In Praise of Modesty

December 19, 2009

A friend lately commented that Trey Songz’s recent song, “I Invented Sex,” was not to her liking because, (a) she does not care for that level of bragging and (b) seeing Mr. Songz grind against a model in demonstration of his claimed coital innovation is not her speed. To the former complaint I (jokingly) suggested that perhaps she would have preferred a more modest title, such as “My Research Has Vastly Contributed to the Improved Quality of Sex.”

For the latter grievance I had no answer, and in fact, it got me thinking about the current state of hip-hop (and yeah, I know that Trey Songz is R&B, but his aesthetic can surely be judged and discussed under the hip-hop rubric) and the general sense that sex songs have to be over-the-top raunchy and have raunchy videos with scantily-clad ladies, just as all other videos must have absurd displays of wealth (and scantily-clad ladies, because, well, why not?).

I understand that rap and, to a lesser degree, R&B, have always been about making bold, egotistical claims (see, e.g., Special Ed’s “I Got It Made,” or the Temptations’ “Can’t Get Next To You“). But why do videos have to be about clownishly demonstrating those claims? I mean sure, “I invented sex” is a fairly potent assertion of prowess. But is it this bold?

(Sorry, can’t find an embeddable version of the whole video, so make do with this charming still.)

At the risk of falling into the tired my-childhood-hip-hop-is-better-than-today’s-hip-hop rut, I have to say, there is another way. You can do a hot song about sex, and you can do a video for it, and it can be done with class:

(Also, while I’m on the topic of relatively recent R&B songs about sex, “Birthday Sex” by Jeremih is the dumbest song ever. That is all.)


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