Hard Out Here

Album: Sheezus (2013)
Charted: 9
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Songfacts®:

  • This song is a scathing criticism of the music biz's treatment of women and its objectification problem. "There's a glass ceiling to break, there's money to make, it's time to speed it up," Allen sings. She told The Evening Standard: "I think objectification of women is fine if I feel that there is a sense of ownership from the woman. If it comes from somewhere else and it feels like the woman is being coerced or forced into something then it's gross."
  • This sharp-tongued feminist tirade was Allen's first original self-penned song to be released since her 2009 second album It's Not Me, It's You.
  • Allen satirically uses the non-female-friendly term "bitch" a number of times in the song, maybe in reference to a certain Britney Spears tune.
  • The music video was directed by Christopher Sweeney who has helmed clips for the likes of Lana Del Rey, Will Young, Paloma Faith, Jessie Ware, Foals and Friendly Fires. It opens with Allen pretending to undergo liposuction ahead of her big comeback. After being criticized for letting herself go, the singer defends herself saying "Um, I had two babies" (a reference to the birth of Allen's daughters in 2011 and 2013). The promo goes on to satirize the flesh-flashing music clips seen all over our screens today in particular the one for Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines" as we see the British singer twerking with a group of scantily clad backup dancers and sucking a banana.

    Some people thought she was having a pop at Miley Cyrus but Allen denied this was the case. "The video has nothing to do with Miley Curus and it wasn't a direct response to anything she's done," she said. "That was never intentional. But Robin Thicke was."
  • Sweeney explained to NME that the lyrical content inspired the video. "The lyrics are really blatant so when I sent a pitch in to do it, I wanted to encapsulate the that idea of music industry sexism and poke fun at it," he said. "I didn't mean it to be a statement as much as a bit of fun. I think the music video clichés we make nods to in the video are part of a culture we' re all complicit in. So, our video's not attacking those things as much as addressing them and having a bit of fun with them."

    "That culture is something we're all complicit in – we all sit and watch those videos with twerking and champagne spilling over gyrating naked women and all that on MTV all the time, so to really rally against them would be hypocritical," continued Sweeney. "It's much more effective and much funnier to kinda have a bit of fun with those things instead of making any kind of angry statement against them in the video. It's just a bit of fun."
  • The video provoked a huge response with some people questioning Allen's use of mainly black scantily clad dancers during the twerking scene. The singer responded with a post, in which she addressed some of the issues the clip brought up. She wrote: "If anyone thinks for a second that I requested specific ethnicities for the video, they're wrong... If anyone thinks that after asking the girls to audition, I was going to send any of them away because of the colour of their skin, they're wrong."

    As to why Allen remained remained fully clothed, she explained: "If I could dance like the ladies can, it would have been my arse on your screens; I actually rehearsed for two weeks trying to perfect my twerk, but failed miserably. If I was a little braver, I would have been wearing a bikini too, but I do not and I have chronic cellulite, which nobody wants to see. What I' m trying to say is that me being covered up has nothing to do with me wanting to disassociate myself from the girls, it has more to do with my own insecurities and I just wanted to feel as comfortable as possible on the shoot day."

    Allen concluded: "The message is clear. Whilst I don't want to offend anyone. I do strive to provoke thought and conversation. The video is meant to be a lighthearted satirical video that deals with objectification of women within modern pop culture. It has nothing to do with race, at all."
  • Speaking with The Observer, Allen explained the song was inspired in part by UK tabloids like The Daily Mail, which she blames for perpetuating a spiral of self-destructive behavior. "These lyrics are a message to them, in part," she said. "We keep going back, because they've made us feel so s---that we have to compare ourselves — to say 'Ha ha, she's fat too' — in order to feel better."

    "As well as a message to the Mail though, it's a message to men," Allen added. "Men have started feeling insecure, and historically — my mum told me this — at the same time that women started doing well in the workplace they started being encouraged to feel s--- about the way they looked, because it was the one thing men had control over."
  • Rolling Stone pointed out to Allen that she sings about how content she is on Sheezus' penultimate track, "Life For Me," about how happy she is with life before finishing with "Hard Out Here," where she is seemingly miserable.

    "I like how the record opens with 'Sheezus' and ends with 'Hard Out Here,' Allen replied. "It's annoying being a woman since everyone pits us against each other. Then you go through the whole journey of my life with the album — almost like in a diary — and at the end it's like, 'Mhmm, still hard out here.'"

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