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  • Jason Derulo - Whatcha Say: An Intertextual Analysis

    Dez 29 2009, 11h32

    Jason Derulo - Whatcha Say: An Intertextual Analysis.

    Many have dismissed Jason Derulo's hit single 'Whatcha Say' as being a soulless capitalistic product of a multi-billion dollar corporate industry; a generic re-packaging of the 'sensitive yet masculine' soulful young lover whose past misdeeds have made him realise the error of his ways that is shamelessly marketed to the lowest common denominator in order to achieve a maximum amount of fleeting popularity and monetary capital in the shortest amount of time. These self-pronounced 'critics' maintain that Jason Derulo's artistic capabilities are non to barely-existent, and that he is merely another soon-forgotten meaningless name in the fickle fog of popular memory, resigned to an inevitable fate in the dusty annals of musical history as "that guy who did that song - you know, the one that goes 'oooh what you said'?".

    However, this sentiment could not be further from the truth. I can say without a doubt that Jason Derulo is the greatest popular artist of the 21st century so far, in terms of both the intellectual content of his works and their deliberate, precise structure. In accordance with Umberto Eco's assertion that every cultural phenomenon can be studied as communication, I have chosen Whatcha Say as the subject for a thorough intertextual analysis from which several conclusions about both the artist's sociological and political views and the nature of contemporary human society can be drawn.

    Whatcha Say deals with a very specific issue - a man cheating on a woman without her knowledge, but realising his mistake and begging for her forgiveness. This is a direct appeal to a universally shared aspect of the human experience; how male and female members of our species interact socially. The relationship between men and women has been a consistent theme throughout the history of literature, mythology, and sociology. The ancient Sumerian epic of Gilgamesh sees the eponymous tyrant abuse his power to engage in sexual contact with any woman he desires, the ancient Greek tales feature acts such as the pursuit and rape of Persephone by the god Hades, the balance of power between men and women was a point of near-obsession for Chaucer in his seminal Canterbury Tales, and even in contemporary audial literature (such as Whatcha Say), the fragile and often seemingly pre-defined relationships humans have formed are called into question. What does it mean to be a man? Or a woman? These questions have plagued us both personally and academically for centuries, and continue to do so to this very day.

    The song begins with an Imogen Heap sample - a simple vocoder-based refrain, briefly punctuated by a shout of 'Jason Derulo'. While this is a clever and knowing nod to the classic delta blues (contemporary R&B's long-forgotten ancestor) 'call and response' vocal style, where a male and female voice are juxtaposed in immediate succession, it is also a structural device in literary terms. Imogen Heap wrote 'Hide and Seek' as a direct emotional response to 'the sweeping insensitivity of this still life' - her feelings of hopelessness and neglect at the hands of an uncaring and manipulative lover. Some would consider Derulo's usage of Heap's lyrics to be a tasteless and tactless act of abuse; that using the musical representation of a random woman's feelings of heartbreak in a song about male cheating is a gross misappropriation. These are the same people who insist that Alanis Morrissette's song 'Ironic' isn't ironic. The reason Morrissette lists poor examples of irony as being 'ironic' in her seminal song is, in itself, an act of sheer and purposeful irony. None of her examples can be considered genuine irony by any stretch of the imagination, defeating the purpose of their existence while simultaneously justifying it. This can be considered meta-irony; deliberate and precise in its own self-ridiculing. Whatcha Say employs the same self-awareness in its unfolding structural narrative, even in its most nascent stage, as Derulo boastfully repeats his own name over the musical and lyrical work of another artist. Whatcha Say should not be taken at face value. Such a shallow analysis would not do justice to the level of mindfulness and incisive intelligence Jason Derulo displays even in the early stages of his undoubtedly long and successful musical career. Here is an artist who realises his duty to contribute to the fundamental and almost unconscious struggle to reconcile men and women under one banner, who understands the exploitative nature of the society into which his art was born, and who has chosen the medium of musical and literal intertextuality to compose a self-aware and almost comically ironic representation of the abusive relationship between men and women and its repercussions on a broader human level. Jason Derulo's bold pronouncement of his own name not only contributes to the motif of irony which continues throughout the song, it is also a meta-ironic statement in itself. Having announced his own name implies that the situation is personal, and that he is the main character in the story. We can safely assume, due to both the several present levels of irony in previous statements and the broader intertextual theme of gender roles, that this announcement serves as the very opposite of its superficial meaning. By announcing himself, the artist is actually 'de-announcing' himself, renouncing his personal identity in favour of simply being a male voice in a continually unfolding intertextual narrative between the two genders.

    After the introduction, which makes Derulo's intellectual intentions very well known, he begins with his first original verse:

    "I was so wrong for so long
    Only tryin' to please myself
    Girl, I was caught up in her lust
    When I don't really want no one else"

    Having realised his grievous error, the guilt-consumed male lead comes clean. He recognises that he has been direly mistaken in his personal relationships. This is precisely the kind of speech Imogen Heap mentions in Hide and Seek - the song which Derulo so deliberately and poignantly sampled:

    "Ransom notes keep falling out your mouth
    mid-sweet talk, newspaper word cut outs."

    Under the subtle but prominently announced (by means of 'sampling') lens of intertextuality, we see a new dimension to the relationship between a man and a woman. We see that the male operated under what he thought was 'right' - that he genuinely did think, at the time, it was 'for the best', a line that recurs in both songs, and is therefore of vital importance in relation to establishing the third intertextual and relational dimension. He operated under a deceptive verisimilitude, and subsequently found himself disillusioned and brought back to reality. This song, on a superficial level, captures a man's desperate and selfish struggle to regain a sense of normalcy in his life, but it begs for further analysis of the male's actions and their underlying motivations.

    "Girl, tell me whatcha said
    I don't want you to leave me
    Though you caught me cheatin'
    Tell me, tell me whatcha said
    I really need you in my life
    'Cause things ain't right, girl."

    In the original work, Heap's 'Whatcha say' refrain was meant to usher in a sense of disbelief and rejection - it is in the context of a woman who has realised the shallow and deceptive nature of her male counterpart, and his egocentric, narrow, and purely self-interested view of reality. While accepting that perhaps he genuinely did mean no harm by any of his actions, the absolute betrayal of trust on his part has removed the fundamental foundation for any romantic (or even friendly) relationship. Derulo further develops Heap's theme in the above verse, as he elaborates "I don't want you to leave me." The overall structure of his sentences is extremely important in ascertaining their true literary and sociological meaning within the intertextual context. "I don't want you to leave me" is a particularly powerful statement that has many repercussions when viewing these two songs as part of an ongoing sociological dialogue between two genders. "I" don't want you to leave me. The first word is one syllable, but it says all you need to know. The man attempts not only to explain or otherwise justify his actions to the female, but to himself also. It should hopefully be obvious to you now that Derulo has depersonified himself through meta-irony to the point where he is a mere representation of the male psyche, and nothing more. In the original song by Imogen Heap, there is a strong female-centred emotional and intellectual presence, riddled with cryptic and descriptive emotions. Lines like "oily marks appear on walls where pleasure moments hung before the takeover" are ignored by Derulo, as he focuses only on the line that affects himself the most - what did "you" say? This is a representation of the male ego in a direct confrontation with a woman who has rejected him. His male character unconsciously ignores what he cannot understand, forcing a complex emotional situation into a self-centred plea for romantic pity because "things ain't right" in his life. This leads to an intellectual dilemma - if the male and female psyche are inherently incompatible, as Derulo suggests, how do we reconcile the two under the banner of 'true love'?

    "Cause when the roof caved in and the truth came out
    I just didn't know what to do
    (I just didn't know what to do)
    But when I become a star we'll be livin' so large
    I'll do anything for you
    So baby whatcha say?"

    The imagery of the roof caving in is a prominent feature in both the popular lexicon and modern literature. It represents what was meant to protect us failing - the newfound fallibility of what was previously thought to be infallible. The phrase has also become something bordering on a trite and meaningless cliche. Derulo is undoubtedly aware of this, and instead of using a more apt metaphor, deliberately uses the 'roof' as being a device to focus our attention solely on the latter part of the line. By ignoring a familiar saying that we have seen many times before and therefore unconsciously disregard, we are drawn to "and the truth came out." This is a logical epilogue to the continuous introspection in Whatcha Say. The truth is out. We are no longer viewing reality as being separate - dimensionally, contextually, or otherwise. We are seeing truth, unaltered by either a male or female perspective, but simply from a human one. Logically, "I just didn't know what to do" follows. Like Solzhenitsyn's Ivan Denisovich or Kafka's 'K.', Derulo finds himself resigned to the notion that, truly, we don't know what to do. We follow what we foolishly perceive to be reality, but our circumstances (biological, geological, societal, or otherwise) are the forces that truly dictate our lives rather than any action of our own free will. All we have to combat our sense of meaninglessness and impermanence is hope - "When I become a star we'll be livin' so large" can be directly deconstructed into a direct longing for something meaningful and lasting beyond the unsatisfactory present moment - the unconscious meaning behind both the male and female voices in the intertextual dialogue between Hide and Seek and Whatcha Say. The 'truth' is that, even though we ascribe incredible and deep personal meaning to certain things, they are fleeting and often arbitrary, meaning two different things to two different people, and ultimately meaning nothing at all. We live in the moment while simultaneously longing for a better moment, riding out our biologically predetermined emotions, forgetting and remembering certain events for no reason other than the arbitrary value we ascribed to them at a certain time. By providing an intertextual audial framework in which an abstract dialogue between the two genders can take place, Jason Derulo puts the human condition into perspective. It is up to the individual, male or female, to remove him or herself from the erroneous and valueless notion of eternal and uniform 'love', and instead realise that they must only pursue relationships as 'authentic' (in Sartrean terms) human beings, aware of their biological need to feel 'love' and companionship, but not allowing themselves to be ruled by its pursuit.

    So baby,

    Whatcha say?

  • Fascism in Technology: Transgressive Politics & the Internet

    Set 17 2009, 14h08

    "Message: [no subject]

    Your abusive and trolling behavior on last.fm shoutbox services, in direct violation of the terms of service you agreed to in order to have an account here, has been noted and deleted.

    Continued abusive behavior can result in banning of your account without further warning.

    You are required to read and follow the Community Guidelines as linked at the bottom of this and every page before you make any further posts on last.fm, as you were supposed to do when you joined.

    HairMetalAddict
    Last.fm Moderator
    "

    ---

    Nietzsche's concept of 'Machtgelust', or the largely subconscious human desire for power as being the primary underlying motivation behind all human interaction, is demonstrated clearly upon providing a plebeian and otherwise unremarkable individual with the minimal amount of power required to successfully coerce another individual into obeying their demands, essentially subjecting someone to their rule under threat of punishment.

    Upon seeing an opinion they imagine to be particularly contrary to their own set of values, they immediately realise the possible opportunity to exercise their granted 'right' to oppress the member of their community who has expressed this opinion -- often the most vulnerable and notably 'different' member of society (see also: Nazi Germany's persecution of the Jewish and homosexuals.)

    Not only will this allow the petty and selfish individual an opportunity to assert their perceived dominion over their community, it also solidifies his or her position within the unjust caste system as a 'rightful punisher' -- the archetype of the benevolent yet vindictive god.

    Through an act of unwarranted and transgessive imposure on an individual who challenges his or her societal norms by exercising the innate right to free speech, the psychologically crippled despot reveals an insight into the human condition -- a desperate struggle for any kind of power in order to bring a sense of meaning to our own lives -- either by raising ourselves, or lowering another. Def Leppard sucks.

    Sincerely,

    Nagesh 'Warrior Snake' Nakshatra, 20, Male, Chad.