Welcome to Target Practice where bad popular songs of the past and present get shot. Elton John. Not much needs to be said about how legendary he is as a music artist, crafting some of the best music of the 70s to even the 90s. I’ve given him a lot of praise on my Best lists where he’s made multiple appearances. For those about to ask, yes, I did watch the Rocketman movie and it was pretty good. There you go. Now while Elton has made a lot of classics, that doesn’t mean he has no duds, which takes us to today’s Target Practice victim, which happens to be one of his number one singles, topping the charts in 1975. This is Island Girl.
I see your teeth flash, Jamaican honey so sweet
Down where Lexington cross 47th Street
So we got ourselves a sex worker in New York City who’s from Jamaica. Because of course, the sex worker is black. Why couldn’t she have any other occupation that wasn’t stereotypical and further reinforce the sexual objectification of black women?
She's a big girl, she's standing six foot three
Turning tricks for the dudes in the big city
Six foot three? What the hell is she doing working the streets when she could be playing for the WNBA? Nah, I take that back. The WNBA wasn’t a thing until 1996 and this song was released in the 70s.
What you wanting with the white man's world
Black boy want you in his island world
He want to take you from the racket boss
He want to save you but the cause is lost
Island girl, island girl, island girl
Tell me what you wanting with the white man's world
And now we have a black guy, who’s also from Jamaica, who wants to save her on some Drake shit. This would be cool if it went somewhere, but it doesn’t as you listen to the rest of the song. And I hope Elton isn’t talking about himself when he talks about “black boy want you in his island world” because he’s a British white guy who’s also gay.
Well, she's black as coal, but she burn like a fire
And she wrap herself around you like a well-worn tire
You know, the phrase “burn like a fire” could mean two different things in this scenario: one, she’s extremely attractive, and two, she has an STD. Considering her occupation, the latter is plausible.
You feel her nail scratch your back just like a rake
Oh, he one more gone, he one more John who make the mistake
Nails scratching your back. Ouch. Who are you with, Catwoman? I would continue on, but there’s no more new lyrics by this point.
This song should have been stranded. It’s easily one of Elton John’s weakest songs, tackling something that’s way out of his depth. This was the 70s and reggae was starting to blow up worldwide, especially in the U.K. with usually white artists co-opting reggae sounds and using Jamaican patois in their music. And nearly every time they did it, it always comes off forced and phony and Elton John is no exception to the rule as the music in Island Girl sounds like the bargain-bin version of the reggae sound. Hell, we don’t even know anything about the titular Island Girl. All that we know is that she’s a sex worker and that’s about it. I’m not asking for a full novel, but the lack of details and further explanation hurts this song a lot. You want a better song about the same subject? Go to Lady Marmalade by LaBelle. It’s miles above this crap. Next Target Practice, …
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