Exclusive: Honey Singh - Sting

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Honey Singh's music effects a shift in Punjabi popular culture from a virile masculinity to a violent one. But it also speaks to any man uncomfortable with the independent, modern woman.

The woman in old Punjabi songs was always pestering her man for one thing or the other— bangles, a velvet handfan, a TV or a bungalow across the river. A trinket as small as a nosepin became a bargain counter between lovers, and a marriage could hang precariously by a cheap amulet. In Honey Singh's songs, you find no such commerce of love even though his woman looks like a walking supermarket and his man drives Audis and Fortuners. What animates the man's violent sexual overture in Honey Singh's universe is the end of this give-and-take, where woman took and man gave. He feels threatened by this independent woman who not only can buy expensive objects on her own but also exercise choice in relationships.

The woman in Honey Singh's songs is portrayed not as much by what she does or says as by the objects she consumes because consumption gives her power over the man. In his songs, Dope Shope, Brown Rang, Lak 28 Kudi Da and High Heels, she uses Bobby Brown make-up, wears Prada and Armani, carries a white iPhone, makes ample use of body butter and drinks vodka without the customary Limca. She lives in a world of brands, if not made up of them. She is clearly a material girl, hardly her elder sister of old songs who would wait for months for her man to buy her a nosepin. She can buy things on her own, rendering the man of Honey Singh's songs powerless.

Old Punjabi singers would make much of the black necklace (kaali gaani) on her fair chest (gori hikk)—a symbol of both commitment and control—which mostly the man himself had gifted her. In the song Lak 28 Kudi Da, Honey Singh's man discovers on her fair chest, of all things, a black Lady Gaga tattoo, most probably a unicorn. Now Lady Gaga is hardly the role model a Punjabi lad, brought up on legends of Heer Ranjha and Sohni Mahiwal, would approve of.

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