Musicology

I have a confession to make #unpopularopinions.

I don’t like Drake.

No, not even a little bit.

I recognise that his songs are catchy and I’m sure he’s a perfectly nice person but I have a real issue with his music. Not the genre, his music specifically. See, from the moment he came onto the scene, people have been saying that he’s this sensitive man, lyrics waxing poetically about the love he’s lost, gained or willing to keep. We’ve all seen the memes. Hold on babe, he’s coming home. All these video games and you still play him. Blahblahblah.

Well I’m not here for it. I think his lyrics are just as problematic as everyone else “in the game”, just taken from a different angle. What the hell do you mean “If you had a twin I would still choose you”, AUBREY??? How is that a compliment??? If you’re dating someone you can’t just be like “Oh I wouldn’t date your sibling even if they looked just like you”, that should be self-evident. You shouldn’t need to comfort your girl with the assurance that you wouldn’t leave her for her sister. Thanks Aubrey, you’ve RUINED Work for me. How am I supposed to booty pop continuously to that song if you’ve ruined it with that dumb line? UGH.

But before I go full Drake-rant (started from the bottom? You were on TV!!!!) I should say that this is not meant to be about Drake. Nor is this meant to be about the genre he represents (rap? RnB? Male tears?). This is about something a little bigger than that, namely the recognition of problematic favourites in music that spans across genres.

You see it pretty often. It comes in the forms of memes comparing lyrics and proclaiming one genre to be superior to the other. You’ll see thinkpieces about the vapidity of a select genre, the misogyny of another, the violence in the lyrics and the inferiority of those that choose to sing this genre when compared to singers in another genre. And if you’re like me and you have friends with varying tastes you’ve probably had to sit through conversations where your faves have been dismissed because of a perceived inferiority based on a stereotype. Usually this comes in the form of someone ranting to me about rap being inferior to rock, and as a fan of both I used to argue, though I can’t be bothered to anymore. But now I think I probably should start bothering again.

Let’s look at Work, seeing as I mentioned it before. Underneath the admittedly ambiguous creole slang (probably the whole Jamaican-patois-with-a-Bajan-accent thing?), Rihanna is singing about wanting to be in a relationship that requires work work work work work work. She’s with a man who said all these sweet things but in the end only wants sex. She wants something more worthwhile so she leaves him. She sings:

I believed all of your dreams, adoration
You took my heart and my keys and my patience

You took my heart on my sleeve for decoration

You mistaken my love I brought for you for foundation

Which is pretty poignant if you ask me. But I guess if all you’re willing to listen to is work work work and all you’re willing to see is someone shaking their butt to the beat, then yeah sure it’s shallow.

We nah care fi yuh anyhow. Fiyah bun dem

Now, let’s look at alt-J. I love them almost as much as I love Rihanna, but the song Breezeblocks creeps me out. Every time I listen to it (or watch the music video) I have a different interpretation of it, but it ultimately boils down to someone being trapped in a loveless situation, either metaphorically (“please don’t go I love you so”) or literally (“hold her down with soggy clothes and breezeblocks”). Are… are you advocating the murder of an unhappy lover? Could you not just do a Rihanna and either work work work work work at it or leave? Or is the person you’re singing about the Rihanna character (as in, you’re singing about a woman who wants to leave) and your solution is to drown her in the tub? Just because you’re singing gentle indie rock and come from Leeds doesn’t mean that you’re allowed to condone this. Unless you’re being metaphorical in which case… maybe couple’s therapy would be preferable to trapping a loved one in a loveless relationship.

“These are just two examples!” you may be thinking. Yeah? So’s this:

Never mind that Nicki Minaj actually has lyrics with incredible literary devices such as metaphors, puns and play on words (Nicki Minaj’s verse on Monster was genius and if you disagree then you’re lying). If you’re looking for something to prove that your bias is faultless then you look for what you need to make a point.

I think that, rather than pointing out the flaws in other forms of media, a more introspective approach should be taken. Look into the music you’re listening to and really listen to the lyrics. Are you ok with complaining about RnB’s sexual lyrics if your genre sings about sex too? Are you ok with complaining about rap’s violent lyrics if one of the biggest rock songs in 2011 was about shooting up a school? Are you willing to point out the problems in society as a whole and how it affects the music that is being released, which in turn affects society in a vicious cycle? Because I am.

Alternatively you could just forget about the need to be superior and shut up and dance. That’s an option I’m willing to take part in too.

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