I am ashamed of many things in this life. So many things, in fact, that naming them all would easily consume every moment I have left in this cursed existence and then some. So I will spare you that horrorshow and just share the latest entry in my endless catalogue of self-mortification: I am ashamed to admit that I just learned about a fantastic music blog that has been existing right under my massive nose for years.
It is the wonderfully named Bad Gardening Advice, a site that magnificently and majestically fails to embody any of the words in that handle. While it bills itself as “Winnipeg’s fourth-best local music review site,” BGA is easily one of the more colourful and creative blogs I’ve read, thanks solely to its fascinating creator: An idiosyncratic obsessive who calls himself Steve Schmolaris. On the one hand, he pays far more attention to Winnipeg and Manitoba music than anyone should consider healthy. On the other, he’s a truly gifted writer — funny and weird and brilliant and sharp and just ridiculously talented. He’s so good you’ll say, ‘Hey, this guy should put out a book.’ So he did.
At least half unsurprisingly, Schmolaris’s book is called Bad Gardening Advice: Winnipeg Music Reviews From Artist Redacted To Zrada. You can order it on Amazon, McNally Robinson or FriesenPress, which you should most certainly do. Inside you will find a collection of some of the finest, funniest and freakiest entries from his website — surreal mock interviews, entertaining essays, and album reviews disguised as love letters, recipes, eulogies for old cars and much more. Nearly every one of them manages to be piercingly insightful, meanderingly bizarre and deeply philosophical at the same time.
Of course, that kind of crazy genius only gets you so far these days. So, in a sadly misguided attempt to ‘shift some units,’ as the kids say, Schmolaris kindly but foolishly agreed to let me post an excerpt from his compendium. I’d try to explain what it’s about, but why spoil the fun? All I’ll say is that it’s like no album review you’ve ever read before. Or will ever read again, I reckon. If you want to read more from and/or about Schmolaris — including his supposedly wealthy upbringing, his life in “East Schmelkirk,” his supposed band The Body of P*****g, and his lifelong labour of love, the annual Schmolaris Prize (which, coincidentally, was just handed out this very week) — head over to his website. For now, buckle up and get ready to head down a Ricki Lake-sized rabbit hole. No shame in that:
Pip Skid & Rob Crooks | It’s OK
Listening to Pip Skid & Rob Crooks’ quarantine album It’s OK – a wonderfully crafted condemnation of society, poignantly reminding us that human relationships require kindness, forgiving and growing, openness and understanding, and, above all, patience – I was struck by a particular line in Wash Your Back Alone: “Here sneaky snake / freaky flake / We need to ask you questions like Ricki Lake / Why the fuck are all the cops at the pipelines?”, referring, of course, to Ricki Lake, the poor man’s Jenny Jones of ’90s daytime television talk show hosts. Why such persistence? I wondered. What is it about Ricki and her Lake? Before you read what follows, I should warn you: The history of reference to Ricki Lake in pop music is not for everyone. But what the hell; we all have the time now, don’t we?
I should first say that this is by no means an exhaustive list – there will, without a doubt, be songs I have not included; but I believe this list provides a large enough sample of the available literature that my conclusions would not change were this list a complete collection of all songs ever recorded that make mention of Ricki Lake. Currently, we are, in a sense, in a Ricki Lake renaissance. Never before has pop music enjoyed such a bounty of references to Ricki Lake. And there is great variety in these references, which I will attempt to capture. Someone once said that you shall know them by their fruits; so what fruits has Ricki Lake born us?
1) Ricki Lake is fat.
The “Ricki Lake is fat” reference, perhaps having its moment in the spotlight, represented never more clearly than with Netta’s Ricki Lake, in which Netta fills the tub and then adds donuts, has many examples: DJ E Feezy & Lil Wayne’s 2015 What You Sayin’ says “I’ma lose the weight in a drought / Ricki Lake.” Young Thug TI’s 2016 Bobby Womack straightens the record on his lover’s thickness: “My lil bitch pretty / No Ricki Lake.” However, on 2016’s Can’t Go Out Sad, Migos takes the opposite stance: his girl is “Ricki Lake [i.e.: fat] / wrapped up / came from Kuwait.” Smino, echoing Young Thug TI, says on 2018’s WE GOT THE BISCUITS: “I got the dough, she got the cake / Let’s talk the show, no Ricki Lake”, meaning that not only is she not fat but his money has made her even tastier. But no one has ever been blunter than Das EFX, who, on 1995’s Here We Go, presaged the “Ricki Lake is fat” category when he said: “I’m fat like Ricki Lake.” In homage to Das EFX, Megan Thee Stallion’s 2019 Money Good uses similar language: “I can’t gossip when there’s no money to be made / I’m tryna get my pockets 99, Ricki Lake.”
2) Ricki Lake wants my money.
This is another category contributing to the recent resurgence in Ricki Lake references in pop music. Like Ice Cube’s 2008 Get Used To It (“And they need that story told on Ricki Lake”); presuming, of course, that this story is told in order to have some kind of financial leverage – perhaps something similar to Big Sean’s 2015 Stay Down (“Hoes tryna have my baby to Ricki Lake that shit”). And now that I’m looking at it, I think Young Thug’s 2016 Fuck Cancer should be in the previous category (“I don’t fuck with broke niggas, nah we can’t relate / I put water on that white bitch, I call her Ricki Lake”). This is the get-rich-quick scheme as described by 2000’s Black-Eyed Peas song Get Original: “You didn’t pay your dues so you’re on Ricki Lake” or M-Child’s 2000 song I Want: “I’m living straight, keep shit to myself / Fuck trying to tell Ricki Lake.” Girl Band, perhaps the most experimental song to reference Ricki Lake – and sounding like a perpetually-beginning Pixies song with a Tanya Tagaq aggressiveness – yells on Shoulderblades about a rat bastard named Blue: “It’s too late for Ricki Lake“, that whatever Blue was going to do – it’s difficult to tell here – it was something only a two-faced sleazebag would do. Which brings me to the third category.
3) Ricki Lake is pathetic.
How pathetic? As Tanya Stephens says on 2004’s Little White Lie: “Maybe one day you’ll end up crying on Ricki Lake.” Or, in a reference to Ricki Lake’s single season of The New Ricki Lake Show, Lil Uzi Vert says in 2016’s Team Rocket (by then the show was off air for nearly three years): “Cancel her like Ricki Lake.” The predominate music genre referencing Ricki Lake is undoubtedly hip hop music – and so here Pip Skid & Rob Crooks are in good company – and I think The Offspring recognized this when they say on 1998’s Pretty Fly For a White Guy: “You know you can always go on Ricki Lake.” Ricki Lake is the bottom of the barrel; or as Pras says on 1998’s Get Your Groove: “We play the Grammys / You play Ricki Lake.”
4) Ricki Lake is garbage.
This may be the most constant category of Ricki Lake references, continuing pretty much unabated since Ricki Lake first entered pop music lyrics. From Flipp’s 1997 I Don’t Care (“I don’t care to see a fight / I don’t care if I watch it on Ricki Lake”) to 2 Chainz’s 2016 Not Invited (“Thousand dollar shoes on your sofa / My other trap nigga watchin’ Oprah / My other trap nigga watchin’ Ricki Lake”), The Ricki Lake Show is portrayed as mindless television. Company Flow’s 1997 Bad Touch Example – in addition to having the line “I’ve dropped so much shit, my anus needs an ice pack” – says he’s “practicing perfection like Ricki Lake exposes white trash.” It’s interesting to see that Promoe’s post-911 Prime Time, in which a homeless white guy with dreads raps about America’s injustices over samples of Noam Chomsky, says: “I’ma break the chains and litigate Bill Gates and Ricki Lake types / [those] intruders of private life.” Rather than exposing white trash, Promoe sees Ricki Lake as exploitative. Similarly, Sawyer Brown’s 1999 It All Comes Down to Love, a country song faithfully covered in 2004 by Wynonna Judd, describes the Ed Mordake-like parade The Ricki Lake Show often took, saying: “Ricki Lake’s got a drag-queen bank teller.” Ricki Lake was well-represented in late-’90s music (see Figure 1, below); so much so that even Rancid jumped on the Ricki Lake bandwagon on 1998’s Who Would’ve Thought with a reference that quite accurately describes today’s quarantine blues: “So I’m fucked up and watching TV all day / I don’t want to see what Ricki Lake got to say”. The new millennium brought new players to Ricki Lake. Like English “bad boy” Robbie Williams, who rather introspectively says on 2003’s Strong – covered a year later by Tracy Lawrence – “Is this real or is this fake? Oprah Winfrey and Ricki Lake taught me things I didn’t need to know”. [Surprisingly, Robbie Williams has a Greatest Hits album.] It also brought other equally forgettable songs like MC Lars’ 2004 UK Visa (sic) Versa and Sugababes’ 2006 Hole in the Head.
5) Ricki Lake is a wet vagina.
It may or may not come as a surprise, but the earliest references to Ricki Lake are those depicting her in a sexually explicit nature. Redman’s 1994 Sooperman Luva II was likely the first song to reference Ricki Lake: “Just fix me with a quickie / I swear more Lakes than Ricki / So bad I use my X-Ray vision to give y’all clits a hickie.” There’s King Just’s 1995 Boom Bow!, which talks about using drugs to lure young girls for sex: “Pass the meth so I can get bait / I’m hitting June by the river, Ricki by the Lake.” And Chino XL’s 1996 No Complex, where he sings: “[I] dive in Ricki’s Lake, plus I rush like Limbaugh.” It’s interesting to note that while most of Chino XL’s references do not stand the test of time – such as “Catch a bullet in the back like Phillip Parcell” or “I’m on a different plane like Herve Villachez” – it is the Ricki Lake reference that continues to be to used to this day. But for 17 years, references to Ricki Lake as a wet vagina in pop music was, rightly, non-existent. Nicki Minaj changed that in Meek Mill’s 2013 Dope Dealer, where she raps that she’s “Wetter than a Lake, that’s Ricki.”
6) Ricki Lake is old.
But that wasn’t the first time Nicki Minaj used Ricki Lake in one of her verses. In 2011, featured on Britney Spears’ Till the World Ends, she rhetorically asks: “Need a break? You was hot when? Ricki Lake?” Given that this was before Ricki Lake’s 2012 failed comeback, it’s understandable why Nicki Minaj is the only example of this category. However, I believe that it was this song that sparked a new creative resurgence when referring to Ricki Lake in pop music.
7) Ricki Lake is a show.
Finally, there are those songs that seem only to reference Ricki Lake in a matter-of-fact kind of way. For instance, Wally Pleasant’s 1996 Phil Ochs-indebted song The Day Ted Nugent Killed All the Animals (“And Bob Barker died / And Ricki Lake tried to save him”); or Souls’ 1997 The Girl on My Couch (“Though I hate her, I have to confess I am envious [of her] / She loves to cry to Ricki Lake”); or Cru’s 1997 Fresh, Wild and Bold (“I’m a clique kid wherever I go / Make appearances on Ricki Lake and Allado”); or Kid Capri’s 1998 One on One (“As soon as you step on stage I’ma destroy you with the truth / Life’s The Ricki Lake Show, don’t come out the soundproof booth”).
So who is Ricki Lake?
In pop music, Ricki Lake is a fat, pathetic, old slut who exploits people for money with her trashy show. And I see no end to this rather insulting, misogynistic depiction of her (enhanced by the fact that, at least in this analysis, men outnumber women by nearly 4:1 – see Figure 2, below). On Jan. 1, 2020, Ricki Lake revealed that she suffers from hair loss, so I think we can expect to see a new category shortly – if it hasn’t already be created: Ricki Lake is bald.
But I think the persistence of Ricki Lake references in pop music is equally due, not only to its rhyming malleability – what doesn’t rhyme with Lake or Ricki – but also to its iambic nature. Rih-Kee Lake. Lake – STOP – Rih-Kee. There is also the double “K” sound, and, delivered as a punchline, gives it an added comedic effect. Rather than its cultural relevance, Ricki Lake persists because it is simply fun to say; something that one could not say about someone like Hubert Wolfstern, whose real name is Adolph Blaine Charles David Earl Frederick Gerald Hubert Irvin John Kenneth Lloyd Martin Nero Oliver Paul Quincy Randolph Sherman Thomas Uncas Victor William Xerxes Yancy Zeus Wolfeschlegelsteinhausenbergerdorffwelchevoralternwarengewissenhaftschaferswessenschafewarenwohlgepflegeundsorgfaltigkeitbeschutzenvorangreifendurchihrraubgierigfeindewelchevoralternzwolfhunderttausendjahresvorandieerscheinenvonderersteerdemenschderraumschiffgenachtmittungsteinundsiebeniridiumelektrischmotorsgebrauchlichtalsseinursprungvonkraftgestartseinlangefahrthinzwischensternartigraumaufdersuchennachbarschaftdersternwelchegehabtbewohnbarplanetenkreisedrehensichundwohinderneuerassevonverstandigmenschlichkeitkonntefortpflanzenundsicherfreuenanlebenslanglichfreudeundruhemitnichteinfurchtvorangreifenvorandererintelligentgeschopfsvonhinzwischensternartigraum Sr.
By referencing Ricki Lake, Pip Skid & Rob Crooks have tapped into a long tradition in pop music – and in hip hop specifically – in what has become a kind of playful game: How can you cleverly include the fun-sounding words “Ricki Lake” into your song? To this end, Pip Skid & Rob Crooks fall into the “Ricki Lake is a show” category, avoiding its derogatory origins by focusing on the factual: Ricki Lake is a show where the host asks people questions; something equally applicable to Jenny Jones or Oprah Winfrey or Dr. Phil or Maury Povich or Jerry Springer or Regis Philbin or Montel Williams, &c. &c. None of which are as fun to say or hear.
I predict that references to Ricki Lake in pop music will continue for some time. Unlike COVID-19, it is one curve that we’ll not soon see flattened.
In no particular order, the following is a list of songs that make reference to Ricki Lake: