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Pop Music | Pop Eye

Gender Wars

July 18, 1999|GEOFF BOUCHER

An answer song is sort of a shout-back sequel for pop music, a way for musicians to publicly rebuke their peers--and also piggyback their success. From Lynyrd Skynyrd's 1974 dis of Neil Young's "Southern Man" in "Sweet Home Alabama" to Roxanne Shante's "Roxanne's Revenge" following UTFO's 1984 rap classic "Roxanne, Roxanne," artists have loved getting the final word.

Now the answer song seems to be enjoying a revival, thanks to a flurry of hit songs on modern gender politics and money matters. It started with TLC's "No Scrubs," which hit No. 1 on the singles chart in March and became an anthem for women sick of freeloading males.

Then the Sporty Thievz, a Yonkers rap trio, answered back that men don't want "No Pigeons," an allusion to shallow women who try to live beyond their means. That rebuttal song touched off dance floor battles across the nation as deejays began splicing the two songs to stir up crowds.

So when Destiny's Child hit No. 1 this month with "Bills Bills Bills"--which seemed to closely echo the TLC song's viewpoint--it seemed that a full-on dialogue was emerging on the pop charts.

Not so, says Beyonce, a member of the Houston quartet.

"I think it is definitely a trend and I think it's kind of weird, but we did our song before we heard 'No Scrubs,' " Beyonce said. "It was perfect timing, I guess. I think men have been singing these types of songs for years, calling women gold-diggers, and now it's our turn to demand respect."

And the result? Well, male audience members at Destiny's Child shows have begun singing "No Pigeons" during performances of "Bills Bills Bills," and not surprisingly, several answer songs are already popping up. "It's all great, I guess," Beyonce says with a weary chuckle, "as long as people don't get too upset."

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