Billboard Banter, Week 3

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 3: “Time Of Our Lives” by Ne-Yo and Pitbull

Eric Mollo: Hey there Jake, it’s been a while…time to banter, no? We’ve seen some major hits from the fall into this winter. Some suggesting that we only get funked up if we go uptown, to others telling us we need to take some guy to Church. But I was hoping we could focus today’s post on a song that’s relatively newer, at least according to my FASIP (Frequency A Song Is Played) count. It’s a song that combines one singer who produces one R&B hit after the next, to another who I believe has been featured in every Top 40 song since 2008. That’s right, it’s time to banter about Ne-Yo and Pitbull’s “Time of Our Lives” (I love puns).

So let’s break this down. This song begins with Pitbull telling listeners “I knew my rent was gon’ be late about a week ago.” My first instinct is to say, “C’mon now, what’re you having the time of your life for then? You have to save. Think of your 401K!!” Then I remember, I probably couldn’t describe what a 401K if I had to, so who am I to judge? Party on bro.

Rudys_out

Jumping to the first verse, he says this is the last $20 he’s got, but he’s going to tell the bartender to line up some shots. OK, now that’s tricky. If he’s going out in NYC, his options are pretty much limited to a dive bar and Rudy’s. Rudy’s gives you a hot dog with every beer, but I’m gonna go out on a limb and say he’s not going to have the time of his life there.

I’m going to guess he’s NOT going out in NYC. Where could he be going then, you ask? Well, according to Zee News, Panama City is one of the world’s ten cheapest cities. Now, who wouldn’t want to party there? Purely speculating based on Pitbull’s budget and that he’s Mr. Worldwide, I’m going to guess he’s in Panama City.

Alright, so let’s say he’s in Panama City. He talks about having a great time, not going to Church, but still being #blessed, and then Ne-Yo says he’s having a good time, too. Right on. But then he says in the chorus, “Forget about bills and first of the month.” Now I’m concerned. It’s one thing to be late on rent, but if you’re late and you’re not paying your bills, that makes for one unhappy landlord. And I gotta think the landlord be all like, “You want to turn up tonight? Fine, then I’m gonna turn OFF the electricity and water!”

yobo-house

But Jake, with all this turning up, I have some questions: How much turning up is too much turning up? Where do you personally draw the line when you turn up? And I guess, what exactly does it mean to turn up? And how is it different from turning down (see Jon, Lil’), and for what purposes do we turn for each? My suburban whiteness is really limiting my understanding of this.

Jake Kring-Schreifels: Eric, it’s about time we brought this back. I’m glad you’re staying in tune to whatever Ryan Seacrest is gushing about over on the Top 40 airwaves. I’m especially glad you’ve chosen a song by Ne-Yo and Pitbull, not only because they’ve had a chokehold on the industry for a while, but because their evolutions have been quite fascinating to watch.

Pitbull, for instance, began as a conundrum. He was a bald rapper equated to a dog that shared very negative headlines with Michael Vick. But after a few hits, and a few self-promoting name drops, he quickly became Mr. 305 (as in the area code for Miami, where he grew up). But, since his rapid ascent into the mainstream, he, as you mention, has now solidified himself as Mr. Worldwide, growing out of his local palm tree comforts and into everyone’s subconscious. You hear his signature “Whoooooooo” at the beginning of a song and you know Pitbull is ready to unleash a stream of clunky verbiage that occasionally rhymes and more often offers random cultural references that are acceptable only because he yaps them with such enthusiasm. Dale! (dah-Lay)

Point being, yes, Panama City seems like a logical spot. Though, the music video suggests this song was made for all of the party poopers on New Year’s Eve, who convince themselves that staying inside is better than doing whatever cool thing your friend is posting on Facebook. Except, the issue isn’t about self-affirmation. It’s that you’re about to start the New Year with an eviction notice.

“Party every night like my last, Mommy know the drill, shake that ass,” he barks. I think this is the window into his level of broke-ness. Let’s seriously consider for a minute that you partied every minute like it was your last day on earth. Hell, a lot of songs use this line. It evokes an immediate feeling. Doing shots is a common theme. But the ramifications aren’t pretty. How much money would you spend on drinks if you knew you weren’t living the next day? A lot. And so if you multiply that by every day that you’re alive, well, let’s just hope you have a job that allows you to come into work at 1 p.m., hung-over and guarding bowls of soup.

So, it’s hard to say when I stop turning up. Like any volume control, there’s a limit, even if that limit is 11 (That’s for you Spinal Tap fans). Your attitude has to match the intensity of the club’s DJ, which is usually blasting techno loud enough so that our entire generation will be wearing hearing aids in 20 years. Usually when volume becomes an issue, I start turning down. Then I start thinking about my landlord, the fact that it’s 2 a.m. and I won’t get home for another hour because the subway is running every 30 minutes. That’s the problem when you’re “always like a squirrel looking for a nut.” I mean, squirrels do more than just collect nuts, especially if it’s warm outside.

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EM: Squirrels do more than just collect nuts, and I’m glad someone clarified that. I’m not particularly fond of squirrels, but the point needed to be made.

But in a way it connects to what we’re talking about here. In the same way a squirrel can’t possibly imagine collecting too many nuts, Pitbull can’t imagine possibly ever turning up too much. So, we look deeper: how much turning up is too much turning up? Unfortunately, little academic research has been conducted on the subject. And I challenge psychologists or psychiatrists or some college freshman taking a Pscyh 101 class to take a Monkey survey on the subject, or whatever the hell those things are called. I digress.

There’s not a lot of evidence we can turn to to answer our question, so we really have to look deeper into this song to recognize the limit of the turn up. So we know they didn’t pay their rent, and they only got twenty bucks. Well, twenty dollars isn’t going to pay the rent, so why not spend it on a little bit of Fireball. Can’t turn up without being a little irresponsible anyways, so let loose Pitbull and Ne-Yo. Where I start to think he’s turning up a little bit too much is when he starts throwing up. Roll it up. Fine. Pour it up. Fine. Drink it up. Right on. Throw it up? C’mon now. Pitbull, if you had long hair, would you want someone pulling it back while you were face first in a toilet bowl. I didn’t think so. Not to mention, club and bar bathrooms don’t tend to be the cleanest (See: MugZs). You can turn up, go cray, ratchet (can you go ratchet?), or whatever the kids are saying these days (I sound like such a cranky old man), but don’t throw up. And remember, someone has to wipe that up the next day, so don’t ruin it for them. They deserve a chance to turn up, too.

Now Jake, you brought up an interesting point: hearing aids. Now, we’ve turnt up before. Maybe not a lot, and maybe not heavily, but we have. And I’ve seen you first hand wear ear plugs and I must say your ears will thank you later. And maybe barfing isn’t where we draw the line. Maybe it’s earlier. Maybe its when a useful human function is at risk of long-term damage that we must say, “It is time to turn down.” It makes me wonder if that’s our breaking point…

Through this post I didn’t make much mention to Ne-Yo, and there’s a reason for that. He’s different. He’s not Calle Ocho. And I’m not sure he turns up as much as Mr. 305. But what I do think is that he recognizes a little bit clearer than Pitbull that having the time of your life doesn’t mean you have to turn up that much. Turning up helps, and the two can coexist, but one does not lead to the other. He wants to get up in the club. He wants to turn up. But he doesn’t need to turn up. At least not that much. He just wants to use his ability to turn up to have the time of his life. Make sense?

turnpu

JKS: I think I understand where you’re going but we’re headed down a rabbit hole that has no good answers.

You mentioned Ne-Yo. What an artist. He’s produced and written more hit singles than Pharell would even like to admit. He’s even worked with PitBull before. Remember this classic? Which brings me to my next point. This song is fun. It almost makes you forget about the redundant grammar, like, “I worked my ass off, but I still can’t pay it though” (As if you needed “but” and “though” in the same sentence).

But there’s an inspirational pocket in here, Eric. It’s quick and most people miss it, probably because Pitbull says it. After the song has slowed down and it feels like we might be turning in (that’s a new one!) for the night, Mr. Worldwide speaks a worldwide truth, at least for those willing to accept it. “This is for anybody going through tough times. Believe me, been there, done that. But everyday above ground is a great day, remember that.”

It’s a nice quote to stick on the bedroom wall. Something to look at as you wake up each morning, open your eyes and know you are alive, and not, as this song lyric suggests, being buried six feet under. We both agree Pitbull spews nonsense but even a broken clock is right twice a day. And I’d like to believe that humanity needs a few more broken clocks, if only to remind us we need to keep buying ourselves batteries.

The real issue here, however, is that somebody has just worked his ass off and still can’t pay his bills. That’s enough information to make a few parting judgments. This person needs help. Stop buying shots and paying presumably hefty club cover charges. Stop living in a place that exceeds your means of living. Stop chasing tail and start a savings account. In fact, that’s the real issue here. Start acting like a squirrel, for real. They don’t just look for nuts. They collect them. They bury them. And in the process, they have the time of their life.

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