[Hype Hype Hooray] The True Meaning Behind Chastity Belt’s “Nip Slip”

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Hype Hype Hooray is a biweekly “critique” of the music scene and the blogosphere that feeds it, told through the lens of Jamie Hale, a journalist who likes music about as much as he likes scotch and a firm leather chair. Please enjoy with a grain of salt.

“I’m sooo drunk,” croons Chastity Belt’s Julia Shapiro. “I just want some chips and dip. Chips and dip. Nip Slip. Nip slip.”

Nip slip. Nip slip. That two word phrase has been a source of ire for censors, a point of humiliation (or pride) for female celebrities, and a preferred search term for mad masturbatorial youths everywhere. Earlier this year the phrase reached new heights when Seattle band Chastity Belt recorded “Nip Slip,” a two-minute ode to the public reveal of a nipple.

But while the song on its surface appears to be nothing but a lark by a group of mischievous young musicians, “Nip Slip” is in reality a brilliant bit of sociopolitical commentary. What message does the seemingly innocuous song have to say? And what implications does this have for the fragile fabric of Western society?

It all starts in Walla Walla, Washington. The four women that make up Chastity Belt met at Whitman College in Walla Walla. None of the four friends knew their instruments when they started the band, and few expected much great to come of their union. Because music was their way of life, the girls kept the band breathing and growing, eventually travelling beyond the city limits of Walla Walla, all the way to Seattle.

There Chastity Belt recorded their debut full-length record, “No Regerts,” released this past August on Help Yourself records. In that recording session, produced by José Díaz Rohena, the group dug deep within their souls and recorded a timeless tune about taking out a teat.

“I’m so drunk,” begins the song. The altered state of mind washes over us from the start, leaving us to float numbly in a thick haze. As we stumble presumably through some sweaty party, we are filled with desire: a desire for chips.

Chips are our nation’s greatest guilty pleasure. Almost always falsely advertised as a healthy food option (“low fat!” “never fried!”), chips are the everyman’s escape from the tedium of a healthy lifestyle. It’s ok to eat your fill on chips, because while they’re not really good for you, they’re certainly not that bad for you either. Chips are our rock. They are the unanimous snack of the people.

But the chips in question aren’t riding solo. Curiously, and likely for purposes of metre and rhyme, Shapiro pairs her chips with an unspecified “dip.” Certainly that dip will escalate our pseudo-healthy guilty pleasure into an all-out-fat-fueled-freak-out, but the word itself has other meanings. Known generally in either the noun form as a flavored sauce or mixture in which to dunk food, or the verb form meaning to submerge something momentarily beneath the surface of a liquid, “dip” always comes along with the notion of temporarily breaking some viscous plane, coming back coated or in some way otherwise affected.

In “Nip Slip,” it seems, Shapiro is dipping our minds into a bold reality from which we will not emerge the same.

Taking a step back we now see the bigger picture: We’re all drunk on the overwhelming, multi-faceted nature of Western society, keeping up with news, media, social lives, jobs, personal health, families, etc. Our only solace is to return to the warm simplicity of our most primal desire: chips and dip. By submerging ourselves in this dip, we emerge with a layer of protection against the stresses of daily life. WE are the chips and the dip is our fatty coat of armor.

But just as we feel safe and comfortable in the world, a shocking event tears us from reality: A nip slip occurs.

The nip slip is the Achilles heel of our society. We are powerless in its presence. A warring army need only employ a nip slip to bring our society to its knees. With a grin and a chuckle we crumble. That great power has never been so elegantly illustrated as it is here, in Chastity Belt’s minimalist ode to the accidental unveiling of the mammary papilla.

Shapiro whispers “nip slip,” as if her energy is sapped. “Nip slip,” she repeats, powerless but to stare at the unfolding catastrophe. “I can see your nip.” Chip in hand, dip dribbling to the shag carpet below, Shapiro, here standing in for all of society, is mesmerized by this once-in-a-lifetime occurrence. She doesn’t know whether to be shocked, amazed or filled with glee. All she can do is stare.

Post-incident, most of our society’s nip slips undergo great public scrutiny (we STILL talk about the Great Janet Jackson Nip Slip of 2004). Tabloids are delighted, conservative groups are outraged, lawsuits are filed, there are riots in the streets. In all our overreaction we forget the victims of the nip slip. While there are certainly those who revel in the reveal, most slips are accidental, and typically humiliating for the owner of the nipple. These are not silly circumstances; a nip slip has real emotional consequences.

In the song, after Shapiro’s very natural and understandable hypnotic fixation on the nip slip, we hear something interesting. She gives us no further narration. Instead we hear only the crunching of chips. The simple rustle and crunch of chips in the mouth is the healing salve for the embarrassment of the night. Rather than obsess over the event, our narrator seems to shrug, returning her attention to the snack she was seeking all along.

But listen closely to that sound: You hear only the crunch of chips. Shapiro no longer needs that protective armor of dip. By viewing that moment not as a spectacle but as a simple way of life, she has lovingly embraced humanity. “It’s ok, girl,” she seems to say. “Everybody slips a nip every now and then.” With renewed confidence, Shapiro, and society at large, can now face the world head on.

Coming from a patriarchal society, in which women are often expected to be chaste, it’s easy to overreact to a nip slip. For decades our society has obsessed over these casual reveals, our fascination piling emotional damage upon victims and unnecessary caution upon women everywhere. What Chastity Belt is telling us is that it’s ok. It’s ok to slip a nip sometimes and it’s even ok to look. But once we’ve seen the nipple, we can all shrug our shoulders and return to our chips. Our chips and dip. Nip slip. Nip slip.