Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Subliminal R&B

Since its emergence in the late 40’s, Rhythm and Blues has provided humanity with some of the most important compositions in popular music. From the soulful sounds of Al Green to the impossibly smooth baritone of Barry White, the genre of R&B has become synonymous with infectious grooves and smoldering sensuality. This undercurrent of carnal passion is often brilliantly understated to the point it functions as a subliminal aphrodisiac to the listener. The following three compositions are not members of that tradition:

Next – “Too Close”*

Step back you're dancing kinda close
I feel a little poke coming through
On you
Now girl I know you felt it
But boo, you know I can't help it
You know what I wanna do

Baby us dancing so close
Ain't a good idea
Cuz I'mma want you now and here
The way that you shake it on me
Makes me want you so bad sexually

When it was released in 1998, this ditty quickly claimed the number one spot on the singles chart and became the official soundtracks for thousands of awkward teenage groping sessions across the country. The song details the adventures of a conscientious young man who becomes alarmed when his dancing partner invades his personal space. He politely requests that she “step back” before informing her that he feels “a little poke coming through.” Here, we can see how the author wishes to build tension by allowing the listener to draw their own conclusion. If one was to take the first six lines by themselves, the song’s protagonist is experiencing one of two possible sensations:

1.      Due to the aforementioned dancing, he has become erotically stimulated and wished to enter into sexual congress with his companion.
2.      The numerous gyrations involved in the dancing have caused intestinal distress and the young man has entered the initial phase of an involuntary bowel movement.

Recognizing this ambiguity, the song utilizes the next several lines to clarify that the gentlemen desires his partner “sexually.”  At this point I wish to highlight the fact that (according to the songwriting credits) it required the combined effort of four grown men to pen these lyrics. Traditionally, one would be hard pressed to experience this level of artistic subtlety outside the confines of a men’s room, so it is encouraging so see that Next possessed the skill to bring their unique vision to the masses.

*Special thanks to Ashley and Laura, whose impromptu performance of this song brought it to my attention.

112 – “Hot & Wet”

Baby won’t you give it to me
Just give it to me baby
You don’t know what
You do to me
The way you touch, baby
Girl I’m tired of playing games are you ready?
I love it when you’re on top of it
So spread it

Formed in 1995, the Atlanta-based quartet spent the final few years of the 90’s enjoying impressive commercial success while signed with P-Diddy’s Bad Boy Records. They even received a collateral Grammy award for their cameo on Diddy’s musical tribute to Notorious B.I.G. “I’ll Be Missing You.” Unfortunately, by 2003 their relationship with Bad Boy Records was strained and they sought to reinvent themselves by releasing Hot and Wet. The second single released was the album’s namesake and peaked at number seventy on the Billboard singles chart.

This composition continues our theme of unperceptive women coupled with overstimulated men and makes prodigious use of double entendre when the male confesses that he loves it “when you’re on top of it.” Sadly, many listeners are so focused on the obvious reference to the female’s commitment to preparation that they miss the hidden sexual innuendo altogether. Even more striking, the next line orders the woman to “spread it” and we are again left wondering exactly what she has been tasked with spreading. A few possibilities:

·         A love of fastidious planning
·         Wesleyan theology
·         A specific venereal disease
·         Her emotional vulnerability
·         Knowledge of recent revisions in the federal tax code
·         Peanut butter
·         Compassion
·         OxyContin

Pretty Ricky – "Your Body"

Ol' master bear skin rugs in the jag
Spectacular with the bad chick in the back
tryin ta beat it up like an Everlast punching bag
hotter than a Bisquick biscuit out the oven
your baby mama go on missions to get this lovin’
we kissin and huggin she never pick her phone up
You be lookin for her while we doin the grown up
Get a taste of the salami, knocking you down like a tsunami

From their humble beginnings in Miami, this R&B juggernaut took the entertainment industry by storm when they released their single “Grind with Me” in 2004. The success of the tune caught the attention of Atlantic Records and soon a full-length album was unleashed on an unsuspecting public. “Your Body” would be the second single from their debut album and exhibited the group’s mastery of culinary-based sexual innuendos. 

The song narrates the amorous adventures of a young aristocrat who lures unsuspecting sexual partners into his luxury sedan so that they can do “the grown up.” Like the bards of yesteryear, Pretty Rickey primarily relies on the imagination of the audience to fill in the gaps. It also appears that his lovin’ is so agreeable that many women chose to disregard their cellular telephones causing concern amongst their friends and family. 

Not just pretty faces in possession of unwieldy salamis, Pretty Rick are universally recognized as pioneers in the field of rhythm and blues product placement. Who else could seamlessly insert shout-outs to Everlast and Bisquick while remaining enticing enough that “baby mama go on missions to get this lovin’”

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