I Rambled About That New Chris Brown Song (or, Self-Acceptance in 2016)
Like many people, I’m currently awake just to be sure that Frank Ocean doesn’t release his next album while I’m asleep. That has little-to-nothing to do with the forthcoming word vomit, but it does give you an idea of my state of mind at 2AM on a Friday/Saturday.
How DO I feel? I feel reinvigorated. 2016 has been a strange year for music. The most anticipated album of my favorite artist’s career is one of the most successful albums to be released in decades, but after a few listens, it didn’t move me the way his music usually does. My other favorite artist dropped a dud (sorry, Maxwell). My favorite albums of the year (in no order, “Islah” by Kevin Gates, “Malibu” by Anderson .Paak, “99.9%” by Kaytranada, “Savage Mode” by 21 Savage), they all kind of snuck up on me in an unexpected way. They were great surprises, but there’s no euphoria like an album meeting and exceeding your expectations upon your first listen (Drake’s first 3 projects, “Echoes of Silence” by The Weeknd, and “Channel Orange” by Frank Ocean immediately come to mind). Not to be a corny Tumblr kid, but the new Frank Ocean album (allegedly called “Boys Don’t Cry”, but who even knows at this point) has me chasing a high that I haven’t felt about a full project of music in some time. Going in with high expectations, and having them surpassed.
Anyone could write that last paragraph, though. Part of the reason I stopped writing about music was that I felt an over-saturation in the marketplace. Too many people that looked like me using the same synonyms from the thesaurus to write the same articles, describing the same songs as “dripping with bass”, “sonically cacophonous”, “ambient sound journeys”, and other phrases that got used and reused to the point that I wonder if music blogs are using automation engines to write about music now.
The other part? Money, of course.
It’s not that I don’t want to write about music. Nothing has compelled me to. 2016 has mostly been filled with songs that can be summed up by “Aye, that’s hard”, and you could call it a day (see Lil Uzi Vert’s “Lil Uzi Vert vs. The World” mixtape, which to its credit, has a song with an accordion sample).
Those are the types of songs I would’ve expected to hear on a DJ compilation album like DJ Drama’s “Quality Street Music 2”. Genetically-manufactured bangers assembled in Drama’s Atlanta studio with a litany of names we know and love, with beats from producers that would destroy my trunk. Somehow, I was [somewhat] wrong.
Enter Chris Brown.
I naturally gravitate away from artists that are more known for their celebrity status than their music, which at this point, adequately describes Chris Brown. I can’t recall what the last Breezy record I enjoyed would be, but that’s kind of the point of this.
“Wishing”, his new song on DJ Drama’s album, is GREAT. The beat doesn’t overpower him, and vice versa; the balance is perfect. Most importantly, especially to the existence of the particular page on the internet, is the melody and chord progression, especially in the chorus. It’s almost 3AM at this point, so I won’t try to conjure up any of the music theory I took in college, but the harmonies of Chris Brown’s vocal tracks create a hypnotic effect that compels me to play the song any chance I get. The notes creep up the scale, like the zombies in the Michael Jackson “Thriller” video, an entertaining crawl that captures you.
At this point, I know I have to dedicate more than a few tweets to this record. It can’t just be a normal music review, though. It needs to have an impact. It needs to touch on a topic that, at the very least, isn’t touched on very often, especially when discussing hip-hop or R&B.
Initially, I wanted to write about my self-disgust in liking a Chris Brown song at this point in time, after all of the violent outbursts, beating up Rihanna, how can I allow myself to enjoy this? I remembered, then, that I still love R. Kelly and enjoy Woody Allen movies, so I declared that topic would be thin. People compartmentalizing art vs. the artist is common in all art forms, and there are [probably] a lot of articles about that topic already, about countless celebrities.
The topic I almost wrote about was spurred on by my first time listening to “Wishing” on Apple Music. The dirty version of the song, unnecessarily to me, inserts the N-word at the end of each phrase in the chorus, changing the hook from “…wishing that I was yours” to “…wishing that I was your n****”. To me, it comes off as corny, but ultimately, the Jewish kid in the room can’t be telling the black guy when he should or shouldn’t use that word, so I decided to let Breezy cook in that regard as well.
Ultimately, I decided on talking about us. America. The values and morals we display in our media every day.
One of the first lines of the song (NSFW, so turn away now if you haven’t already listened to the song and don’t know what you’re getting into):
I eat the pussy with precision
6 rings, Jordan, Pippen
I do gymnastics with a brick and flip it
Depending on the experience you have with modern urban music, Person Reading This, you may have been taken aback by some of those lyrics.
But which ones?
I’d be willing to bet my 401K that you took more umbrage with the first line, a sexually explicit, braggadocios remark, than you did with the last one, a line condoning and promoting selling a brick of coke.
So I ask you: WHY???!!!
Why, in these United States of America, in the year 2016, is sexuality still taboo? Why, as human beings, are we afraid of the greatest gift we’ve been given? The gift of life. The gift of love. Why are we so afraid to share it with each other?
Why do we have political parties that have no problems sending our brothers and sisters into battle overseas in a desert that most have little to no reason to care about, but are ready to ban pornography (not a joke)? Why do we shield our childrens’ eyes when breasts enter the television screen, but not a raging gun battle?
What makes sexuality so taboo? What makes sex so taboo? What makes our bodies…well, women’s bodies if we’re being honest, so taboo?
The first line of the chorus of “Wishing”:
Baby you know who I am and girl I know just who you are
In the context of the song, it’s Chris reaching an understanding with the woman in question that there are too many complications having a relationship with his level of fame. Not much to see.
In a vacuum though, this is a beautiful line. The connection of man and woman. Love. Lust. Entanglement. Entrancement. Attraction. I know you, and you know me. We know each other; we’re in this together; we are one. This is a feeling and a connection that should be shared, not shamed.
The rest of the chorus (as well as the two featured verses from melodic MCs Lyquin and Skeme) feature similarly sexually graphic content as Chris Brown’s first verse, odes to positions and arousals that would get some people in the mood to get close with someone and put some of these ideas to action. Still though, there are the aforementioned people that would like nothing more than to censor this content; to censor sensuality.
If you are one of those people, I ask you: What are you so afraid of? What keeps you from embracing your fellow man in nature’s oldest display of affection and attraction? More importantly, why do you want to keep other people, whose lives you should have no bearing on, from experiencing this themselves?
My personal theory: People are afraid of themselves. We still live in an age of extremes where people find themselves hideous if they don’t look like Superman or Wonder Woman in the mirror. We’re still too afraid as a society to gaze upon our weirdly-shaped bodies and laugh or smile. To that I say, love yourself. Obviously, it isn’t that simple, but if you just take the time to recognize that no, that person on the street isn’t staring at your chicken legs or your pudgy stomach or your waistline, you’ll inch closer to that point where you won’t be worried about what others think of you, and you’ll begin to worry about what you think of you. When you can do that, when you can accept yourself and work to make the changes you feel the need to because you genuinely want to, and not because you don’t look exactly like Chris Pine or Michael B. Jordan, you might be able to share your newfound personal ecstasy with someone else. Someone that either wants to share it back with you, or maybe someone that needs to be led down the path to that spark, to get to where you are now. That path, laden with euphoria, is a creation of love.
I’m rambling at this point, and I’m not sure the last few paragraphs made sense, but ultimately, your takeaways should be:
- Chris Brown made a good song.
- Stop being afraid to talk about sex.
- Love yourselves and each other.
It’s 3:44AM and Frank Ocean still hasn’t put out his new album.