“LMFAO’s album is called Sorry For Party Rocking,” we wrote in our close reading of LMFAO’s “Party Rock Anthem,” back when it topped the charts back in July of 2011. “Most of the people who made “Party Rock Anthem” the No. 1 song in the country will never hear another song from the album.” It seemed like a safe bet at the time—much as it seemed like a safe bet a few months earlier than LMFAO would never have a #1 hit in the first place. But LMFAO have continued to thwart the low expectations we’ve thrust on them—which they would no doubt attribute to their embracing of The Secret and the power of positive thinking—and now it’s pretty certain that most of those “Party Rock Anthem” fans have indeed heard a second song off Sorry for Party Rocking. That song would be “Sexy and I Know It,” now the group’s improbable second chart-topper.
The thing about LMFAO, as it has been since they first broke out with “I’m in Miami Bitch” back in 2009, is that you could never quite tell how in on their own joke they were. Around the same time as “Miami,” Das Racist released the equally gonzo, equally mind-numbing internet smash “Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell,” but they quickly revealed themselves as smart-alecky Brooklynites who were always in complete control of how stoopid they were being. With LMFAO, the level of self-awareness remained far less clear—through “Shots” and “Party Rock Anthem,” the IQ level was kept similarly low, with little if any winking to let us know they understood how ridiculous they were coming off.
And perhaps that’s why they were able to become as popular and ubiquitous as they did. Overt self-awareness is rarely more than a step removed from condescension, and the fact that LMFAO seemed totally devoid of irony allowed people to enjoy their music in a similarly loud, obnoxious manner—braying along to Lil Jon’s “ERRRYBODY!!” call on “Shots,” attempting their best shuffle moves to “Party Rock Anthem“—without feeling in any way self-conscious about it. Which is what makes “Sexy and I Know It” such an interesting, and potentially risky, addition to LMFAO’s catalog of hits: It might be the first obviously satirical song the duo have ever done.
At this point in the game, for LMFAO to release a song that feels like a lifestyle parody (in the case of “Sexy and I Know It,” the Jersey Shore-like gym rat in love with his own physical fitness and general hotness) could have very easily put them in danger of seeming smug for the first time in their career, and alienating the many pop fans who appreciated the opportunity to turn off their brain and surrender to the big hooks and singalong choruses of their earlier hits. But just because the song is mildly satirical doesn’t mean it’s mean-spirited or patronizing—in fact, despite the fact that LMFAO are clearly not the type of people they’re singing about in the song, they still manage to seem like the people they’re really making fun of in the song are themselves, and their self-delusional mirror fantasies.
The song that provides “Sexy and I Know It” with its most clear precedent is a song that topped the US charts almost exactly 20 years earlier—Right Said Fred’s “I’m Too Sexy.” Like “Sexy and I Know It,” the Right Said Fred hit was a song where the narrator (in this case, a fashion model as opposed to a GTL enthusiast) repeatedly proclaimed their excessive sexiness, and like “Know It,” it got so excessive as it went on that it eventually revealed itself as being blithely satirical, something the group themselves confirmed in countless interviews about the song. But they were dedicated enough to the song, and seemed foreign and mysterious enough—not to mention that with their impressively ripped physiques, they almost looked the part—that it gave the listener plausible deniability if they wanted to just interpret the song as being straight-faced. (And indeed, the song’s oft-repeated “I’m too sexy for my ___” sentiment quickly became a national catchphrase, used both ironically and unironically.)
LMFAO, on the other hand, do not almost look the part. When RedFoo walks down the street, ladies do not “be looking like damn he fly,” as he claims in the song’s opening lyrics. Indeed, the song’s entire music video seems engineered to make this point as abundantly clear as possible, as it willingly contrasts lots of shots of legitimately buff shirtless dudes with copious amounts of Red and his similarly physically unimpressive bandmate SkyBlue three-quarters-naked in speedos, thrusting their genitals in every direction with cartoonish glee. (Thus proving their chorus boast of “I got passion in my pants / and I ain’t afraid to show it.”) Later claims of being “at the beach / I’m a Speedo trying to tan my cheeks”—echoes of Right Said Fred shaking their “little tush” on the catwalk—come off as similarly uggh, making you wonder if the group have some sort of endorsement deal with the swimsuit brand, and if so, why the hell they thought LMFAO would be good representatives.
They do let us know early on, however, that they recognize the delusional aspect of their claims, RedFoo bragging about his “big-ass afro” and “animal print pants out of control”—the latter which it’s hard to believe even the most clueless narcissist could believe to be legitimately sexy. By the time you get to the repeated “Girl look at that body / I work out!” claims, it’s pretty clear that LMFAO are just making fun of themselves and their own shabby physiques. However, they continue to commit so whole-heartedly to the delusion of being enamored with their own sexiness that it gradually becomes almost of an anthem of self-empowerment, and the central chorus lyric that the song spends an inordinately long time building up to—”I’m sexy and I know it”—feels like an “I’m Every Woman” or “I Will Survive”-type proclamation of strength and power.
And ultimately, that’s what keeps “Sexy and I Know It” from coming off as snide or cutting. You could read it as a straight satire of the real-life Bobby Bottleservices of the world if you want to, but you could also just as easily (and perhaps more accurately) read it as yet another example of LMFAO’s belief in The Secret and general positive affirmation, in which if you think positive thoughts for long enough, they have a greater chance of coming true. So maybe “Sexy and I Know It” is just LMFAO projecting thoughts and vibes of sexiness in the hopes of it becoming a reality—and letting their fans do the same thing by listening and shouting along.
They even help them along in the process at song’s end, allowing listeners to get down with their bad selves with one forceful and oft-repeated command: “WiggleWiggleWiggleWiggleWiggle!” It’s a selectively chosen phrase—not only is it anatomically gender neutral, but it also serves as both a narration of their own actions and an instruction to all those listening, with whatever parts they choose. It’s a sexually suggestive command—generally, the only body parts with wiggling capabilities are ones that need be covered by a bathing suit on most public beaches—but it’s also a quintessentially silly (and silly-sounding) one, again poking fun at themselves even as they keep an entirely straight face through the process.
Ultimately, though we leave “Sexy and I Know It” with a little more of an idea about how self-aware LMFAO are about their cartoonish image and persona, it doesn’t come at the expense of their populist appeal or their ability to turn their listeners into gratefully oblivious nutters. And while we find the idea of their coming up with a third #1 just as unlikely as we did with each of their first two, it’s getting to be like the Denver Broncos’ similarly belief-driven quarterback Tim Tebow and his string of unlikely successes—after the millionth straight fourth-quarter comeback, how can you possibly keep betting against him? Occasionally faith trumps all, and LMFAO have the power of positive thinking—and the sexiness that comes with it—on their side.