Bea Miller’s song “S.L.U.T.” is a feminist, anti-slut-shaming anthem in the form of an upbeat, bubblegum pop song. Through “S.L.U.T,” Miller attempts to deconstruct and redefine the word “slut,” a term traditionally used to criticize sexuality and shame women. Miller’s vision of a slut as a “sweet, little, unforgettable thing” (or a S.L.U.T), perfectly represented in a pastel-colored music video, replaces the traditional vision of a desperately sexual woman with a sweet new one of an confident and empowered woman that is hard to get upset at.
At 19 years old, Miller has recently released S.L.U.T. as the lead single off of her second full album Aurora. The song itself boasts a funky instrumental that leans on Miller’s strengths, especially her gritty and austere voice. The chorus contrasts the rest of the song with cymbal-like explosions supporting the most notable lyrics “sweet, little, unforgettable thing.” Yet, if one were to hear this song on the radio, it is likely Miller’s clever wordplay would fly over their head. In spite of her attempts to deconstruct the word “slut,” she does not once say the word in the song. Still, it is not difficult to understand her message of empowerment through the rest of the lyrics when she declares that she’s “not sorry, [she’s] just loving [her] body” as she is unapologetic in her clothing choices and love for her curves, or when she sings, “We gotta learn to stick together / Love your color, gender or whatever.” The song’s bridge continues with the chorus’ victorious cymbals as Miller sings, “Shame, shame, shame on me, shame, shame, shame / Shame on me, baby, I ain’t gon’ change,” using the same condescending language of southern charm often employed by conservative individuals to subtly express their disapproval of others. Here, Miller turns the condescension on its head in an incredibly sardonic way so that she has the upper-hand on those who impose their opinions of her choices on her.
While the song itself is catchy and energetic, possibly the most intriguing thing about the song is its upheaval of the word “slut,” forcing listeners to struggle to understand what being a slut really means. Miller self-proclaims herself as a S.L.U.T. in a move of empowerment, yet she does not make a single mention of sex in the song, or even of another person. Other than a couple of lines about her (possibly revealing) clothing choices or “lov[ing her] ass”, the singer does not make reference to any of the characteristics one would normally attribute to the traditional idea of a slut. This creates questions of what traits constitute a slut exactly, and whether being a slut is a negative concept at all when it can make someone feel so confident. And still, one might wonder if there is a divide between a slut and a S.L.U.T., though Miller claims that she had originally wanted the title to simply be “slut,” an idea that was eventually shut down by her label. Inspired to write the song after an instagram hater had called her a slut for wearing a shirt without a bra, Miller thought to herself, “Let’s turn something that’s negative into something positive and reclaim the word so when women are called a slut for absolutely no reason, it doesn’t make them feel bad about themselves.” In the end, listeners are left wondering whether “slut” ever had a definite meaning to begin with.
Although Miller is still early in her career, she does not plan to quiet down her advocacy after the release of “S.L.U.T.” She is also an open advocate for gun control laws and often uses her social media as a means of spreading empowering messages. Having grown up with two mothers, Miller cites her activism as an integral part of her development in the small diverse bubble she grew up in. “Equality just always made sense,” Miller once said in an interview with Teen Vogue. “Once I got out into the world and realized it didn’t make sense to everybody, that’s when I thought, ‘Okay, now I actually need to get out and do something about it.’”