Day 169: Playlist Music – Great Good Ok Fine’s “You’re the One For Me”
by Tom Noonan
Indie rock and R&B are crossing their wires right now in much the same way Rap and R&B did back in the early 00’s. Acts like The Weekend, How to Dress Well, and even Frank Ocean are blurring the line between clouded, druggy indie dives and R. Kelly’s smooth, tailored bedroom. It’s telling that, as Drake’s “Hold On We’re Going Home” sits at #5 on Billboard’s Hot 100, the most discussed R&B album to come out this year is still The Weeknd’s Kiss Land, even if most of the discussion is the opposite of glowing. As an album, Kiss Land was heavy on atmosphere and obtusely thin on filling in the sketches female characters populating its fringes (in most instances, he only drew their genitalia), but it also had a finger on the pulse of a changing scene, a shift that was given so much critical support that it earned a lot of people’s willful ignorance to its problematic themes. Kiss Land, then, presented itself unintentionally as an urgent warning against allowing such a drastic shift in an already problematically misogynistic genre. I mean, if R. Kelly is capable of statutory rape, imagine what the guy who sang, “For what it’s worth, I hope you enjoy the show/Cause if you’re back here only takin’ pictures/You gon’ have to take your ass home”, is capable of (not to mention the explicit reference he makes to filming a sex tape earlier in the same verse. It’s almost as if he’s welcoming Kelly’s soul to posses him).
This isn’t to say that Abel Tesfaye will end up in the kind of legal trouble Kelly faced, or that the scene they both inhabit is inherently sexually destructive. I do, however, want to point to the danger the drug and rape culture The Weeknd routinely champions presents as it takes a critically focused spot in our popular culture. We just can’t be afraid to push back, and Kiss Land was a good reminder of that (so was the reaction to Rick Ross’s even more problematic “U.O.E.N.O” verse). But amid all this cynicism, there’s Great Good Ok Fine, an indie-R&B outfit that’s less interested in spending hours in a strip club getting high than it is using that time to find a way to make the strippers fall in love with them. On their first single, “You’re the Only One for Me”, the Brooklyn natives re-appropriate their scene’s violent language to make saccharine pop you can recover to. “Hit ’em with a little bit of crazy/Hit ’em with a little bit of love.” I hope they send Abel a copy of this one.