Sunday, March 02, 2008

a nice beat you can dance to

Yesterday I was talking about criticism, I guess. In that issue of The New Yorker I’ve been reading (Dec 25, 2006) there’s an article about rap and cocaine. Cocaine, it seems, is back. But you know how yesterday I said the critic I prefer is the one who gives examples? Well, here’s Sasha Frere-Jones:

“If you were teaching a high-school English class and looking for examples of metaphor and simile, ‘Go Crazy’ [a song by Young Jeezy] would do nicely. The act of processing uncut cocaine inspires a riff on O-shaped objects: ‘Like Krispy Kremes, I was cookin’ them o’s. Like horseshoes, I was tossin’ them o’s.’”

Krispy Kremes are O-shaped. Mostly. But an O-shaped horseshoe? To be fair, Young Jeezy isn’t explicitly saying a horseshoe is O-shaped but that he is “tossin’” his cocaine like horseshoes. It’s Frere-Jones who set me up to think I was going to be reading “a riff on O-shaped objects”. Were I an English teacher I wouldn’t be offerin’ up these tired metaphors though either. Please. Think O-shape and all you can come up with is a Krispy Kreme donut? And unless ol’ Young Jeezy was tossing his coke twenty feet or so I doubt he was tossing them like horseshoes. This is weak writing and having the critic offer it up as exemplary (and for classroom use!) leads me to a low opinion of his tastes.

I’m remembering reading the liner notes for the Bob Marley collection Legend. The notes extoll Marley five ways from Sunday, as you would expect, but I had to guffaw when the writer pointed at a Marley lyric with that-really-says-it awe – Marley was praising his girl, she makes him feel so good, “like a sweepstakes winner.” Like a sweepstakes winner? That’s not a lyric you highlight. That’s a lyric you hide. Hide it in a nice beat you can dance to. And sing it in a Jamaican patois. I’ve sung along with plenty of dumb lyrics as though they were good because, although the song would have been better if they were good, it can be a fun song anyway.

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