On the Radio: MMMMM, Cake

While driving in my car as usual, with the two little ones making their own private cacophony in the back seat, the wife and I turned on the radio and turned it up. For parents, desperate times are always calling for desperate measures. This moment required the local hip-hop station.

What we got was the recent Rihanna single “Birthday Cake”. I feel almost guilty that, when we write so little about hip-hop and rap, I have to pick on this song, but…this may be one of the worst songs of the year.

Let’s start by giving Rihanna her due. She is smart, attractive and has a pretty good voice. She has played her public hip-hop persona almost perfectly. I won’t say that the domestic abuse/Chris Brown affair was planned, but in retrospect the narrative arc of the relationship certainly seems advantageous.

But like many of the chart-topping stars of recent years, Rihanna is too frequently all persona and story and very little an artist. I found her first single “Umbrella” far more cloying than clever. Later tracks feature her fine voice spread over the typical confusion of instrument and sounds that passes for ‘innovative’ production.

The production is not what makes this song terrible, however. The lyrics are truly appalling. And I don’t write this for some sort of prim, offended reason. No, these lyrics are just bad. First, what kind of a chorus is the word “cake” repeated ad nauseum? The word isn’t even sung interestingly.

Beyond that, the song is cluttered up with poor innuendo and incomprehensible sexual double entendre. To be clear: I am not complaining because my poor innocent ears were shocked by the implications of a man wanting to “lick the icing off” or of the man wanting “that cake”.

What offends me is the inept and bizarre mixing of sexual imagery. This is something that has been happening of late in popular music—clever code or playful language has been replaced by unimaginative or hackneyed phrases interspersed with straight-forward declarations (in this song “oooh, I want to fuck you right now”).

(And the ineptitude? The imagery and language of the icing is out of control, unless of course the male vocalist is a fan of the legendary snowball. If cake is that which is to be consumed on the woman’s side, and the man brings the icing, well, perhaps this pair is more adventurous than I thought.)

The only way this song could possibly be any good is if it were unironically about a cake. And a man who really wants the cake right now.  As it stands, I don’t even know why it is important that this is a birthday cake.

The sexuality of this song is so poorly and childishly expressed that what is offensive isn’t the sex but the fact that a writer, producer, performer and record label all signed off on it. That’s the real insult: some people are making money from this poorly written trash.

But, hey, the children stopped crying and listened to the music. I guess that’s the real tragedy and the final offense. I inflicted this upon small children. In some states, that’s probably a crime.

And you, my brother—have you come across this radio gem?

5 comments on “On the Radio: MMMMM, Cake

  1. Mary Christensen says:

    “The Wife????????”

    On Tue, Sep 25, 2012 at 9:41 AM, thebrothersj

  2. […] Certain music is so detastable and laughable that it deserves to be pilloried (as I tried to do recently with Rihanna’s hit). But loathing and mocking music doesn’t have quite the same quality as celebrating and enjoying […]

  3. […] I scan the radio dial or peruse the album releases in the past year, it is sad to see how apolitical much of our music is. Too much popular music is part of the very […]

  4. […] worried about both the frequency and the variety of the music they hear. So, in addition to our frequent radio games in the car, we’ve added sessions with the pre-fab music channels on TV, alternating channels and […]

  5. […] both by the strange juxtaposition of some of my chosen tracks next to hers (Wilco as a prelude to Rihanna? Sinatra followed by Fugazi? Whiplash.) and by initial hearings of songs I didn’t know my wife […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s