In this edition of “Pretty Good at Songwriting,” KCPR’s Connor Sullivan takes an in-depth look at the lyrics of “Male Gaze” by Pissed Jeans.
Matt Korvette, front man of the band, is no stranger to addressing social issues through music, covering topics from privilege to sexism and more.
On their track, “Male Gaze,” Korvette tackles these exact issues, delving into the details of the ever-prevalent male gaze the track is titled after.
“It’s when a smile becomes a stare and it starts to burn
It’s when you ask him to knock it off and he doesn’t learn
The sad routine doesn’t change if he’s broke or a millionaire
There’s no getting through, that’s how it is”
Korvette leads off with a male stare burning the (assumingly female) victim of the visual assault. Burning stares usually involve hatred, but in this case it’s the over-sexualization of the stare that causes the burn. The lyrical connotation of the word “burn” allows Matt to convey the pain caused by this habit to the male listeners of Pissed Jeans.
Getting stared at is an uncomfortable experience for anyone, but the stares women receive are an exclusively female issue with a predominately male source. Matt suggests that all men do this staring, and within my empirical experience of the world, this is whole-heartedly true.
“He’s never had to care
It’s when you’re judged before you even get to speak a word
It’s when you make the smartest point and it goes unheard”
This shows that Matt and other men have never experienced the sort of objectification women do — also entirely true. Any man who claims to know how women feel when talking about this are just straight-up lying. We can sympathize, but are almost completely unable to empathize.
In the first two stanzas (does that apply to lyrics too?), Matt has rejected any inkling that men could possibly get objectified in the same sense that women do.
“I’m not innocent – I’m guilty
I’m not innocent – but I’m sorry
It’s just the male gaze – it’s in me I know it
I feel it all around me – I wish I could destroy it”
Acceptance is the first step on the road to recovery, and here Matt is admitting his personal guilt of the male gaze. He’s aware of the issue (or why else would he be writing this song), and he will do his best to halt his own tendencies of misogyny.
Years after its release, these lyrics are becoming more relevant, especially with the current state of sexual assault allegations in the media.
I exchanged emails with Matt Korvette a few months ago (sorry for the laziness Matt), and asked him how he felt about his song becoming relevant once more, as well as whether the riddance of the male gaze is even biologically possible.
He responded with this:
“I feel like it was always relevant! A media trend doesn’t mean that women weren’t being treated lousily a few years ago compared to how they are now.
That song was me just trying to be open that I’ve been complicit in white male privilege, and that it’s okay to just acknowledge that. A kind of apology of sorts, and a place to start working for something better. It’s like alcoholics first have to admit that they’re alcoholics before working to get sober, right? This was like that, but with sexism and privilege.”
“Male Gaze” is a very good introduction to Pissed Jeans with it’s insightful lyrics, powerful vocals, and sludgy riffing. Matt’s lyrics are almost always either hilarious, depressing, or hilariously depressing. Either way, they are always wise, and “Male Gaze” is no exception. I’m looking forward to the next Pissed Jeans album coming out in 2150, stay tuned.
“Why the long face jerkoff?
Your chance has been taken — good one
You may think like an animal
But if you try that cat and mouse shit you’ll get bitten
This lyric is from Father John Misty’s “Nothing Good Ever Happens at the Goddamn Thirsty Crow,” which I feel somewhat relates to “Male Gaze” despite the significant genre and tempo shift. We should all take a step back and identify the bad habits we fall into, especially if we are hurting someone else.
Connor Sullivan is a KCPR content contributor and a third year student at Cal Poly. His passion for music drove him to write this thoughtful piece on the complex lyricism of Matt Korvette. The accompanying illustrations were created by KCPR General Manager and Cal Poly art and design junior, Ally Millard.