Saturday, September 4, 2010

Microcosmic Adventures in La-La Land

How big of a deal is Beyonce Knowles? A really fucking big deal. Sure, you could cite her success with Destiny's Child or her stellar solo debut in 2003 (remember 'Crazy in Love,' 'Me, Myself and I,' and even 'Daddy'?), but for the sake of this post, I'm going to stay fairly recent and focus exclusively on Sasha Fierce—namely, 'Sweet Dreams.'

Dedicated readers of Muzjiks know my stance on mashups. In general, I consider them the lowest form of music, except in cases where the artist takes two or more original pieces of pop music and fuses them to create an entirely new song that challenges our ear to decide whether the original is the predominant version in our mind any longer. Such is the case for The White Panda's 'Stuntin' Like My Energy' and the majority of Girl Talk's output (case in point: 'Here's the Thing'). However, 'Sweet Dreams' has gone above and beyond the mashup treatment, something that just about every top 40 hit of the past four decades has gotten at this point. That is, 'Sweet Dreams' has been sampled, covered, and altogether transformed several times over.

Allow me a brief digression: dubstep godfather Burial has taken such universally recognizable songs as Christina Aguilera's 'Beautiful,' Destiny's Child's 'Emotion,' and Massive Attack's (of House fame) 'Teardop' and completely reworked them into brooding, experiencing-the-inception-of-the-apocalypse-in-the-dark-alley-next-to-a-British-club soundscapes. It is this relative of the mashup culture which I'd argue is the primary progressive force in popular music today—not only is it cognizant and respectful of the past, but it simultaneously pushes pop forward.

Jigga's got the hottest chick in the game wearing his chain, and her 'Sweet Dreams' received the aforementioned Burial-esque treatment. From psych-rockers (and Jaguar promoters) The Big Pink to dubstep behemoth Kingdom to the Great Weezy F, 'Sweet Dreams' has transcended the scope and reach that one could ever imagine a single three-and-a-half-minute song achieving. The Big Pink covered it and made it an atmospheric, drugged-out, introspective anthem of angst and waking-up-the-next-morning-with-the-taste-of-vomit-in-your-mouth-and-a-wholly-unfulfilling-cluelessness-of-who's-asleep-next-to-you. Kingdom offers a glimpse of what happened the night before in the club when that sweet dream hadn't yet morphed into the beautiful nightmare it would become. And Weezy—well, he and heiress to the throne/rapper equivalent of Beyonce Nicki Minaj just command 'Sweet Dreams' and have their way with it on No Ceilings.

Beyonce Knowles' 'Sweet Dreams': a microcosm of where pop is and where it's headed...

The Big Pink: Sweet Dreams (cover) [alt]
Kingdom: Fogs [alt]
Lil Wayne (ft. Nicki Minaj): Sweet Dreams [alt]

EDIT 9/4: It's Beyonce's birthday today. She turns 29. Totally didn't plan that! Weird.


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