Leah LaBelle's "SEXIFY": Not All That Sexified

By Lauren White

Oh Tumblr, you are a great time-waster, but also one of the main means I use to keep up with U.S. pop culture. I was scrolling through my dashboard and was met with this gif set. There was a young woman grooving along and singing to what I would soon find out was the bridge. A look at the tags revealed that her name was Leah LaBelle, the song she was singing was “Sexify”, and either the Neptunes or Pharell had a hand in producing the song. Of course, my curiosity was piqued and it lead to a quick visit to our favorite video sharing site to learn more about Miss LaBelle and her debut single “Sexify”, let's listen....

The instrumental is comforting in a way. It is looks to the recognizable beats of nineties’ R&B with the catchy melodies that characterize both Jermaine Dupri and Pharell Williams produced tracks. Leah’s slightly raspy voice fits perfectly with the instrumental and pours like honey over the track to keep it grooving and smooth.
"As a tip, I'll let you produce for me."

The biggest down fall of this song lies in the lyrics. It is clear that Pharell Williams wrote this song.  There is not a consistent point of view throughout the song as it switches between Leah giving advice to one of her girlfriends (It’s all in your tone girl) to first person (I’ll sexify you). For the entire song, it continues this perplexing flip-flop and leaves the listener wondering who is doing the seduction. On top of this, the song is chock full of nonsensical lyrics that will have you wondering “What is this? I don’t even…”

The bridge of “Sexify” is the most obvious offender of this with lines like “I just want some hanky-panky/Sexy vs. skanky”. After a bit searching, it was revealed that the song was used as a marketing tool for Cosmopolitan magazine which has a ridiculous “Sexy vs. Skanky” behavior section. It would have been a more effective ploy if the phrase had made sense in the context of the song and not sloppily done. Another puzzling line is “Instincts to master/Thank me, thank me”.  The closest idea of what “instincts to master” would even mean, was a seemingly obscure psychoanalytical theory involving the ego. Considering the rest of the song’s subject matter, I have a feeling that the lyrics may not be alluding to that.

Bad. Ass. Multi. Tasker.
The video itself is as makes as much sense as the song. It begins with Leah LaBelle walking into her house after a long day of work. She then checks her voicemail and listens to her friend vent about her relationship problems as she walks away from the phone. The performance shots of her singing starts as she is shown on her bed talking to the friend, complete with shots from different sitting positions. Suddenly, she is in a bubble-filled bathtub while she talks on the constantly changing phone. This is intercut with her sitting in her huge closet and painting her toenails, like every normal girl does on a Saturday night. Soon after, Jermaine Dupri makes the first cameo as the disgruntled landlord that Leah blows off as being too uptight. It switches to her dancing in the closet and the performance shots of her singing in her work clothes that were shown in the beginning of the video. As she grabs a shirt and holds it up to herself, we are treated to a random choice of shoes, cupcakes, and mugs as they rapidly change positions.

Look'a all'a my shoes, BITCH!
It has nothing to do with the video and seems like someone was just excited to try out a new editing trick. At this point, cameo number two occurs in the form of Pharell Williams as the pizza boy. It was cute that they paused the music and played his most well-known solo song “Frontin’” while he was at the door. After the pizza and money exchange, she goes back to her closet to continue to figure out a suitable outfit and dance around. There is a quick flashback to the previous performance shots before we see a woman’s hand knock on the door and reveal a trio of young women.

"Mushroom Tea... Sounds exotic. What's in it?"
Now the huge WTF moment occurs as she sits down with her girlfriends to a girls’ night in of pizza and the not-so-subtle product placement of Pharell’s liqueur “Qream”. A song about seducing one’s significant other somehow is translated into fun girly time by the director with plenty of loose ends. Aside from meaningless editing tricks, what was the point of her trying on different clothes if she was just going to stay in her lounge wear and bear paw slippers? There is also the question of why she talking to her friend on the phone about her problems if the friend was coming over to see her anyways. These little plot holes add to the fact that this video was poorly thought out, similar to the way lyrics of the song were.
"Too many hot friends voids the lease! I'll have to take one."

“Sexify” frustrates me on a few levels. It is clear that Leah LaBelle has talent and connected with gifted producers. However, poor lyric writing and a mismatched video limits what she could do as an artist. “Sexify” is a good song to dance along to as long as you do not pay close attention to the lyrics.

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