to control me [pop jamz 08]

Ne-Yo - Closer
[Unavailable thanks to DMCA drones]

In lieu of some bullshit year end wrap, I thought I might cap off the year with a series of posts on what I reckon are the year’s best pop singles, and try and get down to just why each one is so great.

First in line would have to be the smoothest darkest silk this year, Ne-Yo’s Closer. It comes off all intimate, erotic club romp on the first listen, with requisite elements: fast tempo, soft-padding doof beat vs wafered hi-hats, acoustic guitar loop for ‘live-ish’ authenticity quota, programmed handclaps, etc.

There's something quite melancholic about the whole thing, though. Beyond the very thematic thrust of the song, the whole seductive, possessive female bullshit, there's a kind of sadness in dude's voice that sort of gets echoed by the backing midi strings and acoustic guitar breaks, that can't quite be pulled under by the fast tempo, hi-hats and house beat.

The lyrics themselves contain some interesting bits. The first verse ends with this kind of transfer between certain object and unclear subject, a bit of a collegiate poetry manoeuvre but it shifts a kind of awkwardness into all the follows this:

"And I swear I know her face
I just don't know who you are"

The rest of the thing is this kind of sensory imbalance, with this fugitive female figure (I guess that's unavoidable, shit, I know, but unavoidable) kind of reorienting sound and sight as she pleases in order to rope in our protag:

"Turn the lights off in this place
And she shines just like a star
Turn the music up in here
I still hear her loud and clear"

It's like the club becomes a dream becomes some kind of washed out, darkened place of ambivalence and then even abandon to an uncontrollable force.

But this force, for me, isn't so much the woman's sexual advances as some kind of other feeling that is haunting Ne-Yo, something I'd like to call grief. Because notice in the chorus he's not referencing the woman at all, she's only there at most a distraction, or only the personification of a far more diffuse sense of resigned sadness that he is left crooning for almost the entire final half of the track.

The truly remarkable thing about this song for me, then, is how in both mood and lyric, it blurs the 'sense' one feels in romance with that in loss - something one can't stop doing (crying? making out?) that you "don't want to escape" or can't possibly?

It's even sadder then that the song itself never really comes to its own conclusion, that momentum that builds behind the whole thing is like a kind of dissipating.

So why not let's rewrite the lyrics, because this is how I heard them the first time, and it's how I'd like to keep them:

"And I just can't pull myself away
Under a spell I can't break
I just get by
I just get by"

Melancholy by (accidental) subterfuge; as is pop’s want.

0 riffs: