I have a subscription to Merriam-Webster’s word a day. My email folder aptly named Words of the Day (because I am superior in my not-so-obvious folder-naming ability) has over a year’s worth of words. I know how words can hurt, words can heal, words can get you both in and out of fights, trouble, jail. It is the power of one’s choice of words that has me thinking today.
The Twitters were all, um, atwitter, today after Brian McKnight posted a video of himself singing about his ability (and a woman’s need for his expertise) to “teach” her how to, well, better know her lady parts. (I won’t post a link because I figure if you want to see/hear it, you can utilize the almighty Google. Just please know that it is NSFW or maybe even your house. It’s crass. It’s vulgar. It’s downright idiocy (his suggestion that I don’t know myself. The nerve).
Let’s clear one thing up: R&B singers have been singing about sex since songs were being sung. However, most use innuendo, vague references for sex and anatomy. Brian has chosen to be rather direct with his terminology. There is no mistaking what he is talking about. I read tweets today about how an artist of his stature shouldn’t need to stoop so low for publicity, how this type of ploy/tactic/disgusting language is expected of artists not of his caliber or who haven’t achieved his level of success. I think people are over-thinking.
There are so many things to consider: yes, his word choice is “nasty”, but he is trending on Twitter, he’s a hot topic on Facebook, any publicity is good publicity (I believe this to be his motivation), and my husband and I had quite the day of “nasty” banter because of it. If you listen to virtually any rap song being played on the radio, there is no innuendo, no coy wording, no shyness. It’s more like bring that ass here and let me do what I want to it. While yes, that is an entirely different scenario (Brian claims to be making an adult mix tape (that makes me giggle)), it has me thinking why there’s such a disparity in acceptable language between music genres. I have to admit, though, that I am highly offended and turned off by most rap songs because of their suggestive nature. Why, then, am I not repulsed by Brian’s outright “nastiness”? Is it because I already liked him? Is it because even though he is singing “nasty” words his voice is so melodious you have to listen twice because you get sidetracked by his voice, not the nasty lyrics?
I’ve read that people weren’t expecting this from him, that he is tainting his image. I’ve read that he is recently divorced, having a breakdown, not feeling relevant in music, grasping at ways to stay afloat. It’s funny. I don’t see any of these things. I see a man being a man, choosing words that he knew would make more of an impact. I see a man talking to closet freaks (and possibly he’s a man who’s been watching too much porn and having way too many partners because I get the impression he wants to be teacher to more than one woman. Brian McKnight: Service Provider to Women (for their womanliness)). I also firmly believe that had he sold that nasty hook to a rapper, there simply would not be all this chatter. Is that because the raunchiness is expected from rappers but not from R&B singers? Look at R. Kelly. OK, wait, he’s not the best example and I don’t have enough time to analyze him or his lyrics here.
I know! Have you read Fifty Shades of Grey? Did you enjoy it? (I know you’re nodding, saying a breathless, emphatic yes). Then there’s the answer.
It’s words. It’s all about the words.