Tuesday, November 3, 2009
Not Music Video of the Day: Jay-Z, Alicia Keys, "Empire State of Mind"
This is the new-ish Jay-Z video. It is trash. And you know, that's fine. Sling that trash, Rake in that cash. Respect. See what I did there? I made a stupid rhyme, but that rhyme is better -- lyrically, syntactically, rhythmically, what have you -- than any one couplet in this song. In fact, I don't even know why I said "couplet." This is essentially a mad-libbed series of non-sequitirs sprung from random New York-based touchstones, and strung against a mis-matched beat. This song is vile, vile trash.
First of all, Jay-Z, you live in Alpine, New Jersey. That's just the cold, hard facts. Stop fronting. You live in a villa designed by I.M. Pei with your purebred Himalayans, with hundred dollar bills in your pillowsacks, and with Beyonce Knowles. (She makes good music videos, fyi.) That is a good life you lead, especially considering you were handed nothing and you used to sling crack in the Marcy Projects. You harnessed this God-given gift for beat and flow (see here) and made art, and then you took this art and married it to a preternatural business acumen, and created an empire. You are in like the top 100 humans, Jay-Z. So what the fuck? You took a city that counts you among its favorite sons and made an undignified whore of it.
Here are the "New York" references you make in this song: DeNiro (ed's note: What is going on with that guy?), Frank Sinatra, Brooklyn, Tribeca, Harlem, Dominican people, the Knicks, the still New Jersey Nets (cross-promotion!), yellow cabs, gypsy cabs, dollar cabs, Afrika Bambaataa, and the World Trade Center. Literally, these are the references somebody from Dubuque would make of New York, based on his experience watching an afternoon of I Love the 70's and thumbing through a coffee table book from grandma's house. Please, Jay-Z, stop. There is only so much vicarious embarrassment I can take.
Now, as far as that Alicia Keys hook:
Concrete jungle where dreams are made of,
There's nothing you can’t do,
Now you're in New York!!!
These streets will make you feel brand new,
the lights will inspire you,
Let's hear it for New York, New York, New York
I mean no disrespect when I say this. Alicia Keys, you made a really sweet, quietly sexy, authentically New York video where you captured the nuances of unrequited love, begun in a coffee shop on 39th and Lennox, that then blossoms in the wake of a broken-up, uptown houseparty. You are a good singer! And you got Mos in your video, before he went crazy. But now -- and again, no disrespect -- you really need to kill yourself.