Monday, June 20, 2011

30 Day Song Challenge, Day 20: A Song That You Listen to When You're Angry

I almost listed today's selection on Day 14 for the "song no one would expect you to love." Like 50 Cent (who I chose on Day 14), I'm guessing that most people wouldn't expect me to love Jay-Z-- or his better half, Beyonce-- as much as I do. Oh, but I do love them both.

Today's prompt for the 30 Day Song Challenge is something that I can honestly say I've never thought much about as a manner of categorizing music. Since I'm way past my 20's now, I just don't spend a lot of time being angry anymore. It's a complete waste of emotional energy as far as I'm concerned, and it does way more harm to me than it does to whomever or whatever might have made me angry. Even in those (increasingly rare) moments when I find myself succumbing to protracted anger, I don't generally direct that at music. Even still, I suppose that I could think of songs that would definitely make me feel better (in a cathectic, or at least cathartic, kind of way) should I find myself in a white-hot rage.

Obviously, I've never experienced anything like the problems Jay-Z recounts in "99 Problems" (from his 2003 The Black Album), but inasmuch as anger-- especially anger of the righteous indignation sort-- seems to be a universal experience that we all share, this is my selection for today. (Fair warning, this is NSFW.)

I wish all of the people who hate this song because of the "but a b*tch ain't one" line would listen to the rest of the song. If you haven't paid attention, it's obvious that Jay-Z isn't celebrating not having a girlfriend. In fact, in the last verse, he mercilessly ridicules the man who thinks his problem is his "b*tch." Those guys, who think that "strong-arming" women makes them hard have completely misunderstood what their REAL problems are. Suffering under what Frantz Fanon would call the "Negro myth" in an anti-black social structure like the one we live in-- now THAT'S a real problem, according to Jay-Z. It's (at least) 99 problems, in fact. And a b*tch ain't one of them.

What makes this a good song to listen to while you're angry is not only the infuriating content, though. It's also that vitriol-driven, thumping, driving, almost speaker-buzzing bassline. The music practically growls for you. Also, there's something about the tone of Jay-Z's voice that has always sounded to me like he's got his head cocked sideways, eyebrows raised, shoulders scrunched-up, like he's saying "whaaaat?" no matter what he's actually saying. In general, I think that describes my affective posture when I'm angry-- a sort of "wtf is wrong with the world?" stance. Jay-Z pulls it off a lot better than I can, which makes him a good choice for vicariously expressing my occasional indignation that life doesn't always play out like I drew it up in the locker room. "99 Problems" is good for reminding oneself that, quite often, the things we end up pointing our finger at for getting our blood boiling aren't the real things to be angry about. At any given time, we've probably all got at least 99 problems, and often what (or who) gets the brunt of that anger likely shouldn't.

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