By Joe Dimuzio, Daily Music Columnist
Published March 19, 2012
In a previous column, I lamented the rebirth of Detroit’s 107.5, WGPR. At the crest of the new year, the radio station switched programming from R&B/Gospel/Soul/whatever-you’d-like-to-call-it, to Radio One’s less exotic chaff of hip-hop-top 40 (their web page claims to “target” African American/urban consumers — a market-ready verb I don’t find particularly endearing in any sense). Pre-2012, I had listened to GPR hoping to hear the ghost of the legendary Detroit DJ Electrifying Mojo and others kicking around some great disco, acid house and techno on weekends. I remained content to ignore an otherwise tepid array of what they played throughout most of the week — a mix of what will pass for “grown ‘n’ sexy” these days with some disorienting health, economic and religious advice on Sunday afternoons.
I would pre-set GPR into my van’s number-three button, juggling between WCBN, assorted top-40 alternatives, WDET/WUOM and the occasional wave of static. Despite the jarring shift in programming, I’ve chosen to leave it locked in, a button push away. And like any serious relationship, I’m learning to harbor the flaws and patience necessary to find true love.
The station is more or less anonymous now and less adventurous than the “old” GPR. In a one-hour stretch it manages to play the requisite two to three Drake songs, amid the rest of a limited stable of charting hip-pop. I could probably count the number of songs I have heard on the station with four or five hands. You can get what they’ve got wherever.
Yet there are little habits, little tics that have snuck in to endear me. Particular DJs who actively spin (usually in an utterly adequate style) and drop air horns into every build and drop — a trick that annoyed me, but now makes me smile. The daffy, spitfire readings of listeners’ tweets on-air, accompanied by their typically ridiculous screen names. The inane “YOU GOTTA GET DOWN HERE”s and “DETROIT’S HOTTEST PARTY!”s shouted over crowds during live broadcasts — almost always held out a bit too long.
And of course there is the music. Practically all of it overplayed, much of it uninspired and almost all of it relentlessly listenable.
Young Jeezy’s “I Do” is a track I never skip and manage to hear at least daily. It’s sort of an incongruous mess with a characteristically labored Jay-Z verse, a characteristically celestial run-on by Andre 3000 (both of which read better on paper than they do over M16’s Southern belle of a beat) and Jeezy being Jeezy. And it’s Jeezy’s verse and hook that’s charmed me in spite of what I’m less enthused about. First, there is Jeezy, ready to ride or die, hard and strapped and penning an ode to the crack game cloaked as an ode to marriage. Second, there’s the lovely zone he’s caught in, between commitment and the fantasy of devotion, where he can idealize his bride (cocaine), hustling, bailing him out of jail, warming his bed. Third, and most importantly, is the petulant drone tailing the ends of Jeezy’s phrases, peaking blissfully in the hook “I said I do, I do, I do, I do, I do / You know I do!” leaving him sounding particularly like Kel on an orange soda bender and a whiny, infatuated child.
Drake, whose comically belabored “softness” marks him as an outlier (he sings and raps!) is far less endearing even when his tracks intoxicate. For all the “sensitivity” flack, he is usually a relentless misogynist (particularly on the supercilious and fantastically rhythmic “Make Me Proud (Proud of You),” which leaves me singing along to a hook I despise thematically but otherwise dig).
Some part of me demands some sort of transgressive politics with my pop, making me resistant to the net impact of Jeezy’s predictable thug-drug-romance and Drake’s “sensitive” condescension … but I’m torn. Can simple, predictable ideas thrill and satisfy just as much as nuance and subtlety? Need we endorse the entirety of our favorite pop singer’s idealized identity? Can our comfort food be gourmet?
At this unholy pop matrimony we may stomp on wine glasses, stuff cake in each other’s faces, slide rings on fingers and trade vows (this column being a particularly tipsy and verbose example) before staring each other straight in the eyes, maybe smiling, trading “I do’s” without irony, swagger or confliction. With honesty (or at least signifying it) and eyes tearing up, whispering, “I do. You know I do!”