Irreplaceable







With the Grammys on Sunday, I thought it would be a good time to bring back a real fan favorite: Music Lyrics Analysis!


[Obligatory pause while everyone rushes to donate via PayPal in his or her excitement.]


Okay, we are back. They say1 Music hath charms to soothe a savage Beast, but it can only be understood when dissected within an inch of its life. That is what The Hyperion Institute is here for. We analyze and explain so you will not have to. (Also, because we are fairly sure you're not capable, but to say that would just be rude.2)

1 A great column—or series of columns!—would be looking into who "They" are. I totally need a crack team of top-notch investigators, or just some investigators on crack.

2 Note that I gave up mocking for Lentils, so when I say you are not capable; there is no derision in my Arial 12 point font voice.

Today we want to look at two of the nominated songs from Sunday's ceremony, arguably the two biggest songs of 2007. Our thesis—and it breaks our hearts to say such things, but we do not shrink from the tough calls3 here at the Institute—is this: Women: you've come a long way, baby, but you are not men.

3 Nor do we call the tough shrinks.
While you are listening, here are the lyrics in this handy-dandy little widget:

The first song I would like to look at is Beyonce's "Irreplaceable." The good people at Knowles Inc. will not let me embed the video, but if you would like to listen to the song, here is the You Tube link. (Opens up into a new window, for your convenience.)

Here are the lyrics while you listen:


To the left
To the left
To the left
To the left
To the left
To the left
Everything you own in the box to the left
In the closet that's my stuff - Yes
If I bought it nigga please don't touch
And keep talking that mess, that's fine
But could you walk and talk at the same time
And It's my mine name that is on that Jag
So remove your bags let me call you a cab

Standing in the front yard telling me
How I'm such a fool - Talking about
How I'll never ever find a man like you
You got me twisted

You must not know about me
You must not know about me
I could have another you in a minute
Matter fact he'll be here in a minute - baby

You must not know about me
You must not know about me
I can have another you by tomorrow
So don't you ever for a second get to thinking you're irreplaceable

So go ahead and get gone
And call up on that chick and see if she is home
Oops, I bet ya thought that I didn't know
What did you think I was putting you out for?
Cause you was untrue
Rolling her around in the car that I bought you
Baby you dropped them keys hurry up before your taxi leaves
Standing in the front yard telling me
How I am such a fool - Talking about
How I'll never ever find a man like you
You got me twisted

You must not know about me
You must not know about me
I could have another you in a minute
Matter fact he'll be here in a minute - baby

You must not know about me
You must not know about me
I will have another you by tomorrow
So don't you ever for a second get to thinking you're irreplaceable

So since I’m not your everything
How about I'll be nothing
Nothing at all to you
Baby I wont shead a tear for you
I won't lose a wink of sleep
Cause the truth of the matter is
Replacing you is so easy

To the left
To the left
To the left
To the left
To the left
To the left
Everything you own in the box to the left

To the left
To the left

Don't you ever for a second get to thinking you're irreplaceable

You must not know about me
You must not know about me
I could have another you in a minute
Matter fact he'll be be here in a minute - baby

You must not know about me
You must not know about me
I can have another you by tomorrow
Don't you ever for a second get to thinking you're irreplaceable

You must not know about me
You must not know about me
I could have another you in a minute
Matter fact he'll be be here in a minute - baby

You must not know about me
You must not know about me
I can have another you by tomorrow
Don't you ever for a second get to thinking you're irreplaceable


Before we begin to break this song down, I will have you know that the great songwriter Ne-Yo4 originally wrote "Irreplaceable" for a man. Actually, that one fact outlines my premise. The song details stereotypical behavior of what some rich/powerful hip-hop men might do when tired of their relationship. And while we do not like to generalize here, "Irreplaceable" does not give us typical female behavior. Specifically regarding Beyonce: I ain't buying it.

4 Brother of Yo-Yo Ma and founder of Yoplait Yogurt.
The song starts with an interesting refrain: "To the left, to the left." This lyric is repeated several times during the song, and serves as a rhythmical counterpart to the chorus. Ostensibly, the lyric refers to how the man in the song will have to step over to the left to retrieve his personal effects, as they have been unceremoniously dumped in the yard.

However, look further, little monkeys! The repeated nature of the refrain is a not-so-subtle evocation of military cadence. By referencing this typically "male" image, Beyonce is from the very beginning trying to tell us that she is acting typically "male:" cold, calculating and utterly without remorse. Watching the video, we see Beyonce oh-so-casually filing her nails while the man in question packs up his stuff; not a care in the world. Only her gaze—daggers of ice—give her true motives away."

The first verse starts off and we Beyonce's "tough" act:

Everything you own in the box to the left
In the closet that's my stuff - Yes
If I bought it nigga5 please don't touch
And keep talking that mess, that's fine
But could you walk and talk at the same time
And It's my mine name that is on that Jag
So remove your bags let me call you a cab

5 I considered asterisking out the N word, but chose not to for two reasons: A) I am loathe to censor the artist's work, particularly as we are analyzing the lyrics and B) Beyonce uses the "gga" ending rather than the "gger" one, which according to my homies on the Street, is the non-racist version. You may disagree: take it up with Beyonce.

For in this second verse we learn that the gentleman in question has been unfaithful, and perhaps even worse than that: he has been squiring this other woman around in a car Beyonce provided! Women (like men) are not generally fans of infidelity, but they really hate it when said action touches something of theirs, if only peripherally.

So far so good, yes? Beyonce is kicking the gentleman to the curb, and rubbing it in his face that the luxury car he drives is in fact provided by her. Beyonce goes on to detail how the gentleman (now in the yard) will argue how big a mistake she is making for severing the relationship; she will not in the foreseeable future find anyone like him. She counters with the chorus:


You must not know about me
I could have another you in a minute
Matter fact he'll be here in a minute - baby

You must not know about me
You must not know about me
I can have another you by tomorrow
So don't you ever for a second get to thinking you're irreplaceable


Beyonce's attempt to humiliate the gentleman ramps up mightily. Not only is he easily replaced, she implies, there is a veritable carbon copy on the way! The imagery is clear. Much the way that male rock stars have been accused in the past of treating women as if they exist solely for the star's pleasure, Beyonce is saying her gentleman is just a boy-toy, without redeeming individuality.

Note that the second part of the chorus undermines the first part, as now Beyonce's story is that she COULD have another man show up, by tomorrow. This seems to imply that the taunt in the first part ("Matter fact he'll be in here in a minute") was hyperbole. Normally we would add this to the cumulative psychological evidence against Beyonce, but in this case, I think we should allow that she was merely rubbing the man's face in her position of power. Besides, the second verse sinks Beyonce beyond a doubt, so there is no sense piling on.

And with that, let us go ahead and examine the beginning of that second verse:


So go ahead and get gone
And call up on that chick and see if she is home
Oops, I bet ya thought that I didn't know
What did you think I was putting you out for?
Cause you was untrue
Rolling her around in the car that I bought you

Now the story comes out! Far from being remorseless dumping machine, Beyonce has made her move for the oldest and dare we say most clich├ęd of reasons: Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.

I want it on record that I am not blaming Beyonce for her anger. She is justified and proper in doing so. However, the entire basis of her song is how little this man means to her, but the very words of her song betray that. What the lyrics are actually telling us is that is that the man means a great deal to Beyonce, and all of these actions are not an emotionless "NEXT!", but rather, a lashing out from a hurt woman. Thus, when Beyonce tells us in the bridge that:


So since I'm not your everything
How about I'll be nothing
Nothing at all to you
Baby I won't shed a tear for you
I won't lose a wink of sleep
Cause the truth of the matter is
Replacing you is so easy

We simply cannot believe her. The truth has come out. Far from a nonchalant exit, one can only surmise that this action will have repercussions on Beyonce's life for some time. There might be a rebound fling, but I dare say the tears will be shed, and winks of sleep lost.

When it comes right down to it, the very title of the song gives Beyonce away. It is a Freudian Slip, if you will. If this man truly meant nothing to her, the song should be something along the lines of "Easily Replaceable" or perhaps even my jocular "Next!" from earlier. By framing the song title from what the gentleman apparently thinks (that he is irreplaceable), Beyonce inadvertently gives us insight into her true feelings.

And though some women surely are capable of acting as we accuse men of doing, Beyonce clearly is not one of them.

I had a second song to examine, but as I see the column is running a tad long I will save it until tomorrow. Join me then when I discuss another Grammy nominated song and ask the question, "How is this bitch not in jail?"


Hyperion
February 08, 2008


[See more Music Lyrics Analysis Also, I want it record: I had an amazingly awesome picture of Beyonce and Kaida wouldn't let me post it. She's not naked or anything: but what a picture! If you're interested, just go to Google images and type in Beyonce. that first picture is the one I'm talking about.]

No comments: