Billboard Banter, Week 1

Every few weeks, Jake Kring-Schreifels and Eric Mollo will exchange emails and examine a current Top 40 song in depth. At its best, the conversation will scrupulously examine the dearth of good lyrics over the radio that people so casually sing and memorize. At its worst, our analysis will needlessly scrutinize songs people will likely forget in a few months. 

SONG 1: “Rude” by Magic!

Jake Kring-Schreifels: Eric, I’m really excited to do this. I’m a pretty frequent Top 40 radio listener, not really because I love it, but because I like staying up to date with mainstream America and being in-the-know when it comes to trendy internet articles. I think you’re general Sirius Radio listening this summer has allowed you to remain relatively objective when it comes to listening to these “hits,” so I’m hoping we can have some varying perspectives when it comes to lyrical interpretation. Let’s get into it.

“Rude” has got to be one of the more underrated songs of the summer thus far, especially considering its Reggae vibe has an ideal backyard barbecue feel. It’s non-threatening. But when you actually read the lyrics that you’ve probably just hummed for three months, you’ll be surprised, even a little confused. Our main character jumps out of bed on Saturday morning and puts on his best suit, which I’m thinking has got to be a three-piecer. He’s got his “heart in his hand” to ask marriage permission from his fiancee’s father, who we find out is an old-fashioned man. And I want to stop right here. What old-fashioned man likes waking up early on a Saturday? And is there a reason for the suit? If I were a father, and my daughter’s boyfriend rang my doorbell, I’m not sure I’d think highly of someone unexpectedly dressed in a prom outfit.
You would think that there’s been some sort of previous report between the two beforehand. A suit only slightly makes sense if our character has never officially met his potential father-in-law. But let’s get another thing straight. If this guy already doesn’t like his daughter’s suitor, dressing nicely isn’t going to mean a damn thing. Nice suits don’t make people instantly more respectable, right Eric?
Eric Mollo: I’m excited as well, Jake. Our banter generally covers a broad spectrum of topics, but I think Top 40 is one of the easier things for people to relate to. Now, as for this song…
I’m hesitant to say Rude! is underrated. Good song, not sure I’d go that far. My reasoning: FASIP (frequency a song is played). This self-created acronym is usually how I judge a song’s popularity and its under/over-rated-ness. When I get in the car and turn on Top 40 radio, I just listen for how many times I hear a song within an hour as I flip through the channels (when I drive, I am notorious for flipping through different radio stations. I’m also known for blowing through the occasional stop sign, which you’ve witnessed first hand, but that’s another story for another day…). I do this until I find a song I can settle on, something I’m in the mood to hear at that time. Rude! is one of the songs I come across most. Along with “Am I Wrong,” “Latch,” and “Stay With Me,” these are the four songs that top the FASIP list.
The one drawback to FASIP analysis: there are no charts, there are no numbers, there is nothing to look at. Virtually, there is no concrete evidence that supports this measurement. My opinions tend to lack substantial evidence to being with, so I think FASIP is a fitting way for me to judge these songs. So according to FASIP, Rude! is not underrated because it is just played too much. But that doesn’t mean it has lost its catchiness. Still a good song. Now onto the suit…
I agree. I think it’s most likely a three piece suit. Although, I envision this guy kind of looking like Steve Stifler, who I do not believe was wearing a three piece suit in the American Pie movies. I may be wrong (Am I Wrong?… Punny! Hohoho!), but if he’s not, I can see our main character wearing whatever Stifler was wearing. Now, was it right for him to put on this suit, go to her father at whatever time Saturday morning, and plead for his daughter’s hand in marriage? In my opinion, it’s an A+ plan. I love it. Here’s why: What Stifler (from now on I will refer to the main character of this song as Stifler) is doing actually requires a lot of forward thinking. He knows the father will say “no,” whether he’s wearing a suit, a band t-shirt with ripped up jeans, or anything in between. So, I think he picked out the suit as a kind of egregious way of mocking the guy. Stifler is dressing up like it’s a big deal when it’s really not.
Think about it, when do you put on suits? A wedding (of course), a job interview, a funeral, etc. Basically, formal events, something you’d be nervous for, or to go to a place where you’d try to impress someone.Stifler’s suit is satirical, and it shows confidence. He’s not afraid of the father, he just wants him to shut up so he could marry his daughter. Basically, the suit says this: “Hey man, look, I dressed up like this is some kind of big deal. It’s really not, you’re just making it a bigger deal than it needs to be. You know what I’m about. I’m done trying to impress you. Can’t you just let me marry you’re daughter? Why ya gotta be so rude?”
See what I did there? It comes full circle with the suit. A Stifler plan executed at its finest.
JKS: Many things to cover here.
One, I really like your acronym FASIP and I don’t care you thought of it on the spot. It sounds like a new baseball metric and I like that you can pronounce it without having to add vowels where there aren’t any.
Steve Stifler, eh? While I applaud your trip down apple pie road, I can’t say I envisioned anything like his stunted, over-sexual self. And that’s not even considering the fact that Magic!’s lead singer looks nothing like Sean William Scott. But your view that this is some sarcastic dressing style is an interesting plot twist. Still, I’m anti-sarcasm here. If you’re going to to ask an old man to become your father-in-law, just play it straight. Old men sometimes have difficulty deciphering sardonic quips from insulting gags. Actually, Stifler makes sense. He’d be the guy to pull some dumb stunt like this and think it was funny.
I think it’s also important to bring up two things at this moment. 1) Magic! just performed this song on the Teen Choice Awards and 2) They’re the first Canadian band to hit #1 on the Top 40 since Nickelback’s “How You Remind Me.” I remember that song and I remember how much I liked it. But Nickelback has become the butt of jokes because they spread out a photo album on their bedroom floor and started singing about it. I feel like Magic! could be headed down a similar road if their lyrics continue to blend the zany with the impossible. But this Teen Choice Awards performance raises an interesting question. Is this man’s girlfriend a teenager?
He asks his girl’s father if he can have her for the rest of his life and starts begging, “Say yes, say yes, because I need to know.” Is that a question or a command? I think the major flaw here is that the songs asks us to side with our lovesick youngster. What about seeing this situation from the father’s perspective? This could be a low-life creep, hooked on 90s nostalgia, smoking pot to Bob Marley  (like this song kind of is), hoping to score some feverish approval to sweep away a girl that still needs to finish high school. It might make sense that this father so abruptly tells the kid that he’ll never give his blessing until the day he dies. I agree that’s a bit harsh, but that’s not being rude, that’s common sense! Like stopping at a stop sign!
EM: I appreciate the FASIP compliment. And yes, those ten-letter acronyms with one vowel can be very annoying.
I just pulled up a picture of Magic! lead singer Nasri Atweh. After close analysis, he doesn’t look like Sean William Scott. Not in the slightest. But as you said, if anyone can pull off a sarcastic stunt like this, there’s no better man to do it than Steve Stifler. Whether or not he chose to wear the three piece suit as a sarcastic gesture is up for debate. But I think it’s one really worth exploring. There is one line that I think may actually back up your anti-sarcasm position: “Don’t you know I’m human too?” This line makes me think the main character (a.k.a Stifler) made some sort of mistake and needs to prove to her father he’s not such a bad guy. It could also mean that her father is a stubborn, unreasonable man who doesn’t trust the youth and can’t seem to let go of his narrow interpretation of the world, but I’m going to give the dad the benefit of the doubt and go with the former. I think Stifler made a mistake (whether big or small), made pops pretty unhappy (for whatever reason), and is now pleading for his trust because he wants to marry his daughter. He wouldn’t try to be sarcastic if he’s going to apologize for a mistake he’s made… or would he?
I still think the suit was meant to be at least slightly sarcastic. Look, if you made a mistake and offended someone, wouldn’t you offer the sincerest of apologies to the person you’ve offended (and not the “I apologize for my actions” type of apology, but the “I’m sorry and am responsible for my actions” apology, like an apology that actually means you’re sorry – another conversation for another day)? Stifler, or Nasri I guess…, never apologizes in the song and actually questions why the father has to be so stuck up (“so ruuude”) on the matter. It doesn’t seem like Stifler’s really sorry for whatever he’s done. He doesn’t see it as a big deal and just thinks the father is overreacting, which could be the case. But as you’ve alluded to, we haven’t heard pops’ side of things so we don’t really know. So, if he’s not really that sorry, why is he wearing a suit? Couldn’t he have just gone over there in a collared shirt and jeans to sit down and talk with the man? Nope, he decided to wear the suit and make it seem like the father is making this out to be a bigger deal than it needs to be.
To me, the suit is just saying what I was talking about in my earlier response: “Come on man, you’re being a little ridiculous here, don’t you think? Just let me marry her.” No, Stifler, you’re being a little ridiculous by wearing that fashionable but inappropriate and ill-suited (Punny!) three piece suit! Though I’m jealous you can pull off a three-piecer.
But I think this leads to your last point. If he’s human, and made a mistake, and doesn’t want to apologize for whatever he did, what exactly did he do and why is the father so mad? This is where the seventeen-year-old idea gets interesting. Maybe he’s just our modern day David Wooderson and the dad (rightly) isn’t having any of that.
Of course the main character (a.k.a Stifler, a.k.a. Nasri, a.k.a Wooderson) doesn’t see what he did wrong here. Everything he’s done has been wrong, and he doesn’t want to apologize for any of it. The dad just seems like Mr. Grumpy Pants when really he’s Mr. “Hey Creep Get Your Hand Outta My Daughter’s Pants” Pants…. Stifler/Nasri/Wooderson wouldn’t want to apologize for that because he/they/whomever just can’t see a problem with dating (and marrying) an underage girl. Thus, the equation: No apology + Angry dad = Great song + Potentially sick scenario.
On a side note, your Nickelback reference got me thinking of my favorite Canadian jokes. Thought I’d share a few:
Q: What was the original title for “Canadian Idol?
A: “The World’s Biggest Hoser”
Q: Why don’t Canadian women wear sleeveless dresses?
A: They aren’t allowed to bare arms
Q: What do urine samples and Canadian beer have in common?
A: The taste! (I’ve never actually had Canadian beer, but I often laugh at jokes even if I don’t understand them)
Q: How do you know Adam was a Canadian?
A: Who else could stand beside a naked woman and be tempted by a fruit?
JKS: You’ve never had a Labatt Blue?! To be fair, neither have I but I enjoyed their commercials with the fake black bear. Remember those? Also, foranyCandians that read this, I apologize on Eric’s behalf.Andto be more personal, “I’m sorry” you had to read those. Hopefully they can take a joke because the United States has treated them as such for a while.
I want to move past the suit and really get to the crux of the issue, which is fundamental to the song and its title. When your girl’s old man tells you he won’t give you a blessing to marry his daughter, is your first response “Why you gotta be so rude?” Of course not. That’s almost conceding that he has a valid point and now you’re just debating with him the way he broke the news, not his actual reasoning. Instead, you say, “Why not?” But then if that’s your title, that might get confused with Hilary Duff’s hit single back in the mid-2000s, which was on an album that I admit I bought. Apparently, she’s making a comeback, too.
The point is, the whole foundation of this song is severely misguided because being rude and being wrong are two totally different things. Here’s the other core issue:
Marry that girl
Marry her anyway
Marry that girl
No matter what you say
Marry that girl
And we’ll be a family
So, essentially, he’s already made up his mind before he knocks on the door and he’s already envisioning kids! So, why is he even asking if he can have his daughter. He should be asking just to have his permission. The guy is sending mixed signals and it’s no wonder the father is being rude. Plus, I’d like to know the girl’s side in this whole thing, too. Does she know her potential husband is making a fool of himself at her dad’s front door? I’ve heard a lot of outside commentary on this song because it has now seeped into just about every person’s conscience–I even saw pitcher Huston Street, still with the Padres at the time, singing along back in June at Citi Field– and people are stuck. They keep humming it while criticizing this whiny fool. I think a lot of people would like this song to do what this complainer hopes to do and “drive off to another galaxy,” which again does not make any logistical sense (though points for being consistent).
Really, what this song has done is made our conversations walk right into lyrical traps. If one person says something nasty to someone else, they will respond with this song’s melody. It’s a threatening prospect considering how laid back this song makes you feel. It’s the same way Taylor Swift has made anyone turning 22 say, “I’m feeling 22” instead of saying how they actually feel, because numbers aren’t feelings until you turn 40…I think.
So, Eric, what have we accomplished here?
EM: I’ve nevertriedLabatt Blue! But it’s now first on my list. And I would like to say I’m sorry to all of my good Canadian friends and fans as well. I hope you’re not offended by my jokes. Besides, everyone knows the most classic Canadian joke of all:
Q: What do you call a sophisticated American?
A: A Canadian.
Hope you liked that one…
All Canadian/American jokes aside, we need to wrap this thing up. Jake, you hit it just right. The main character is responding not to the father’s decision, but the manner in which he delivered that decision. Sure, the dad might have had a rude response, but you can understand it if he’s being a good father and protecting his daughter.
Now, that being said, there’s one line that makes me want to take Stifler’s side here. When he says the father told him, “You’ll never get my blessing til the day I die,” well, that’s just plain unreasonable. It makes me think of Walt Kowalski from Gran Torino. Just a disgruntled, grumpy old man who doesn’t won’t get along with anyone. However, like we said, if Stifler did something so bad that the father can no longer trust him, then I can understand the non-negotiable response. I’m not so sure that it’s clear in the song whether or not Stifler did something stupid. Not like he’d admit it anyways, but we just don’t know the father’s side of the story so all we can do is speculate.
I think our biggest accomplishment is that we called into question this main character’s judgement. That reggae-ish, catchy tune is so welcoming to listeners that I think it causes people to take the main character’s side and not consider the father’s perspective. I’m happy we were able to dive deeper into these lyrics and get at the core problem. It’s not that this Stifler-esque character is necessarily wrong, but there’s certainly proof to show he may not be right either.
I would say it was a worthwhile cause my friend… I think…

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