Matthew West's 'Modest Is Hottest' Song About Daughters' Clothing Sparks Backlash

Christian musician Matthew West released the song "Modest Is Hottest" on June 18—and in less than a week it has sparked a fierce debate on evangelical purity culture.

The lyrics explore the topic of modest dressing, with West urging his two daughters to cover up more in order to avoid unwanted attention.

West, a singer-songwriter who has released five albums and won an American Music Award in 2013, appears in the music video along with his daughters and wife.

In "Modest Is Hottest," he tells the girls: "The boys are coming round 'cause you're beautiful and it's all your mother's fault."

At one point in the video, the family are all dressed in turtlenecks—which are "what boys really love," he claims.

In the chorus, he sings: "The latest fashion trend is a little more Amish, a little less Kardashian." Other female celebrities are mentioned too. "Lord, make them more like Jesus, and less like Cardi B," West pleads. "No offense to Cardi B, I'm sure she's a really nice girl and Jesus loves her."

Although the video does include hints of satire—with the girls jokingly looking upset while wearing the turtlenecks and West pointing to "Mother Teresa, the Queen of England and any librarian" as acceptable style icons—some of the lyrics have struck a nerve online.

"If I catch you doing dances on the TikTok, in a crop top, so help me God, you'll be grounded 'till the world stops," he sings at one point.

Oklahoma pastor Jeremy Coleman shared a parody of the song on TikTok on Wednesday, voicing his criticisms. In Coleman's version, he sings: "Well if I catch you doing dances on the TikTok, wear what you want, girl just go off."

"Hold your head up so your crown doesn't fall off. You're a queen if you forgot. So just wear what you want. The latest fashion trends, I probably won't get it, but it's not for me to understand."

He added: "If the boys act like pigs, tell 'em gouge out their eyes, cause I've got some shovels and some alibis. So just wear what you want and I'll love you till I die."

Coleman, who has three daughters, told Newsweek his concern with West's song was "the same concern with purity culture as a whole. We are telling our daughters and young women that their body image should be defined by someone else's opinion. Women should feel confident, comfortable and free to dress and express themselves however they want.

"Telling them to dress a certain way to be 'less attractive' is reverse body shaming. We are in essence telling them that they should be uncomfortable with who they are because of what others, namely men, think of their body."

He added: "I understand wanting to protect your children, but why should my girls have to change who they are, be uncomfortable with who they are, because men are unable to appreciate women without sexualizing them? Telling your daughters to dress a certain way to curb their beauty is telling them they are being sexual when in fact they are just being who they are."

The song reflected "a greater cultural issue inside the American evangelical church," according to Coleman. "Women are far too often shamed and blamed for the abhorrent behavior of men. So the idea of 'Modest Is Hottest' is saying that because men can't control their lustful desires, you have to change who you are. It's the same mentality that inevitably produces victim blaming for sexual abuse victims.

"We need men to take responsibility for their eyes, thoughts and actions … not for women to change clothes."

The Oklahoma pastor isn't the only member of the Christian community criticizing the song and speaking out against purity culture.

One commenter on the music video, which has been watched more than 450,000 times on YouTube, wrote: "I think you're hoping people will receive it as satire but the fact that you feel there's an audience for this song just proves to me the Church is way off base and straight up toxic—and I'm a fellow Christian.

"Don't sexualize your daughters and then preach at them as if they're causing it. Preach at the boys and men who feel entitled to sexualize them."

A TikTok user wrote: "I grew up in it [purity culture] too and I still struggle with body image and what I wear in my 30s. Even after therapy and unlearning so much that was ingrained."

West clarified his views on Twitter, explaining that his intention was to encourage his daughters to focus on what's inside rather than outside. "As a dad raising daughters, this song is my ridiculously silly way of reminding them that their appearance doesn't define them. While the world might focus on the outward appearance the Lord looks at the heart. Regardless, they are beautiful inside and out," he wrote.

Newsweek has contacted representatives for Matthew West.

Church crowd singing during worship
Church audience singing during worship. A Christian musician's song about modest dressing has gone viral. Getty Images