Don't Call Me Angel
October 1, 2019
Todd plays "Don't Call Me Angel" on the piano.
ARIANA GRANDE, MILEY CYRUS & LANA DEL REY - DON'T CALL ME ANGEL
A pop song review
Todd: [sighs briefly] So, uh...there's a new Charlie's Angels movie coming out.
Clip of trailer for Charlie's Angels (2019)
Stan Bosley (Patrick Stewart): Outstanding, Angels.Todd (VO): And there's a song that goes with it.
Opening clip of Ariana Grande, Miley Cyrus & Lana Del Rey - "Don't Call Me Angel"
Ariana Grande: Boy, don't call me angelAnd, uh...
Todd: ...it's not fantastic.
Miley Cyrus: Don't call me angel when I'm a mess
Don't call me angel when I get undressedTodd (VO): It's [beat] ...actually I'm not sure exactly how I want to tackle this. This feels like one of those things where I should be careful how I criticize it. Which is weird, 'cause everyone hates this song and thinks it sucks. But...
Todd: Actually, if we're gonna talk about this, why don't we go back to the very beginning? 'Cause to understand why this song is bad, you have to understand how we got here.
Footage of women's rights rally from...Todd (VO): Okay, so in the early '70s, we had the women's lib movement, which [images of...] makes TV executives realize that [...and a woman...] women might also enjoy television.
Montage clips from The Mary Tyler Moore Show; Police WomanSo, for the first time, women get shows targeted at them that aren't crappy daytime soaps. And also for the first time, we get female-led action shows. We're talking shows like Police Woman, The Bionic Woman, Wonder Woman... [still image from Police Woman with caption: "Woman Woman, She's all woman!"] Woman Woman. But success wise...
Todd: ...all of these were blown out of the water by...
Clip of opening for...wait for it...Todd (VO): ...the biggest of them, Charlie's Angels. It was a humongous ratings smash, it launched several actresses to stardom, and it's still basically the first show people think of when you talk about '70s TV.
(NOTE: Starting here, Todd uses swipe cutaways from Charlie's Angels as transitions for part of the review)
Todd: But, it always sat...
Todd (VO): ...weirdly and awkwardly in the wake of second-wave feminism. Now, I have limited experience with this show. And with feminism for that matter.
Todd: But, I can tell you that...on paper, this show is extremely progressive.
Todd (VO): I mean, yes, they do still work for a man, so it's not exactly smashing the patriarchy. But, they work for him for a reason.
Todd: Charlie believes in them.
Todd (VO): They weren't taken seriously on the police force because of sexism, so they went where their talents were valued. It sounds very inspiring, certainly for the times.
Todd: [pause] That's not really how this show is remembered.
Todd (VO): It's mostly remembered for being dumb as hell, and the main appeal of it being hot girls in skimpy outfits.
Policeman: And what denomination are you, little lady?
Jill Munroe (Farrah Fawcett): 35, 24, and 35.Like I said, I don't know a lot about it. I don't watch a lot of old TV. But, it is on streaming, so I checked it out...
Todd: ...I picked an episode entirely at random...
Todd (VO): ...and the Angels had to infiltrate the Playboy Club. As undercover centerfolds.
Jill: I haven't posed in the nude since I was six months old!Todd: [shrugs] Then again...
Todd (VO): ...the Angels did get in some decent burns on fake Hugh Hefner there. I don't know if this show is as bad as its reputation. I can only...
Todd: ...tell you that critics, and I mean, like...
Todd (VO): ...feminist critics and also just, like, regular TV critics, they all thought the show was brain-dead, soft-porn trash. [image of Farrah Fawcett, Jaclyn Smith, and Kate Jackson on TIME magazine front cover] And yet, it did have a lot of female fans. I mean...the Angels kick ass, they look good doing it.
Todd: So...what do you want? What...what more are you asking for here? Don't think about it that hard.
Montage clips from Charlie's AngelsTodd (VO): So, like, is the show positive? Is it sexist?
Todd: [pause] I don't know. Kinda? [shrugs] Whatever it is, the weird tension where it's both...
Todd (VO): ...an empowering female fantasy and degrading jiggle TV seems to have...
Todd: ...passed down through this entire cursed franchise!
Montage clips from Charlie's Angels (2000)Todd (VO): The powers that be revived Charlie's Angels as a big-budget action movie in the year 2000. And that film did not give a fuuuuuck. That is a movie that absolutely wanted to live down to the show's bad rep.
Natalie (Cameron Diaz): You know, I signed that release favor, so you can just feel free to stick things in my slot.I was a teenage boy. I did not have high standards, but I could feel my brain melting into, like, [image of hands in...] Nickelodeon green slime while I watched it. Like, I was insulted on behalf of the actresses.
Todd: But that movie had a theme song.
Video for Destiny's Child - "Independent Women Part 1"Todd (VO): And if you listened to that, you'd find out that it's not a movie where [clip of...] Cameron Diaz rubs her ass on the camera. It's a movie about female independence.
Destiny's Child: All the women, who independent
Throw your hands up at me
All the honeys, who making moneyTodd: This is what independence looks like.
Another clip from Charlie's Angels (2000)
Dylan (Drew Barrymore): Mein Ziegenbock ist sexy!Todd (VO): [sarcastically] Girl power!
Todd: Well, anyway...
Clip of trailer for Charlie's Angels: Full ThrottleTodd (VO): ...after that, there was a sequel in 2003 that no one watched, [brief clip from Charlie's Angels (2011 TV series)] a show in 2011 that no one watched, [clip of trailer for Charlie's Angels (2019)] and now in 2019, they're trying to bring it back again. And it's not out yet, but it seems like they're doing something a little different, and trying to keep the spirit of the show without...being quite so fucking tasteless. It's written and directed by a woman, that's something. It's headlined by boyish, gay Kristen Stewart. Still a very attractive woman obviously, but it feels like a statement.
Todd: Well, let me tell you, I'm still not looking forward to it much. 'Cause the first thing I saw for it was the theme song.
Video for "Don't Call Me Angel" startsTodd (VO): Just like the last movie, we got three hot ladies to sing the theme. You know, 'cause it matches the movie. It's kinda stunt casting...
Todd: ...but I like it when they do that.
Video for B-Real, Coolio, Method Man, LL Cool J & Busta Rhymes - "Hit 'Em High (The Monstar's Anthem)"Todd (VO): Like in Space Jam where they got, like, the five biggest rappers to play a basketball team. [clips of "All for Love" by...] Or like The Three Musketeers in the '90s, where they got Bryan Adams, Rod Stewart, and Sting to all get together so that they could combine their [...and Super Friends] evil powers and finally defeat the Super Friends.
Todd: But in this case, we got three of the biggest female pop stars of our time to play the part of the Angels.
Montage clips of Ariana Grande - "Into You"; Mike Will Made It ft. Miley Cyrus, Wiz Khalifa & Juicy J - "23"; Lana Del Rey - "Ultraviolence"Todd (VO): We got Ariana Grande, Miley Cyrus, and Lana...and-and Lana Del...
Clip of Lana Del Rey - "Video Games"
Lana Del Rey: Open up a beer and you say, "Get over here"
And play a video gameTodd is speechless
Clip of "Don't Call Me Angel"
Ariana: Don't call me angelTodd: You know in...
Clip from...Todd (VO): Addams Famly Values where the popular girls try to recruit Wednesday?
Todd: Well, anyway.
Clip of "Don't Call Me Angel"
Ariana: Boy, don't call me angelTodd (VO): Look, maybe the movie will be good, maybe it won't. Who knows? All I know is that the theme song, "Don't Call Me Angel" is definitely continuing the franchise's weird confusion over what it's doing.
Todd: And as evidence, I would first like to offer the fact that it's titled...
Todd (VO): ..."Don't Call Me Angel"!
Ariana: Don't call me angelThe theme to Charlie's Angels is called, "Don't Call Me Angel". An act of self-sabotage not seen since [clip and edited movie posters for...] the Ghostbusters II theme, "Stop Busting Ghosts Already", or the Alvin and the Chipmunks theme, "This Shit Is Stupid Buy Your Kids A Book Already".
Video for...Todd (VO): So, anyway, like "Independent Women", [clip of "Don't Call Me Angel"] this is also a girl-power anthem of sorts, I guess.
Miley: All my girls successfulTodd: The three of them are girl-bossing it up, telling you to what to do.
Miley: So say my name with a little respectTodd (VO): Okay, as evidenced by the title, the main idea for the song is that they don't like being called, angel.
Miley: You know I, I don't like that, boyI guess they find it demeaning.
Todd: Again, a shocking statement from a movie called Charlie's Angels!
Todd (VO): And... I guess that it's supposed to be empowering, 'cause... they tell the boys to shut up...
Todd: ...and not call them condescending names.
Miley: You better stop the sweet talk
And keep your pretty mouth shutTodd: Look, I... I see how that's supposed to be empowering. All I can tell you is, I have seen this kind of thing before.
Clip from...wait for it...
Bad Guy: Nice kickin'. You really know your stuff, babe.
Barb Wire (Pamela Anderson): What did you call me? Don't... call me babe.Todd (VO): This is from the 1996 Pamela Anderson movie, Barb Wire. This shows that she's a badass, because in between getting her [censored still image from Barb Wire of Pamela Anderson's...] tits out of her leather outfit, she injures a guy's balls for calling her babe.
Todd: And, actually, hold on. I thought of a second thing.
Clip from Space Jam
Bugs Bunny: You want a little one-on-one, doll?
Lola Bunny: Doll?! Never call me, doll.Todd (VO): Aw, man. Classic.
Todd: Ap...apologies for referencing it a second time. I'm just always thinking about Space Jam.
Todd (VO): 1996, great year for movies.
Todd: And feminism! [gives thumbs up]
Montage clips from Barb Wire and Space JamTodd (VO): Look, I'm not gonna pretend I have any handle on what's "good for women." But Barb Wire and 1996 Lola Bunny are, like, the textbook definitions of [images of...] strong, female characters as imagined by [...and nerdy guy on computer] stupid male writers. Like, they're bossy and aggressive. But you also get lots of close-ups of their ass. Like...
Video for "Don't Call Me Angel"...that's the same feeling I get from this song. It's phenomenally empowering, but it's mostly about being attracted to dudes.
Miley: Don't call me angel when I'm a mess
Don't call me angel when I get undressedTodd: Miley, if you're gonna get naked, I will call you whatever you want! [laughs doofily]
Todd (VO): Hold on. Is it bad because just because it caters to guys' fetishes? Like...
Todd: ...we're guys. We can fetishize anything.
Todd (VO): Or is it empowering if women like it?
Todd: I don't know. Which women? I've seen girls claimed to be inspired by stuff I thought we all agreed was the [still image from Sucker Punch] dumbest teenage shit of all time!
Ariana: You sizin' up my bodyTodd (VO): I don't know. This is the same tedious conversation we have every time something tries to be sexy and empowering to women at the same time. [shot of Wikipedia article for "Don't Call Me Angel"] The three singers have writing credits along with a dozen other people. That can mean anything. I don't know, this is all confusing me, and I don't feel super qualified to talk about it.
Todd: But, there is this.
Miley: I make my money, and I write the checks
So say my...Todd (VO): Miley's verse has some kind of limp gesture towards the Destiny's Child song. You know...
Todd: ...we have money, girl squad and all that.
Miley: All my girls successful, and you're just our guestTodd (VO): And then the song immediately forgets about it, but it's there, so...
Todd: ...why don't we compare it to the original movie theme?
Clip of "Independent Women Part 1"
Beyoncé: Tell me what you think about me
I buy my own diamonds and I buy my own ringsTodd (VO): Honestly, "Independent Women" never really did much for me. I never really thought about why. It's just not meant for me, I guess. It's directed at women, to make them feel good about financial independence. That's not really a feeling I can access as a guy.
Todd: I'm not really smashing everyone's expectations by buying my own shoes. And also I don't. My parents still buy my clothes for me.
Todd (VO): So... yeah, I can't relate. [clip of Destiny's Child - "Bootylicious"] But I didn't relate to "Bootylicious" either, and that song's eternally great, so...yeah, I don't know what it is. I guess, uh... the beat's just kinda stiff and overbearing, and all the movie references are extremely awkward. But it was a huge hit, and it launched Beyoncé [clip of Beyoncé - "Run the World (Girls)"] on a very long career of making women feel good about themselves.
Todd: So, clearly it resonated.
Video for "Independent Women Part 1"Todd (VO): And it's not like I can't tell why. Obviously it feels nice to get paid and buy your own stuff and not be under anyone else's thumb. [clip of "Don't Call Me Angel"] And I'm not sure the new song is connecting with people the same way.
Todd: These last few years, I have gotten to know all sorts of reasons women are annoyed at men. [images of...] Mansplaining, manspreading, [shot of article: "The secret plague of women at work: 'manterrupting'"] manterrupting. Please God, don't let that one take off. But being called angel?
Clip of "Don't Call Me Angel"
Ariana: Don't call me angelTodd just shrugs
Todd (VO): It's a new one on me. Is that, like, a major concern in women's lives?
Lana: But don't call me angelAngel? It's so specific! Like, are you regularly cat-called by...
Todd: ...1940s private eyes? [in old-time accent] "Hey, angel. Can you fetch me a drink?" Or hold on, wait. Is there more to it than that? Is it more than just "angel" being patronizing?
Ariana: Ain't from no Heaven
Yeah, you heard me rightTodd (VO): Ohhh, okay. Don't call us angels, 'cause we're no angels. We're bad.
Todd: Okay, Charlie's Angels are still the good guys, right? [image of...] They didn't become international terrorists or anything?
Ariana: Oh yeah
Don't you know that I bite when the sun set?Todd (VO): Okay. Don't call us angels...
Todd: ...'cause we're vampires. [image of edited Charlie's Angels title card...] Charlie's Vampires. That's why you never see Charlie. [image of hand coming out of coffin] 'Cause he's in a crypt. It-it only gets more confusing the more I listen to it.
Ariana: Keep my name out your mouth
I know what you aboutTodd (VO): Okay, so I can't call you pet names; I can't call you by your actual name.
Todd: What do you want, insults?! Okay, butt-breath. [throws hands up]
Todd (VO): Look, it all just seems forced. I think the idea is that female empowerment means giving commands to guys.
Todd: The actual orders, they don't really matter.
Todd (VO): Don't call me angel. Say my name. Say it respectfully. Don't say my name at all. Some of these are contradictory. Who cares?
Todd: We don't have to make sense. We're women. I'm an edgy offensive comic now by the way. It's my new brand. [sarcastically] Can't handle me!
Clip from Charlie's Angels (2000)Todd (VO): Here's another weird thing about this new movie. Like, previous incarnations of the Angels, they all seem pretty balanced...like, all the actresses are roughly around the same level of fame.
Todd: Not so with the new movie.
Clip of trailer for Charlie's Angels (2019)Todd (VO): We got Kristen Stewart, who's an actual celebrity; Naomi Scott, who's an up-and-comer. She was [clips of Aladdin (2019)...] Princess Jasmine, [...and Power Rangers] she was a Power Ranger. She likes being in action teams led by hidden bald men, I guess. And this person, I have no idea who she is.
Video for "Don't Call Me Angel"And that kinda matches the song, 'cause... they're all unbalanced, too.
Todd: Like, they're all famous, yes. But in completely different ways.
Montage clips of Ariana Grande "Break Up with Your Girlfriend, I'm Bored"; Mark Ronson ft. Miley Cyrus - "Nothing Breaks Like a Heart"Todd (VO): We got Ariana, who's one of the biggest names alive right now; we got Miley who has...followed her muse to very weird places with only intermittent success. And, uh...
Todd: ...we've got Lana.
Clip of "Don't Call Me Angel"
Ariana: Don't call me angel
Lana: I appreciate the way you watch me, I can't lie
I drop it down, I pick it upTodd: What the fuck is she doing here?
Video for Lana Del Rey & Cedric Gervais - "Summertime Sadness (Remix)"Todd (VO): Lana Del Rey has made... vague gestures at mainstream stardom in the past. But she's an indie chick, she's not a pop star.
Todd: Like, maybe she should be a big star, seeing as...
Brief montage clips of Lorde - "Royals"; Halsey - "Bad at Love"; Billie Eilish - "Bad Guy"Todd (VO): ...a whole bunch of pop singers who came after her have been biting her style.
Todd: But she is simply not that person.
Video for "Don't Call Me Angel"Todd (VO): This makes about as much sense as [images of...] NPR's Terry Gross co-hosting the [...and...] Joe Rogan podcast! She slams the track to a complete halt because her breathy singing has no business being on a song like this.
Todd: Also her verse is about... twerking?
Lana: I drop it down, I pick it up, I back it off the county lineTodd (VO): Like, as always, Lana Del Rey sounds languid, and detached, and...
Todd: ...vaguely sarcastic.
Lana: I drop it low, I back it up, I know you wanna think you're mineTodd: So I can only assume Lana Del Rey twerking is like... her [demonstrating] bending over slightly, and then straightening back up.
Todd (VO): Honestly, I'm not even sure Lana's on the rest of the song. They-they use her kinda like a guest rapper. Like, this is the spot where [brief clips of "Baby"...] Ludacris or [...and "Girl on Fire"] Nicki Minaj is supposed to jump in, spit a couple bars, and then fuck right off.
Clip of "Don't Call Me Angel"
Ariana: Ain't from no HeavenIf she's on the chorus, I don't hear her, 'cause she's just doing the least.
Todd: [sarcastically] I mean, surprise! Shockingly...
Video for Lana Del Rey - "Shades of Cool"Todd (VO): ...Lana Del Rey gets overpowered in a duet with Ariana Grande.
Clip of Ariana Grande performing at MTV VMA pre-showHey, I got an idea. [clips of...] Hey, James Taylor, why don't you grab your acoustic guitar and sit in with Iron Maiden?
Footage of Iron Maiden concert is intercut with James Taylor performanceTodd (VO): Could you... could you strum a little louder, James?
Todd: Can't quite hear ya.
Video for "Don't Call Me Angel"Todd (VO): Who in God's name decided the third angel should be Lana Del Rey? I-I'm just throwing this out there.
Todd: Charli XCX?
Video for Charli XCX & Christine and the Queens - "Gone"Todd (VO): Charlie's Angels, Charli XCX? Wouldn't that work? I-I guess Charli's not big enough 'cause she's, you know, [shot of article: "Charli XCX Is the Pop Star of the Future"] the pop star of the future. She will be forever.
Todd: But actually, I can barely hear Miley either.
Video for "Don't Call Me Angel"Todd (VO): And Miley does have a pretty powerful voice. I think they just wanted to keep it mostly Ariana's song since she's the biggest name right now.
Todd: Honestly, I think they should've given it more to Miley.
Video for Miley Cyrus - "Mother's Daughter"Todd (VO): It's basically identical to Miley's last song. She's got the sharper voice, and she sells tough chick way better than [clip of "Don't Call Me Angel"] Ariana's feathery, fluffy vocals.
Todd: Look, I don't know.
Todd (VO): Whenever I hear any of this girl-power stuff, I feel like I'm trying to grade it like it's a gender studies thesis.
Todd: I'm-I'm doing too much here. The song doesn't work 'cause it's a shitty song.
Video for...Todd (VO): I haven't heard "Independent Women" in a decade, and I still know every note. [clip of "Don't Call Me Angel"] This drops out of my head immediately. [shot of Billboard Hot 100 chart with "Don't Call Me Angel" debuting at #13] And that's probably why its debut has been kinda disappointing. It may stick around anyway. The film isn't out for a while.
Todd: But if it does stick around, it'll be the same reason that...
Video for Ed Sheeran & Justin Bieber - "I Don't Care"Todd (VO): ...awful Sheeran-Bieber song is still around. 'Cause it sounds enough like nothing that no one objects to it. Honestly, just like Sheeran and Bieber, [clip of "Don't Call Me Angel"] I suspect the three ladies have only ever met through green screen.
Todd: Most of all, it's just a bad advertisement for the movie.
Trailer for Charlie's Angels (2019)Todd (VO): Like, the movie looks like it's trying to be funny and fun at least. [clip of "Don't Call Me Angel"] This is no fun. It's self-serious, and boring... and it just sabotages the movie. Like, this November, go see Charlie's Angels.
Todd: But don't call them that.
Todd (VO): 'Cause it's a sexist term.
Todd: So feel bad for watching it when you do [shrugs].
Video for "Don't Call Me Angels" endsClosing Tag Song: "Calling All Angels" - Train
"Don't Call Me Angel" is owned by Republic Records
This video is owned by me
THANK YOU TO THE LOYAL PATRONS!