Mixing pop and politics, Sasha? I ask you what the use is. I’m guessing musicians are backing away slowly from current affairs for the same reason most of us refrain from bathing in Diet Coke and then rolling around naked on a colony of red ants. There’s no such thing as bad publicity, but being tarred as “Saddam’s Angels” comes close. The Dixie Chicks affair was less did-you-see-me-totally-tongue-kiss-Madonna? than who’s-bigger-than-Jesus-now-Mister-Lennon? Yet, as usual when it comes to criticism, Jay-Z is magically immune, so he was able to rhyme, “We back home/ Screaming leave Iraq alone” on the awesome “Beware of the Boys”—and then claim that both Bin Laden and Reagan “got Manhattan to blow.”
Also as usual when it comes to criticism Eminem is magically—is “mune” a word? “I’d rather see the President dead,” he rapped on “We As Americans,” a single that drew White House scrutiny though never officially released. Any fan of Paris’$2 1992 single “Bush Killa” knows not to believe Em’s claim that “It’s never been said.” (Incidentally, deluxe editions of the hip-hop militant’s old stuff, including “Bush Killa,” are now available on Paris’ new agit-rap site.). Still, in this hush-hush moment, Eminem’s free speech justifications are welcome even when they’re self-serving. I just wish I was as sure he loved the Fourth Amendment as much as he does the Second. (I also wish he’d use this photo of Rumsfeld making nice with Saddam as an album cover.)
Timbaland sure did trounce the Neptunes this year, Sasha, but then I’ve always had reservations about Chad and Pharrell. Unless they’re producing a singer/rapper with his or her own idiosyncratic sense of rhythm, the ‘Tunes’ precision can come off as both sterile and grimy, like the mirrors and polished metal interior of a strip club. As for “In Da Club,” Rob, I love it long time, if only because it reminds me exactly of every night I’ve spent in da club—it’s cramped, a little slow-moving, and always just a little less fun than I expect. (Then everybody gets more action than me at the end.) Hey, isn’t 50 “into champagne” too? If he likes making love at midnight, on the dunes of the Cape, maybe Rupert Holmes is the love he’s looked for.
Oh, that’s right, 50 Cent ain’t into making love. But while you’re right about pop’s fear of commitment this year, Rob, plenty of singers were looking for love, most of them in all the wrong places. Cue the Black Eyed Peas “Where Is the Love?”, maybe my all-time least favorite song to dis the CIA. “Everybody needs somebody to love,” insisted OutKast’s Andre 3000. (Though he did add, “And everybody need to quit actin hard and shit/ Before you get your ass whooped/ I’ll slap the fuck out ya.”) Dre’s partner Big Boi loves the way you move, Toby Keith loves this bar, Dizzee Rascal luvs u, R Kelly steps in the name of love. It’s got me looking so crazy right now. It’s what the world needs now. It’s like … whoa. As Jay-Z concludes on “Beware of the Boys,” “Only love kills war.” And that, sadly, may be Pop ‘n’ Politics ‘03 in a nutshell—clinging to private emotion in the face of world turmoil.
And with that flower in the barrel of your glocks, fellas, I’d better sign off. Bundle up all the affection expressed on the radio this year into a great big ball, strip away all the affectation, and you’ll get a hint of how I feel about you both. It’s been an honor participating in this pop Yalta with y’all. Next year I get to be Churchill.