Monday, February 11, 2008

Outkast's Happy Valentine's Day

Ignore the home-made video -- it is the song I want to talk about.

Outkast is always thoroughly bizarre, and this is one of my favorite songs from Speakerboxxx/The Love Below. I want to just bullet point a few of its notable features:

The chorus is, I am pretty sure, "Happy Valentine's Day (Everyday the Fourteenth!)" except that "everyday" is pronounced to land somewhere right between "everyday" and "February" so that we get the specific day, and also the idea that love rules the entire calendar.

"Now when arrows don't penetrate, see, Cupid grabs the pistol" updates the image of Cupid while also remaining rigorously faithful to the idea -- "penetrate" does not add anything obscene to the image of Cupid, since the arrow was always a sexual metaphor anyway.

You won't believe in me
But you would fancy Leprechauns
Or Groundhogs, no, thank you Easter Bunny!
There’s all this talk about Santa Clause
but, see love will rule supreme

Outside of more recently outdated expressions like "fancy that!" using "fancy" as a verb in this way seems amazingly, weirdly, 19th century. Outkast updates the image of the Cupid but not the language used for discussing him. Better yet, is the way the song immediately jumps from the absurdity of believing in Leprechauns, to the absurdity of believing in groundhogs. Of course the groundhog is meant to invoke the incredible minor holiday of Groundhog's day, but the way the sentence is worded it jumps out at you because there is no reason to doubt the existence of groundhogs. "Easter bunny" lands the set in the middle -- Leprechauns are unreal, groundhogs real, bunnies are real but the Easter bunny is not. Finally the phrase "Love will rule supreme" is renovated as a cliché by imagining that it will win some kind of crazy vaguely literal War of the Holidays, probably because Cupid has a pistol.

When this chorus is repeated, its absurdity is heightened by its being broken up in pieces that put extra weight on "fancy" and "bunny":

You won't believe in me
but you would fancy
-- HEY, don't you supposed to be some playa or something --

You have to stop and really appreciate a song that uses the word bunny -- sung by a chorus of girls -- all alone, with that kind of emphasis.

Could be an organ donor
the way I give up my heart, but
Never know because shit
I'd never tella
ask me how I’m feeling
I'd holla that it's irella
I don't get myself caught up
in the jello jella
And pudding pops up other stops
that they call falling in love

Shortening "irrelevant" so that it rhymes with "tella" and "jello jella" -- which does not really mean anything in the first place -- is kind of amazing. It is so funny because it is so unnecessary -- you should not need a rhyme for "tella" and "Jello Jella" since these were never real words to begin with. Although, and I hope I am not showing my ignorance here, I assume "Jello Jella" is Outkast's made up slang for jealously -- since it fits both in terms of sound and sense. The final part of the silliness -- Pudding Pops, made by Jello, mentioned for really no reason other than that vague connection.

But, for the record
have you ever rode a horse
Like for you to take me to Pluto
I said of course
But if you ain't a sweetie
indeedy I won't endorse
Han Solo til I'm hit by the bullet
so may the force
Be which out and I'm which you

I quote this for no reason other than the fact that such a short song, with a grab-bag of holiday metaphors, just goes to Star Wars for no real reason other than the second half of "[May the force] be with you" suggests, vaguely, "be with you" in a romantic sense. Free association rules the day.

The song reminds us that at some point love songs were meant to be fun.


brad said...

Great review!

"And pudding pops up other stops
that they call falling in love" I think might be a criticism of guys who fuck chicks under the guise of love, diminishing its meaning.

rubens borges said...

I've been reading your blog for a few weeks, a friend of mine is a big fan of comics, and yours, and told me about it. just wanted to say it's nice to hear you talk about Outkast, I say they are great, most people down here (Brazil) don't get them...
great blog btw, but you already knew that, lol

Scene -- said...

haaa, i love this joint. i didn't really get into speakerboxx/the love below on the whole, but there were a couple of standout songs if i remember, and this was definitely one of them.

As for "Han Solo", i always thought that, aside from tying into the space imagery of Pluto, was a play on "hand solo," i.e. masturbation. He's playing solo until he's hit by cupid's arrow.

Rubens said...

just wanted to add: updating, without updating is all that andré 3000 is all about (my baby boy is named André, so maybe, i am a fan, lol) if it makes any sense. and those lines are an example of why I think 'Dre is a music genius...

Rubens said...

and scene: i really don't think "Han Solo" os about masturbation, but more aboput being alone, without love, "Solo"