Last week, while in the car with my sons listening to a popular radio station, “Beauty and the Beat,” the Justin Bieber/Nicki Minaj duet (if you can call it that), came on. I bounced along in the driver's seat to the catchy tune, jokingly wondering aloud what Bieber will do when he “grows up” and his voice finally changes. Then the lyrics broke through my naïve, middle-aged mirth.
“Did she (Minaj) just say what I think she said?” I asked my sons.
They cracked up, not at their old mama's reaction, but at Nicki Minaj's poetically challenged rap. To understand our comically bewildered response to “Beauty and the Beat,” which debuted on the US Billboard Hot 100 at 72 and later peaked at number 5, a bit of background is required.
In an attempt to expand his audience with “Beauty and a Beat,” teen idol Justin Bieber (who dated actress Selena Gomez) collaborated with rapper Nicki Minaj, who lent her vocals to the track. The song is about Bieber wanting to take his love to a club to “party like it's 3012.” According to Wikipedia, "Beauty and a Beat" is an uptempo electronic dance and electropop song that lasts three minutes and 48 seconds” and “contains fast-paced drum beats and an acid house break down.” That I relied on Wikipedia to define the selection proves, of course, that I have no idea what an acid house break down is (nor do I want to know).
I have no problem with Bieber's lyrics; it's Minaj's rap that bewilders me. Here is Minaj's verse - so laughable to my sons and questionable to me, minus the curse word:
“In time, ink lines, ******* couldn't get on my incline
World tours, it's mine, ten little letters on a big sign
Buns out, weiner, but I gotta keep a eye out for Selener
Beauty, beauty and the beast
Beauty from the east, beautiful confessions of the priest
Beast, beauty from the streets, beat will get deceased
Every time Beauty on the beats”
Stop laughing please and tell me what the heck that means!
Admittedly, I am not a fan of today's music and couldn't care less who tops the charts or wins a Grammy, so it's no surprise that I don't “get” this. My kids, who are fans of today's music, couldn't stop laughing at the silly rhyme. Granted, writers often take literary license and break the “rules,” but come on! Rhyming “weiner” with “Selener” as a shout-out to Selena Gomez is utterly ridiculous and smacks of grade school bathroom humor to “uncool” folks like me.
Baffled, I turned yet again to the internet for translation. From what I gather from rapgenius.com (and I could be wrong), Minaj is claiming nobody can compare to her, referencing her tour, and scoffing at rumors of her alleged bisexuality. Raised in Jamaica, Queens, Nicki kills on every beat. Does that clear it up for you? No? Then you're with me! At the risk of sounding as misguided and misinformed as my predecessors who cringed every time Elvis shook his hips, if “Beauty and the Beat” is the future of music, I think I will remain happily “uncool.”
Music is undeniably a highly personal, expressive preference, but in the clearly understood and inoffensive words of Bob Seger, I
“Still like that old time rock and roll
That kind of music just soothes the soul
I reminisce about the days of old
With that old time rock and roll!”