Confession: When Real Housewives of Atlanta‘s Shereé Whitfield gave Watch What Happens Live viewers a first listen to her new single “Who Gon’ Check Me Boo?” on Dec. 18, I may have reflexively let out a squeal of exhilaration. May have. Okay… I totally did. Yes, PopWatchers, I am coming out with it once and for all: I am a “Closet Freak” for Real Housewives music (shout-out to Miss Lawrence, heeeeeey!).
“Who Gon’ Check Me Boo,” is a delicious hip-hopped-up slam-jam inspired by Shereé’s epic season 2 showdown with snappish party-planner Anthony, but, oh, there’s so much more. Certain lyrics (“Sayin’ that you’re rich but I know that’s all a mirage/Stuntin’ like you a star/You need to quit it girl, stop”) seem to harken back to this season’s kick-starting on-camera throwdown between Shereé and NeNe Leakes, who proclaimed, among other things, “I am very rich, b—h.” In the song, Shereé also advises her (faux?) foe to “Google me,” a direct quote from the sassbag party-planner, but also a reference to fellow Atlanta star Kim Zolciak’s second single. In short, “Who Gon’ Check Me Boo,” is all about intertextuality and layers. It’s like a pop parfait.
Now, if we’re going to talk about Kim, the discussion begins and ends with “Tardy for the Party.” To my reckoning, that song is the undisputed champ of Housewives singles, followed by the Countess LuAnn of New York‘s “Chic C’est la Vie” (though many prefer her seminal single “Money Can’t Buy You Class”), newest New Jersey Housewife Melissa Gorga’s “On Display,” New York Househusband Simon Van Kempen’s “I Am Real,” and “Bump It” from D.C. dingbat Michaele Salahi (which sold 122 copies, presumably to 122 people — a.k.a. 13.4 percent of my personal Facebook friends).
I should mention, if only for my own arbitrary sense of integrity, that my allegiance to Housewives on the radio has geographical limitations that rule out the West Coast. Gretchen Rossi’s schmaltzy “Nothing Without You” should be called “Nothing I’ll Be Dropping 99 Cents on Any Time Soon, Thanks, Buh-bye.” Lisa Vanderpump’s horrid cover of “Will You Love Me Tomorrow”? Egads. Now we know why Giggy is losing his hair.
And while I’m laying the ground rules, let’s be clear: I’m listening to these songs at the gym or while I sip boxed wine and slather on makeup before da club. If I want vocal virtuosity, I turn to Adele (pre-surgery — get better, girl!), Beyoncé, Florence Welch, Kelly Clarkson… the list goes on and on. On the other end of the spectrum, the Housewives are picture-in-dictionary definition “performers,” whether they’re peacocking on stage or on the small screen. I’m not looking to them for anything more, and trust me, I will never use the word “musician” or “artist” to refer to a Housewife — with one exception, Atlanta Housewife and multiplatinum R&B hit-maker Kandi Burruss (who, for the record, I’m not including in this discussion precisely because she is a legitimate artist). When I crank up a Housewives joint, it’s all about the beat. Club thumpers like “Boo,” “Tardy,” and even the Eurotrash splendor of “Class” were created solely for grooving. Why deny them their purpose?
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Still, there’s something entrancing about the lyrics, too. Namely, can you imagine the brainstorm for any given Housewife’s newest single? These women have a never-ending well of absurdity from which to draw — their own lives — and it shows in the lyrics. Does Simon’s song reference a “thug in a cocktail dress”? Yes it does. When the Countess sings about “gems, jets, silhouettes,” it’s pure poetry. Three simple words haven’t been this evocative since Gertrude Stein. For my money, though, the best line of all belongs to Michaele: “Release me from my cage, I belong on center stage. I’m an animal — animal!” (Honorable mention, also Michaele: “My objective is to be the hottest girl in the room.”) What I’m saying is, it’s the little things — an impressionistic portrayal of opulence, a peek into the soul of a wig-wearing lunatic — that add up to the miracle of life. And, as they say, “Happy wife, happy life!”
Last but not least, there’s a very fundamental reason I can’t get enough of The Real Housewives, both on my TV and my iPod: These women are crazy. Think about it. Jersey girl Melissa wrote and recorded “On Display” before she had ever actually appeared in a single on-air episode of Real Housewives of New Jersey. So when she sings, “I can feel the heat of the spotlight shine on me… Got me feeling all these feelings and it’s driving me insane, paparazzi watching me do my thing,” where is this coming from, if not actual insanity? I repeat: While writing this song, she wasn’t famous at all. Where were all these prying eyes and paparazzi? In her head? The egomaniacal, verging on sociopathic subtext of any given Housewives song is, in and of itself, riveting to unpack.
Finally, a small bit of perspective: We live in a world where “Friday” and “Jam (Turn It Up)” got a fair shake; in a world where Justin Bieber managed to rope in a legitimately outstanding artist like Mariah Carey expressly to destroy the greatest Christmas song ever. Can we really hate on the Housewives for laying down a track in hopes of 15 more seconds of fame and a little cash money? Well… yes. Of course we can. But while you’re doing that I’ll be shaking it center stage ’cause I’m an animal — animal!
What say you, PopWatchers? Are you secretly humming to the Housewives? Will you join me so that I’m no longer the host, guest of honor, and DJ at the world’s saddest reality TV dance party?