Kevin Stairiker discusses the rise and fall of Lil’ Wayne, and his theory on ‘pop music discography forgetfulness syndrome.’
I don’t know very much about Lil’ Wayne. I know that I first heard of him through one of Destiny’s Child’s circling the drain singles, “Soldier,” where he prominently played the part of “tiny man rapping who isn’t T.I.,” in my head.
I also know that I thoroughly enjoyed “Tha Carter III,” mostly because of album cuts like “Dr. Carter” and “Phone Home,” both of which I love to this day.
But then I heard “Prom Queen”–a pre-release track from Weezy’s rap-rock effort “Rebirth”–and my brain fully shut down to Weezy F. Baby.
It wasn’t bad because Wayne can’t play guitar, or because of a lack of lyrical nuances. It was bad because it was bad. It was just dripping with…bad.
Even though there had been an album, a mixtape and a whole mess of guest spots since then, I really couldn’t be bothered to go out of my way to hear any of it.
Eventually, however, I felt guilty. It almost seemed like Wayne was trying to make it up to me by announcing that “Tha Carter IV” was finally coming out.
At this point, “Tha Carter” banner is sort of a personal brand of trustworthiness for Dwayne Carter, similar to Jay-Z’s “Blueprint” albums. I decided to do the only justifiable thing I could do and see which single was doing the best on the iTunes singles chart, listen to it and judge the rest of the album accordingly.
The day that I happened to look, a charmingly titled tune named “How To Love” was at a surprisingly low number nine, right behind the sure-to-be-incredible “Planet Pit” by Pitbull.
I truly didn’t know what to expect going into the song.
“Maybe Wayne is pulling a “Slow Jamz” and name-dropping Marvin Gaye and Ready For The World to really set this party off right,” I thought to myself. “Or maybe it’ll be Wayne reading some sort of instructional self-help book about love over some beatz,” another side of my brain quarreled.
Either way, I was so sure I was ready.
Before I dive in, full disclosure: I am not Lil’ Wayne’s target audience, but maybe you are. Maybe “How To Love” is your favorite song right now. Maybe “How To Love” is your favorite song ever in the history of popular recorded music.
Maybe when you wake up in the morning, the faint, bright rays of sun calmly stretch across your face, urging you to wake up. You smile, thinking about all that you’re going to accomplish during the day. You think about how lucky you are to be alive, and how lucky you are that the terrible things in this world aren’t affecting you at this very moment, or maybe ever. And as you step out of your door to brave the day, you put on Lil’ Wayne’s “How To Love” and think to yourself “Yes. This is all I need. This is all I ever needed.” In which case, I’m sorry.
For starters, I really wasn’t expecting that acoustic guitar. I sort of wish that any criticism of this song started and stopped with the prominence of the acoustic guitar, but sadly, it doesn’t.
The song features Wayne in the role of a lamenting bystander to a woman who is down on herself, presumably because she never learned how to love. It’s an honest and admirable sentiment coming from someone like Lil’ Wayne, but unfortunately, the song suffers from a fatal disease I like to call, “Pop Music Discography Forgetfulness Syndrome.”
Thousands of artists suffer from this disease on a yearly basis. Essentially, it boils down to the fact that in releasing “How To Love,” Lil’ Wayne wants you to forget, if only for the length of the song, that he hasn’t released songs like “Lollipop” and “Bedrock.”
It’s exactly analogous to Katy Perry. One of the biggest singles from “Teenage Dream” was the Lady Gaga-biting “Firework,” a song that so desperately wanted to be inspirational that you could probably smell it coming before it played on the radio.
With “Firework,” we as listeners are supposed to forget about similarly putrid songs like “Ur So Gay.” It’s an attempt to pad albums with literally every kind of song, if only to reach a universal appeal to every single kind of listener on the planet so that they will
buy, buy, buy.
That’s what “How To Love” is. It’s the song junior high cheerleading squads play their respective parents to show them that Lil’ Wayne can have a song without swearing that they can play in the van on the way to practices.
It’s a song whose vaguely uplifting lyrics were written to give millions of people alternately lower and upper-cased Facebook statuses for weeks straight. And who wanted that? Who was sitting, sweating, anxiously awaiting an acoustic guitar-based, auto-tuned and crooned Lil’ Wayne love ballad?
As I mentioned previously, I am not the target audience for Lil’ Wayne. However, I am entirely affected by what he chooses to record and release. If I’m going to have to hear a new Wayne track as it’s blaring from someone’s window or on the radio when my sister’s driving the car, it better be something awesome like “Mrs. Officer.”
Independently, as a listener, I need him to be the alien that he proclaims to be, because that’s when he’s at his best. I hear something like “How to Love” and it only reminds me of just how similar he is to other artists, because you know who records dreck like “How To Love?” Humans, the very thing Dwayne Carter proclaimed pretty adamantly not to be.
Top 5 Songs About Urgent Traveling:
1. “Roadrunner”-The Modern Lovers
2. “I Left My Wallet In el Segundo”-A Tribe Called Quest
3. “Graceland”-Paul Simon
4. “Thunder Road” (Or roughly any other Springsteen song)-Bruce Springsteen
Kevin Stariker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.