September 20, 2005

(New) New Lows?

David Banner's new album Certified was released today. It contains the single "Play," which would qualify as a Dechievement, except for the fact that it is essentially the same song as The Ying Yang Twins' "Wait (the Whisper Song)," which I included in my original definition of the Dechievement.

Certainly the uncensored lyrics (caution, they're quite dirty) would qualify "Play" as a "dechievement." The fact that it has received considerable airplay (albeit in a censored form) both on the radio and MTV (and, presumably, in strip clubs nationwide) only furthers the song's strong case to be a bonafide New Low.

But does piggybacking on another New Low really qualify as a New Low? Let's examine part of the original definition:

[New Lows] became popular not by really doing anything entirely new, but by being more violent, more explicit, more misogynistic, or just plain dirtier than what had come before.

By this definition, ripping off another recent New Low (that is still being played on the radio) qualifies as "not really doing anything entirely new." In fact you'd think that this would therefore make "Play" even more of a New Low because it's even less original than most New Lows strive to be. And as dirty as "Wait" was, "Play" does successfully lower the bar.

But I think a heretofore unmentioned aspect of achieving New Lows is that, in order to do so, there has to have been a certain amount of time since the last New Low, so that pop culture's fast-acting amnesia can set in. In order for something to really be a New Low, it must actually seem "new" to the average consumer. Six months may be too little time, but a year is certainly plenty. Either way, "Play" is a) too similar to "Wait," and b) came out too soon after "Wait," to garner any real shock value. It therefore fails to qualify as a New Low, and just ends up being low.

Another reason for Banner's failure to achieve New Lows is the fact that he may actually be too outwardly intelligent for people to really believe that "Play" represents his honest take on the world. According to Allmusic, his album is full of "protest songs" wherein he "fearlessly and descriptively expresses the rage he feels for the way his people have been treated throughout history." Armed with this knowledge, Banner's attempt to stoop to the level of the dechievement seems like an obvious attempt at mainstream commercial success, and therefore lacks authenticity (note that I know nothing about Banner himself, nor have I heard any other songs off Certified). A pizza delivered to your door by Bill Gates may taste the same as any other pizza, but you know that it wasn't a genuine delivery--he must have been doing it for a TV appearance, or a promotion of some sort. He didn't mean it, or need the tip. And that's "Play": it seems like a New Low because its more sexually explicit than any other recent mainstream release, but Banners pragmatism is too transparent. Not to say that delivering pizza is anything like writing a song. Except that both people may be high.

In other related news, I'm thinking that perhaps the "New Low" term itself should be re-christened the "Dechievement." Which one is more descriptive? Which is catchier? Let me know.

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1 Comment

"Play" cannot be considered New Lows. There is nothing "new" about this song. "The Whisper Song" is a "New Low" because it set an entirely different level of lowness. It set the bar at about 3 inches off the ground. However, "Play" just rides the coattails. In other words, "Play" is not much "newer", or "lower", enough dethrone "The Whisper Song".

October 3, 2005 at 12:20PM, Edited September 4, 10:12AM

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Bernie