Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Songs About Nothing, Vol. 1: Can't Even *Start* the Feeling

Okay, so I know I've started a million different "series" on here, like the "Girl Nerdery" one or the "Diversity in Comics" one (which still only has one entry... oops?) and... I feel like there are more, but I'm gonna confess I'm too lazy to go back and see if there are more. But I was in my car and a song from my childhood came on the "throwback"* station. And I was contemplating the lyrics and said, "This song is emphatically about nothing." And yes, I said it aloud. I'll do a post on that song sometime soon**, but as I was already writing about JT's newest single with a similar theses in mind, so... why not, eh?

I think Justin Timberlake seems to have this unfortunate habit of not churning out albums as quickly as his fans would like. I remember when this video came out, and how I thought, "These people; they get me. From the gal talking about Bruno Mars, to the dude admitting he can't say 'Da'... Because that's how science works!"


It was still almost two years after this video when The 20/20 Experience came out. Of course, I had to get the Target exclusives of it and Part 2 of 2. BECAUSE I NEEDED THOSE EXTRA SONGS OR MY LADYBITS WOULD HAVE GIVEN UP ON LIFE. And now we've been waiting again, and we're on year three. Until early May, I had resigned myself to the fact that it would probably be another year or two from now. 

And then I saw people talking about JT's  new single all over The Facebooks and The Twitters (yes, I still creep on Twitter, even though I rarely tweet nowadays). I was at work, of course, on a break, and didn't want to suck up the data, and also didn't want what promised to be an orgasmic experience (since, hey, it's Justin Timberlake's new single, people!) to be ruined by the shoddy reception in the office at work. So I was antsy with anticipation, and as soon as I got home***, I looked it up on YouTube. And what I found was this:



I kind of sat there, not even bothering to stop the autoplay from starting some random song I don't even remember but know I wasn't interested in. I was stunned. I wasn't super sad and disappointed, but  I also wasn't super excited about it. The best way to describe it, is I was whelmed:



I mean, it's a decent song, but it's  not... amazing. And when JT does stuff for himself, i.e., his albums,  amazing is one of the descriptors I would use. I just felt kinda meh about it. So I hit the back button and replayed it again. And again. And again. And I honestly don't know how many times I actually listened to it before I realized the problem: At the end of the day, it's just an empty pop song, intentionally catchy and about so many things at once that it's about nothing. 

Either that, or it's about a massive orgy.


First, I do want to acknowledge that the funky baseline kind of saves it from being bad. That is true Justin Timberlake there. But the rest? Let's look at the lyrics, shall we? (Note: The link is to a basic, I'm assuming, fan-done posting that The Googles pointed me to; I have the same link that's embedded up there open in another tab and listen to it when I think the full lyric linked is incorrect, so if there's a difference, don't freak out.)

I got this feeling inside my bones/
It goes electric, wavy when I turn it on: Okay, nothing too weird here. Dude's just happy, and making vaguely nerdy sciencey references.

All through my city, all through my home/ We're flying up, no ceiling when we're in our zone: This already starts to scatter things. Dude was alone at first, then is singing about other people. So... maybe they're sharing the joy with him? But it's just a little jarring, since he's singing with first-person singular pronouns, and then suddenly jumps to plural. He could have at least had a line about how he has his friends all up in his home or something. 

I got that sunshine in my pocket: That's cute. Like the kind of stuff you'd see in an episode of a kids' show, like Gullah Gullah Island or Out of the Box. This is actually the crux of the whole thing, but I'll get to that later. I should note that, once again, he's singing in first person. Where'd the people that make the earlier part a "we" go? 

Got that good soul on my feet: What? I mean, okay, he means soul music, but I don't really feel like soul is usually attributed to lots of dancing. And the bass line and beat aren't that "soul-ee," but more R&B-ee, or even funk...ee. Funky! Get it

I feel that hot blood in my body when it drops/ I can't take my eyes up off it, moving so phenomenally: What the fuck is "it"? The beat? The coke? Take his eyes off what? And in the overall lyrical content of the song, "phenomenally" is quite out of place. The first time you hear it, it's pretty obvious he couldn't figure out what to put there without sounding erudite.****  It's kind of jarring. Then later, when you hear it again, it's... uncomfortable, but not as shocking, since you know it's coming.

Room on lock the way we rock it, so don't stop: I'm going to guess this is where the orgy starts taking place. Obviously, you'd lock the doors of an orgy. I would think, anyway, since I've no personal experience. 

All of you, judging me now

Okay, seriously, though, this is just entirely nonsensical. I guess they lock the doors of his "home" referenced earlier? 

Under the lights when everything goes/ Nowhere to hide when I'm getting you close: WHERE DOES WHAT GO? I'm just frustrated, because these lyrics are bouncing around like pinballs in a box  of potential topics. Now he's singing to one person? I thought he had all his homies? So he's been singing about one person the whole time, and just singing about them, eh? The fact that it took this long for there to be a singular noun that isn't first-person makes it hard to understand. 

When we move, well you already know/ So just imagine: Do you SEE why I can't get away from this orgy theory? I mean, yes, he next starts singing about dancing, but "dance" is often  metaphor for sex...

Nothing I can see but you when you dance/Feel good creeping up on you, so just dance: So it's kiiiiiinda a love song? Or just a physical attraction. After all, there's nothing about this person's character, just a lot of underlying sexual tension and hints at sweating bodies.

Feel good creeping up on you, so just dance/ All those things I shouldn't do, but you dance: Hmm... So he's seducing this person, even though he shouldn't? I'm going to make the assumption, then, that they're in a relationship and he's persuading them to cheat. Tut-TUT, Mr. Timberlake. Either that, or they're getting into some really kinky shit in their little sex party. 

Ain't nobody leavin' soon, so keep dancin': And this is where the big sex orgy comes (HAH!) back. Maybe he's being super creepy, like horror move, I-have-you-trapped-in-my-death-house-creepy, because a killer in a horror flick would say that kind of thing, "Nobody's getting out of here any time soon, MUAHAHAHA!" And it's not in the context of a breakup song, such as "D.O.A." by the Foo Fighters; the whole song is about the buildup of this positive "feeling." So no, not creepy. So... 



HE'S GOT YOU LOCKED IN HIS SEX DUNGEON!!! 

Or, you know, it could just be that the party is so good, no one is going to want to leave. But that's not as exciting. And also, if it's not meant to be a sinister command, the use of "nobody" indicates more than just one other person besides the singer. 

I can't stop the feeling/ So just dance (etc.): Meh, that's filler. Which is kind of pathetic, since the phrase "can't stop the feeling" is the NAME OF THE SONG. This gets at my main point of all of this, which will show up pretty soon.

Because honestly, the next verse is just more  bullshit about the ever-present-yet-unspecified "it." And another line about "control" that says  the singer really is a sex-crazed maniac with a bunch of prisoners in his sex dungeon, forcing them to participate in ritual and sacrificial sex acts involving animals and freshly dead bodies. 

If you're still with me, then here's the deal. I said at the beginning that this song is about so much random shit, that it's about nothing. And that's possible. But actually, I think the real problem with the lyrics to this song is that they're your basic, generic, "Top 20" dance anthem. It's a song about dancing, and that's it. Nothing more. It's topic and lyrical execution are dull, bland, and overdone in basically every genre, not just pop, per se, but also country, rap, hip-hop, rock, whatever. Everybody does it. Not everybody has a single that hits the charts, or does as well as this one, but this song has a lot to back it up: First and foremost, Justin Timberlake. That alone is enough to get it into the Top 10, because the vast majority of his fans will soak this up, regardless of content or quality, or whether it's up to his usual caliber of song or not. Second, since it is for a movie, Dreamworks (the company making said movie) will throw money at it to promote it (which, I'm sure, is  why  they let JT release the above video first, conveniently featuring the cast of the flick). And for a movie about gorram TROLLS to have a single that's radio-worthy, it couldn't actually be about the trolls. So it's about, as I said, dancing. 

But I think, since Justin Timberlake is more an artiste than just "artist," meaning he cares about his craft the way a person would care about their child (hence why there's such a gap between albums- he works long on them, perfecting and refining them, caressing them into the shape he thinks they deserve), he avoided a lot of the stereotypes in the usual "party rock" repertoire. 

And so perhaps why I don't overtly hate this song is because JT at least has enough class to keep his fucking hands out of the air (in  the lyrics... the video... well...), and never actually says shit like "party" and "fun" and doesn't talk about drinking. The last point is obviously because this song is for a kids' movie. But even so, avoiding "da club" and cars and hot babes, as well as that amazing baseline, makes this song at least tolerably close to his usual level of product. 

So I at least can say I still respect him. The song itself is disappointing as a fan of his,  and no, I don't keep listening when it comes on the radio. But I appreciate his attempt to raise the bar in what comes down to a basic dance anthem. And I just pray that, sooner or later, he comes out with an entire album of his own that makes this song a blip on the radar. 




*I say "throwback" because they play Bruno Mars's newest stuff... and Drake. Maybe I'm being picky, but I feel like "throwback" indicates at least ten years old... right?

**Or maybe I won't, given my penchant for getting excited about a Thing, "starting a series," and then forgetting about that Thing.

***After letting out my dog to pee, and taking a wee, myself.

****As one of my best friends said when we looked this up because a professor said she was "too erudite" in a gorram research paper, "I don't think a person can use 'erudite' without being erudite themselves..." ;)

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