*Please note that this post contains some adult content*
For the past week there has been much talk about Brian McKnight due to him releasing a video featuring a snippet of a song from an adult mixtape he would like to do. It’s received much backlash for it’s raunchy lyrics, which is not his regular modus operandi. Was it that the lyrics were too racy and this kind of overt expression for vagina is taboo, or was it that it was McKnight singing the words? Are artists like McKnight: musically, vocally, and lyrically gifted held to a different standard than artists who do not embody all three traits?
“Let me show you how your pussy works, since you didn’t bring it to me first” were the first words he sang and it was as if someone had cryogenically frozen my body. I couldn’t move and I was speechless, but it didn’t stop there. He followed up with “I have lots of things to show you, only if you’re ready to learn.” Was he serious? One minute into the video and I wanted to unwatch what I’ve already watched but my curiosity had already kicked in and I had to see this video in its entirety. Being provocative in music is taboo to some. But to use urban vernacular to denote genitalia or intercourse in a vulgar manner, that’s worthy of scoffing at. Or is it?
Millie Jackson paved the way for other uninhibited female artists such as Adina Howard and Rihanna. “Slow tongue, working your way down.” Jackson’s uninhibited character, funky voice, and red light special lyrics are what defined her as a strong artist, one who’s unafraid and attacks everything with full force. If vulgar lyrics worked for Jackson, why can’t it work for McKnight? Is it out of the ordinary for artists to go from love songs to sex songs or completely switch their musical content?
When Christina Aguilera first hit the scene she was the girl next door. “Genie in a Bottle” was the perfect tween Pop song. Fast forward a few years she releases “Dirrty” featuring Rapper Red Man. She’s now singing about dropping it to the floor and sweat dripping all over her body. Then you have Rihanna who first came onto the music scene with “Pon De Replay,” an upbeat song with a Caribbean beat. She went from singing about wanting to have fun and feeling remorseful about cheating on a lover (Unfaithful) to singing about liking sadomasochism (S&M) and men who can’t get “it” up (Rude Boy). Some might argue whether these changes are as drastic as Brian McKnight’s but they definitely went from “safe” to risky.
Artists are sensitive about their craft, so the comments from McKnight weren’t shocking. However, something else did catch my attention. Someone had raised a question to Brian McKnight, “SIIIIIIIIIIR! What happened to the back at one type music. [sic]” Brian’s response, “I dunno have you heard any on the radio. [sic]” No one can deny that songs like “Back At One” and “Never Felt This Way” are classic. Martin even used Brian McKnight when he proposed to Gina. This was definitely a memorable moment.
Does he have a valid point though? Do you hear songs like “Back At One” on the radio? Can you think of one song on the radio that will be considered a classic 20 years from now? Brian McKnight’s song may have been something we’re not used to hearing from him, but is it strange that someone of his caliber has been reduced to something on the other side of the spectrum, some might even say beneath him? Many great artists who were once on top are now are independent artists and/or struggling, or have completely changed their sound just in order to appeal to the masses.
Sexually explicit songs aren’t new and are far from uncommon. In no way am I taking up for Brian McKnight, but I do think some of the criticism a little hypocritical. The same people-speaking ill about this song are the same ones rapping along to “Beat the pussy up” by LoveRance or “Ass” by Big Sean. Mediocrity rules the radio waves and this satire song (yes, it was all a joke) by Brian McKnight proves that. McKnight is going to release “If You’re Ready to Learn” May 1st on ITunes. Is this still satire or should Brian McKnight fans be ready for his new era of sex music?