Warning: This blog deals with mature content.
I heard a Justin Bieber song on the radio the other day, but I didn’t realize it was him. You see, I have come to know Bieber’s style as a quintessential love song, girl heart-throb thing with shallow lyrics aimed towards repetition and beat rather than actual substance or clear, healthy messages.
Some of his early work that I ran into listening to the radio were things like his song about not understanding women, which is laughable to me because it tries to classify an emotional, complex behavior of courtship into finite “yes or no” and while there are other songs I grew up with that had similar messages like “Hot ‘n Cold” by Katy Perry, “What Do You Mean” seemed to simplify it even further just demanding them to be one thing.
I suppose I should spoiler here and say that I’m going to explain what I mean by simplifying and I’m going to be talking about child inappropriate things.
Not to go off on too much of a tangent, but it reminded me of the primary love argument shown best in the poem “To His Coy Mistress” by Andrew Marvell which basically is a fallacy of tact using paranoia to get a woman to have sex with you. In the poem, the speaker is basically using time as an argument to get the girl to sleep with him, saying “You’ll get too old for this, you’ll die if we don’t have sex soon” in the passage as follows.
Time’s wingèd chariot hurrying near;And yonder all before us lieDeserts of vast eternity.Thy beauty shall no more be found;Nor, in thy marble vault, shall soundMy echoing song; then worms shall tryThat long-preserved virginity,And your quaint honour turn to dust,And into ashes all my lust;The grave’s a fine and private place,But none, I think, do there embrace.
Which to me translates into that time is right on our heels, and if we don’t do it now, then we will die, and in a vault somewhere worms will crawl around in your “long-preserved virginity” and we will decompose. I really don’t think anyone gives way to lust in the grave. That being said, there are similar tones in “What Do You Mean” if we just look at the chorus.
Oh, what do you mean?
Said you’re running out of time, what do you mean?
Oh, oh, oh, what do you mean?
Better make up your mind
What do you mean?
Here we have the singer presenting the same argument of time, although it is slightly skewed because the one they’re singing to is the one who brings up time, it is still part of this package of intimate questions like “Well can I move yet” and “Do you really want me to leave?” and “Well you said yes, do you mean yes?” which all suggest a sense of immediate intimacy, and yet here we have this question of time, and following that, we have the rhyme with “make up your mind” which suggest the two are closely related. If she is running out of time, she will know it, and she will make up her mind before that happens. That’s how timing works.
But I digress. Let’s get back on topic. I heard him on the radio twice recently, and didn’t actually recognize his music. It made me wonder if, maybe, he’s finally either gotten a better songwriter, or if he’s just developed further along to want to sing about more than just this girl-love stuff.
For dealing with my tangent idea have Tom Hiddleston reading “To His Coy Mistress”
As you can guess from the header, “Love Yourself” was the first song he sang which I didn’t actually recognize. The reason being that this particular song actually caught my interest. I found myself singing along after I knew the story. It actually had a story, good, simple, clean ideas, and a supporting cast of actual people.
I don’t understand what he means by “Go love yourself” but I translated it rather liberally to go f*** yourself since most sensors on the internet I run into change the F-word to “I love you” so the lyrics there were easily ignored. I liked the amount of content the song had overall. We actually have verses here and if you take out the repetition of the chorus, it’s a good message as both a poem or a song.
For me, the song talks about supporting yourself as the singer comes to realize what he’s missed. In this case, it was a bad relationship which was being overlooked for several reasons, one of which being hubris. The chorus explains that the singer didn’t want to be wrong, so he denied things were going on, but at the same time, the verses explain and give examples of all of the bad things of the relationship, and all of the things he overlooked.
When I found out this was Bieber, I had a strong desire to dislike the song because of what his music is usually like. I don’t tend to like it. However, this particular song actually gave me a sense of something more to the style I like, such as Jason Mraz’s music, or Adele. In that sense, I think he did a good job breaking away from his typical style, and if he wants to continue to grow as an artist, this particular song made it seem possible for him to crack his shell of heart-throb for young girls.
The next song probably won’t surprise you when I mention that it surprised me it was Bieber, and it’s one the news has gotten a hold of.
Obviously, this song is in Spanish. If it’s not obvious, here’s a video of “Despacito” on youtube with the Spanish and English translations.
Now, I am no Spanish speaker, I don’t know much of anything in the language. I can say yes, no, and you [although I’m not sure how formal it is]. I took French in school. I took a class in college that talked about translation abilities however, and I can say that the translation here is probably variable, however, the heart of the message is still the same.
Even listening to this on the radio, I could tell this song was probably a seduction song, but I really didn’t care. Why?
It’s a song that’s not in English which is being played frequently. I am thrilled about that, and I don’t really care if it takes Bieber’s popularity to make it happen. People are talking about another culture’s language and hearing it sung on the radio. To me, that creates a sense of normalicy of the language being in our day-to-day lives, and we need more of that. It could be the most raunchy thing in Spanish or English, and I still wouldn’t care. We need more languages in our day to day lives.
The reason? Every time we hear a language that isn’t ours, we have to come face to face with the fact that we’re not the only ones in the world, and we’re not the center of the universe. Sometimes all of the fantasy and science fiction stories being in English with English actors, and speaking English makes us egotistical and self-centered, so I like seeing it mixed up.
The last mix up we had on the radio was “Gangnam Style” which was a seduction song too but it made us keenly aware of the amazing K-Pop theatrics in South Korea and really put their music on the map for a generation. Today, people know what K-Pop is without wondering what the K stands for, and for that, I am grateful.
The more we see and expand our awareness of other cultures, the more compassionate and kind we will be as we find common ground, and the less we will isolate those peoples. It was the same thing with Bollywood. Once those became more popular, it seemed like Indian people started showing up in movies and on TV more frequently. The industries realize we’re accepting once we make something popular online that is out of what they think is our traditional norm, or, in this case, when one of our celebrities uses his popularity to thrust us into a scene where speaking Spanish in a recording is a chart topper.
I really don’t care if he knows the words or not. He got Spanish on the radio!
Another place that multicultural productions are currently showing is on Netflix, and I have to give kudos to them for doing it. Today, I have the ability to watch movies and television from many different languages. I see Korean Dramas which used to only be on specialty channels and websites like Drama Fever, and they’re not afraid to show off the best of them mixed in with everything else.
It isn’t a separate category like the “Oriental” or “Mexican” isles in the grocery store. On Netflix, to continue with the analogy, the soy sauce is in the cooking isle.
I have more respect for Bieber now that I heard what he produced. I still don’t like his early music, and I still think he’s pandering, but I have more respect for whomever might help pull his strings. Having many different languages on our radio is a big step forward, and one singers like Lady Gaga have already been taking, but now it’s one of the teen heart-throbs who’s stepped up to pass the baton. I didn’t expect that from him.