Tuesday, December 1, 2009

disposable heroes of hip-hoprisy, redux

A few years back, Jay-Z's song '99 Problems' was a big hit. It also provoked mild social tumult for its lyrical content, primarily its hook/chorus: 'if you're having girl problems, I feel bad for you, son. I got 99 problems but a bitch ain't one.' He goes on to explicate and refract the connotations of 'bitch' in successive stanzas: literal girlfriend; music critic; po-po/the man (actually, a narcotics K9, too); snitch or back-biting rival.
Clever word play and standard-issue rap/macho sexist posturing.

It's a catchy song. So, for that matter, is (pre-teen-marauding) Kanye West's Gold Digger (featuring & building on an additionally pre-teen-marauding Jamie Foxx's hook as Ray Charles). 'I ain't sayin' she's a gold digger, but she ain't messin' with no broke nggrs.' etc.

Many guys went for the beat, the rhymes, and humor. So did many women. A good number were offended--which seems exaggerated; maybe it should be 'bothered' since it's hard to take personally such low-grade, myopic fabrication of the games between men/women.

Both songs are on the list of tunes I have to ffd past when the kids are in the car. I don't think the songs increase or condone my disrespect of women (far less than 99% of what's on t.v. daily), and I don't see myself doing either number acapella at the next Vulva Riot open mic.

Now, in our pseudo post-...society (post-rational seems most fitting these days), there's a new song that travels in the metaphoricalizing of women as commodity. It's also catchy. It has a better video, too. 'Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)' has become ubiquitous, and, fortunately for the Knowles-Carter (or, I guess, Z-'ce) household's struggling finances, very popular. The spoof videos are clogging YouTube and my daughters both fill their empty moments singing it.

Great. Good clean fun. Finally, a rap song that grandma can dance to. Matter of fact, check out our new video (it's called 'Long Acres Rest Home cafeteria line 'Single Ladies' dance.' Or something).

Except, to get all grammatical and whatnot, to which antecedent is the 'it' of Miss Knowles' ring-putting exhortations?
In the video, she shakes her finger (among other appendages), signifying ring finger, marriage, commitment from her trifling, wandering-eye & -hand man. 'If you like it, you should have put a ring on it.' She upbraids him for not appreciating her and for getting jealous when another man filled the void (of attention or physical) her man left: he shouldn't have dipped.

Yet the song is barely winking a reference to what the ring-on-finger sanctions: by committing, we promise, and reserve, our sexual selves to each other. Age-old dynamic, and paradox: men want the physical/sexual, and give the ring to gain the body; women must protect the chimerical virtue, holding out/off the sex until securing the ring.

Taken this way, this is a more-sassy version of the standard Sandy Dee heartbreak song. That 'it' takes on far a more adult, carnal antecedent. I'm not sure there's a ring big enough to fit that 'it.'

But it's a bit funny, and disturbing, to watch my grandmother, and yours, join with our school kids to try that hit dance... Oh oh oh, oh oh oh, oh oh oh, oh oh oh. Molly Bloom's Yes, Yes, Yes, done for 2010 generation.

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