“X-Offenders‰Û: Blondie‰’s Musical Bombshell

Shannon Durazo

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On April 19, 1976, post-punk/new wave band Blondie, a group formed by the recycling of several members of the early 70‰’s rock group the Stilletos and the vocals of a local waitress, broke into the mainstream with their leading single “X Offender‰Û. The new-wave foursome was led into the fire and flames of stardom with a non-chalant attitude towards fame, top-tier musicianship, and the cutting societal outlook and knowing glance of “blondie‰” herself, lead vocalist Debby Harry.

An ex-Playboy bunny, lead singer Debby Harry perfected the marriage of airbrushed, blow-up doll glamour and a tough, me-first attitude that every MTV nymphet strives for — the insistent, carnally aggressive chorus to “Call Me” prefigured do-me feminism by a solid decade. Consistently playing the roll of the “airhead with a mic‰Û, Harry‰’s on-stage act was not only a charming gimmick but a revolutionary social commentary. Well aware of the societal stigma towards women in bands in the 70‰’s and 80‰’s, especially within the hyper-masculinity of punk rock culture, instead of countering these stereotypes, Harry satirically adopted them, and without a further analysis of the subtle anti-patriarchal nuances in her lyrics, one could even be fooled into thinking she embraced them.

Debby Harry is without a doubt one of the most captivating and iconic figures in music history, evoking a witty charm and all-knowing eye to the masses enthralled by her presence, a feeling that she milked for all it was worth. But, never one for buying into blasi Hollywood culture, Harry kept her dignity and her authenticity through her cunning lyricism and reluctance towards magazine covers, interviews, and endorsements. But let‰’s get back to the lyricism for a second. In the 1978 bop “Look Good In Blue‰” Harry toys with the masculine fantasy of a subservient female companion with lyrics like “I‰’ll give you head– and shoulders to lie on.‰” Similarly, In smash hit (and cover) “One Way or Another‰” Harry takes on a different female stereotype, this one being the crazed girlfriend wanting to know her man‰’s whereabouts at all times. The lyrics could also be interpreted as the narration of an assailant stalking his female prey in the nighttime, “One way or another, I‰’m gonna get ya‰” as illustrated by a 1979 performance of the song in which the dance floor is occupied by a woman viciously fending off the advances of a predatory male club-goer.

Blondie as a collective did with their music what a lot of artists at that time thought was impossible. That being, maintaining their CBGB street credit as a back-alley new wave group despite the experimental incorporation of disco, r&b, and *gasp* pop into their sound. Part of this seamless blending of genres in Blondie‰’s music is what made the collective so captivating, and also so influential on other acts. The sweet and sour harmonies of critical darlings Sleater Kinney and Hole follow straight from songs like “X Offender and “In the Flesh‰Û. Many credit the Beastie Boys for first merging funk, soul, hip-hop, and dance music into a singular genre, but really it was Blondie‰’s iconic record “Parallel Lines‰” that did so in 1979, notably in a time where underground music was at the height of its “disco sucks‰” era. This remarkable genre diplomacy was made possible by the band’s sophisticated use of parody, and winking exaggeration (like the bitingly blasi lyrics to 1978 hit “Heart of Glass‰Û). The band never felt limited by the confines of a music label, wanting to test the terrain of as many as possible, and heck, they are still making music today. (I wouldn‰’t recommend giving a listen to their music from the 2000‰’s onward, but the persistence is admirable) But, it all started with the 1976 release of “X Offender‰” and with it the assertive knowledge that Blondie would become one of the biggest bombshells in music history.

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