I am surprised that there is so much hate for Keri Hilson among the group of people who still remember her. During the early 2010’s, the R&B singer had a handful of top 40 hits, two successful albums, and even managed to make a contribution to popular culture with the opening lines to her top 20 hit “Pretty Girl Rock:” “My name is Keri, I’m so very.” In an age where singers and rappers particularly flub rhymes, the creativity of the rhymes in the song were quite admirable in my own perspective. To be honest, I’m more than a little surprised as to why she has drawn so much scorn. Given the way that the song itself attempts to provide a space where women can appreciate the beauty of other women instead of responding in jealousy and insecurity, this hostility is all the more notable and remarkable. I would like to comment on this half-forgotten song as well as its context.
Let us first note that there is at least a bit of arrogance and swagger when it comes to the lyrics of the song. When the author says that there is no question that she is a 10, I would argue that she is about an 8 or so–certainly an attractive woman by my own tastes, but not by everyone’s tastes. Likewise, Keri is pretty daring in telling those women who are jealous of her to ask their men what they think of her, expecting them to be honest about it even at the expense of some relationship drama. Yet when I look at this song and its treatment of a difficult subject, I am not offended by Keri or her approach. I must admit, candidly, that this song deals with a problem that I do not have personal experience in that I have never considered myself nor been widely considered as a particularly handsome man. At best I would consider myself of average attractiveness, the sort of person who would not break any mirrors and only occasionally scare small children and whose charm, if any, would be thanks to my wit and intellect and winsome personality. Be that as it may, I can certainly understand from an intellectual perspective the author and her struggle to deal with the repercussions of attractiveness .
Keri’s reply to being thought of by others and thinking of herself as particularly attractive is a bit complicated, and it is worthy of some comment. For one, she finds herself gaining a great deal of confidence because she is viewed as sexy by others. This is pretty normal and to be expected, although it is an unstable source of personal confidence. Additionally, and this is something the music video makes plain, she views her own beauty within a long tradition of attractive African-American women like Josephine Baker, Dorothy Dandridge, Diana Ross, Donna Summer , Janet Jackson , and T-Boz from TLC. The song is not some sort of massive ego trip, in other words, but is rather a statement of her own beauty in the context of a larger body of creatively significant as well as physically attractive women. I don’t think that Keri’s own creativity and artistic talent quite reaches up to the level of the ladies she chooses to emulate, but her cute and spirited dressing up as these artists demonstrates her artistic ambitions, and that is something I can respect even if I do not think she has achieved her ambitions. At the end, moreover, Keri shows herself to be less haughty and more demure, adding to the generally appealing nature of the video as a whole, which definitely improves my perspective on the song. Along with this, though, Keri sets some boundaries about how her beauty is to be appreciated. She relishes the visual attention, but states that she will respond with considerable ferocity to those who look with their hands and not with their eyes, something it is good to warn others about.
This particular song, “Pretty Girl Rock,” appeared on Keri’s sophomore album “No Boys Allowed,” and that likely led to a considerable amount of hate. To date, this is her most recent album. Since 2011 she has been working on her third album and it has not been released yet. Keri Hilson may be a lovely woman, but like many artists she has struggled to find sustained success and for her music to be released in a timely fashion. Although this song is not the sort of number that is likely to be long remembered, it does represent a humorous attempt to deal with the way that women often divide against themselves, viewing themselves in competition for male attention. This is a dynamic I see often played out, for although I have seldom considered myself to be the most interesting person in the world, I have seen many cases among young ladies around me where people have been in competition over me, and that is something that has long made me feel somewhat uncomfortable. I have generally found a great many people to be worthy of my attention, and as I have a limited amount of it to give, being a rather scatterbrained person at times who is frequently lost in my own private world, I do not wish to cause others unhappiness because they want more of something than I have to give. Perhaps this song makes a fitting epitaph for Keri’s career as a whole, until she comes up with new songs that can hopefully show some artistic development and maturity on her part.
 See, for example: