Monday, March 2, 2009

When the night falls

211. Usher - "Love in This Club (ft. Young Jeezy)" (LaFace Records, 2008)
212. Whitney Houston - "I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)" (Arista, 1987)
213. Ne-Yo - "Single" (from the Year of the Gentleman album, Island Def Jam, 2008)

OK, so these songs are all about different takes on what is essentially the same thing, dancing or wanting to dance with someone in the club. Usher's is kind of the odd song out here, and might actually be better grouped with Next's "Too Close", but seeing as it's produced by Polow da Don, who also does "Single", let's do it too. Usher has tunnel vision here. He knows what he wants, and that is to make love to you in this club right now. The slow grindin' to Polow's quite ecstatic beat makes the slow dance, for Ursh, purely erotic. For me, this song is completely and utterly tied to my last semester of college and will therefore always hold a special part in my heart, not least because of the fact that a girl once pointed out that my name can be sung during the "watching, watching" part, but I feel like I've gone over all that before, so let's get to the interesting part of the post.

That Ne-Yo is more of a gentleman than Usher should hardly be surprising, but for me the wonderful "Single", freed on Year of the Gentleman from the Joey McIntire/Donnie Wahlberg warbling present on the NKotB version, has grown in esteem as, on my iPod, it has taken a position as a sort of answer record to Whitney Houston's great "I Wanna Dance With Somebody". The two songs are very different from each other musically, Whitney's all synth exuberance, while Ne-Yo's a slow burner with an inexplicable and awesome pounding bass drum. But lyrically, they're very much a good pair. In fact, Whitney's character, a lonely girl unable to find a suitable mate and looking for a dance, seems exactly like the character that Ne-Yo is singing to.

The difference between what Whitney is asking for and what Ne-Yo wants to deliver seems to be commitment. She's looking for "a man who'll take a chance/ On a love that burns hot enough to last" and, sadly, that's not quite what he's offering. See, "Single" is not, like many R&B songs, an offer of everlasting love, but rather a hymn to the possibility of the single dance, the possibility that, for the length of one song, the relationship between the dancers, whether or not it leads to them seeing each other again, is something special. Even if it doesn't lead to a relationship, for that moment you are dancing with somebody who loves you.

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