The Phoenix Network:
About  |  Advertise
Adult  |  Moonsigns  |  Band Guide  |  Blogs  |  In Pictures
CD Reviews  |  Classical  |  Live Reviews  |  Music Features

Year in National Pop: New attitudes

Are we fated to pretend?
By DANIEL BROCKMAN  |  December 22, 2008

HE’S GOT IT! Like T.I.’s “Whatever You Like,” Lil Wayne’s “A Milli” was a straightforward ode to being rich and getting laid.

Music is a drug, as they say, distorting perception and shaping reality into æsthetically appropriate patterns and themes. In heady times like these, it can be a real trip to look back through the past year and see what our musical idols were telling us about ourselves all along — whether showing us our most craven inner id, or echoing the cynicism that grows in our hearts as we react to the madness around us. As MGMT said in one of the most beguilingly mind-bending pop moments on record this year, "We're fated to pretend."

The interface between reality and fantasy is almost always a war zone in contemporary rap, but this year it felt as if the fantasy were ready to snap. Rap's sonic frontier shifted radically, as the legal hazards of sampling meant that most rappers had to get by with synths and beatboxes. Whereas KANYE WEST's new digital sobfest 808s and Heartbreak faltered, other rappers were able to make spare production work. "It ain't frontin' if you got it" is a line uttered in two Top 10 rap tunes this year: LIL WAYNE's "A Milli" and T.I.'s "Whatever You Like," both straightforward odes to being rich and getting laid, in that order. T.I.'s song is particularly epic and seductive, if only because its brazen fantasy is so tawdry and false: when he offers to "gas up the jet tonight and you can go wherever you like," he seems to forget not only the then-$4-a-gallon gas tariff but also his own ankle-cuffed house arrest.

"Whatever You Like" was eventually dethroned from the #1 spot on the Billboard "Hot 100" by another T.I. smash, his duet with RIHANNA, "Live Your Life," a song equally obsessed with the twin goals of reaching for the stars and making that paper, with, at the beginning, T.I.'s somewhat contradictory spoken exhortation to "stop lookin' at what you ain't got and start bein' thankful for what you do got." T.I.'s success here hinges on his understanding that the goal of a pop song is to put the zeitgeist in a blender and hit "puree." "Live Your Life" does that with gusto — did I mention that it's dedicated to "all my soldiers over there in Iraq"? Of course, it doesn't really matter what you're singing or rapping about if you have Rihanna. Which may explain why "Live Your Life" was one of three #1 hits Rihanna had in a year where she didn't even put an album out. The 20-year-old Barbadian is the bellwether of a trend in superdivas where the ability to get a tell-tale sing-along hook on the radio is more crucial than the ability to display a multi-octave voice or manufacture lyrical introspect.

1  |  2  |  3  |   next >
Related: The Bigmouth strikes again, Hip-hop is dead, Hip-hop from Hell, More more >
  Topics: Music Features , Britney Spears, Britney Spears, Amon Amarth,  More more >
| More
Add Comment
HTML Prohibited

 Friends' Activity   Popular   Most Viewed 
[ 12/10 ]   "20UNDER40 Party in the Future"  @ Oberon
[ 12/10 ]   Andrew Bird  @ Tremont Temple Baptist Church
[ 12/10 ]   Boston Baroque Conducted by Martin Pearlman  @ Jordan Hall
Share this entry with Delicious
  •   PRE-WEEZER: THE METAL YEARS  |  December 07, 2010
    Rivers' edge
  •   WEEZER: THE EARLY YEARS  |  December 07, 2010
    When Rivers Cuomo, Weezer wunderkind and Harvard-educated overachiever, sets his mind to something, he is nothing if not meticulous.
  •   KE$HA | CANNIBAL  |  December 07, 2010
    As club banger "Blow" crescendos, incendiary brat and cultural irritant Ke$ha intones, "We are taking over — get used to it!"
  •   DEADMAU5 | 4X4=12  |  November 30, 2010
    The world of the superstar DJ is not dissimilar to that of the superstar architect.
    Rock stars are often seen, culturally, as wolves in sheeps' clothing, seducing and subverting once they have gotten their fangs into the hearts of music listeners, using their Pied Piper powers of coercion to ensnare innocent ears and radicalize minds with their unholy aims.

 See all articles by: DANIEL BROCKMAN

RSS Feed of for the most popular articles
 Most Viewed   Most Emailed 

  |  Sign In  |  Register
Phoenix Media/Communications Group:
Copyright © 2010 The Phoenix Media/Communications Group