I’m Sorry Ms. Watson — The Unconvincing Message of “Be Yourself.”

I have never done cocaine. That’s the perfect place to start my talk about Rosie Watson’s phone-message skit on Frank Ocean’s latest album Blond. I never did cocaine because, well I just never wanted to. But also, I didn’t have money when I was younger. And the first time I even heard of people I knew doing coke, one guy was already $500 in debt. That was enough to scare me away, if all my other reasons happened to fail.

Frank Ocean’s Blond

But I have to admit when I listen to Rosie Watson’s skit “Be Yourself” on Frank Ocean’s Blond, I’m tempted. (Really, future employers I’m not tempted, I’m well past experimentation). It’s ironic because her entire message/the entire skit is about being “secure with yourself.”

The worldly earnestness of her delivery stops you in your tracks. It’s a phone message you think everyone should get when the go away to college. Ms. Watson says: Don’t try to be like someone else, don’t try to act like someone else, be yourself. Be secure with yourself. Rely and trust upon your own decisions. On your own beliefs. You understand the things that I’ve taught you. Not to drink alcohol, not to use drugs.

As they used to say in hip-hop writing, Ms Watson drops the knowledge. On top of that Rosie Watson is leaving the message to Frank, who is friends with her son. So it’s an incredibly passionate message, delivered to her son’s friend. Right there, you know this woman is amazing.

But then.

Then Ms. Watson says: Don’t use that cocaine or marijuana because that stuff is highly addictive. When people become weed-heads they become sluggish, lazy, stupid and unconcerned. Sluggish, lazy, stupid and unconcerned. That’s all marijuana does to you, okay? This is mom.

Again, Ms. Watson, great message. But. When I listen to it, the pronunciation of “cocaine” is all twanged out: cocaiiinnne. That twangy pronunciation draws the ear’s attention, which draws the mind’s attention. And naturally leaves someone wondering what’s really up with that cocaine. That’s where she really undercuts her message.

It’s also debatable whether repeating “Sluggish, lazy, stupid and unconcerned,” is a good tactic. Part of me thinks her emphasizing the phrase causes the brain to react with, “Hmmmm I could use some unconcernedness right about now.”

The real subversive, unconscious trip up is the lingering twangy way she talks about coke. And given that 1/2 of Frank’s subject matter is dedicated to various substances, it’s evident that part of the message didn’t work. The part of the message where Rosie Watson wants to communicate her lover and caring for Frank? Loud and clear Ms. Watson, amazing job.

Spotify song link:

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