Modern lyrics: why sex and stupidity sell

Young Money

By Claire Wood, For The Daily
Published February 15, 2015

In 2014, R&B star Jeremih scaled the pop charts once again. With his latest hit skyrocketing to number six on Billboard’s R&B Singles in America chart, the song was a definite success. We hear it everywhere — radio stations, frat houses, bars — still going strong months after its release date.

“Don’t tell ‘em / Don’t tell ‘em / You ain’t even / Gotta tell ‘em.”

Considering his past hits (2009’s “Birthday Sex” and the 2010 release “Down on Me”— both of which sport blatantly sexual titles), it comes as no surprise that Jeremih intimately beckons us in this recent serenade of his secret sex life.

I guess Jeremih really wanted to keep his sex life on the D-L, as he repeats the phrase “don’t tell ‘em” throughout the song 40 times.

Granted, the star is conveying his song’s theme of furtive fornication quite effectively, but 40 times? In fact, throughout the 54-word chorus, Jeremih uses a smashing variety of no more than seven words.

Now, here is where the question comes up: how on earth did Jeremih’s “Don’t Tell ‘Em” become a number one hit on Billboard’s R&B Singles?

We can’t lie: Our parents’s age really had it down. Big hits back then sported impressive lyrics that hit listeners square on. The Temptations’s release of “My Girl” in December of 1964 inspired America with words that the whole world knows: “I’d guess you’d say / What could make me feel this way? / My girl — my girl — my girl!” The three wholesome women of The Supremes rattled America with “Stop in the Name of Love,” singing the begging story of a broken heart. Gloria Gaynor belted out her single “I Will Survive” in 1978, boasting strong, defiant feminism with her lines: “Did you think I’d lay down and die? Oh no, not I! I will survive!”

Throughout the decades, however, a pitiful transformation has occurred in a sort of prodigious degradation of lyrics. Recent pop releases have come out with some of the most atrocious rhymes, puns and choruses in the history of mankind.

For example, Big Sean climbed to Billboard’s number one Ranking for Hot R&B and Hip-Hop despite Sean’s repeated, demeaning assertion that he will be abstaining from “fuckin’ with you, you little dumb ass bitch.” Notwithstanding the most shameless female objectification America has seen yet, Big Sean’s music video has raked in over 37 million views on YouTube.

If not blatantly offensive, these kinds of lyrics are unfathomably stupid. Rapper YG, featured in Jeremih’s “Don’t Tell “Em,” backs his statement of being “on my late night thirsty” with the substantial argument that, of course, “it was late night, and I was thirsty.” Good one, YG — excellent use of circular reasoning. Nicki Minaj comes out with a similar, insultingly simple line in her recent release “Only,” as she claims that she “don’t duck nobody but tape” and then follows with an explanation of how “that was a set up for a punchline on duct tape.” Was that our cue to laugh? Nobody knows.

So how is it possible that these horrendous, empty combinations of verses climb their way to the top of the pop culture food chain?

I have no clue. Maybe its Minaj’s artificial perfection that sells her albums. Maybe we’re intoxicated with the recent trends of throbbing bass and synthesized instrumentals. Maybe it’s the heavy eroticism that defines a song’s popularity, attractive to us as some form of vicarious fantasy. Maybe we actually like the lewd, asinine lyrics that inundate today’s Top 40.

Or maybe we’ve all stopped listening.