit="Keri Hilson"]
So, we yelled that out on ‘Pretty Girl Rock,’ we were screaming to the top of our lungs. And in ‘The Way You Love Me,’ I’m telling men, ‘Look, give it to me how I want it. Don’t assume one way or the other. Take control.
It’s ownership of my body and my sexual spirit. We’re not always the same way on every single night. I would love for men to know that. We want what you want sometimes…we don’t need to be caressed every single night. It’s nice, but give it to me good and then we can cuddle.
While Hilson’s liberated and down-to-earth attitude on sexuality is obviously feminist, she also sounds like many a man’s dream woman. I asked what it would take to get her from a “lady in the streets” to a “freak in the sheets.”
We proceeded into a little dirty girl talk and Hilson reaffirmed her stand on the full, unfettered expression of female sexuality:
First of all, a man’s got to be able to handle it. I gotta know that you can handle me…it is dirty at times. I mean, every woman has a bad side. My bad side is very little but it’s there. For me to do music for women, I have to talk about every angle of what it’s like to be a woman, even if it’s a small percentage of me.
I’ll put it out there. I’ll stand on the chopping block to be crucified by those that think that this means I am completely changing who I am or changing my image. Or, ‘oh, she’s now selling sex.’ I’m not selling sex. I’m selling reality.
And realistically, Keri Hilson is a sex symbol. But a funny, eloquent, and intelligent sex symbol who is not afraid of the strength of her sexuality or the beauty of her femininity.