Monday, February 21, 2011

Song Review: Baby


  • Artist: Justin Bieber featuring Ludacris
  • Album: My Workd 2.0
  • Release: 18 January 2010
  • Genre: Pop
  • Label: Island Def Jam
  • Writers: Justin Bieber, Christopher "Ludacris" Bridges, Justin Gärtner, Christina Milian, Terius "The-Dream" Nash, Christopher "Tricky" Stewart
  • Producer: The-Dream, Tricky Stewart

Okay, I know I said it before, but I am still not proud of my first review, in which I covered Train's song "Hey, Soul Sister".  I did talk about it in my next song review, for "Like A G6", since ToddInTheShadows had covered the former previously and made some valid points of criticism which I had overlooked.  Well guess what: he did a video about "Like A G6" within weeks of me posting my review of the song.  Now don't be mad, guys, I am treating this as a coincidence.  I doubt Todd even visits this site - and if you do, thanks, I am truly graced by your presence - so it's cool; you won't see me pursuing legal action any time soon.  But there is one song out there, which had its peak of popularity when Todd started making videos, which for better or worse became the signature song of the artist in question... mostly worse.  I am of course talking about "Baby" by Justin Bieber and Ludacris.

I'm rather shocked that ToddInTheShadows hasn't so much as touched this one song.  Granted, he has taken on Justin Bieber in the past, dedicating a full video to "Eenie Meenie" and putting "One Time" in the Top 10 Worst Hit Songs of 2009 list.  But "Baby" is perhaps the most famous of all of Bieber's songs.  As I type this, it is the most-watched video of all time on YouTube, clocking in at over 467 million views.  Which is why the above video is from a different source; I can't support a record like that.  (P.S. Please go watch Bad Romance 120 million more times.)  Now, as I said about the Twilight Saga, I don't hate Justin Bieber as much as the people who bad-mouth him, but I can't say I like him by any stretch.  Of course, popularity is not a factor I should consider while going over this song critically, but this time around instead of focusing on the lyrics, I plan to spend more time than before discussing the music itself; melody, production, etc.

First and foremost, when evaluating the lyrics to any song, we must understand what the song is about.  In "Baby"'s case, it is about the frustration of a lost love.  Having been fifteen years old when co-writing this song, the chances are low that something like this has happened to him, although I wouldn't count it out.  Granted, if it did happen to him, he would have had to be rather young, because of the maximum possible age, but because of how little he seems to understand the context of the breakup.  He only gives us one line which clues us in as to why she dumped him:
Said there's another, and look right in my eyes
whereas we get a whole lot of denial.
You know you love me
I know you care
Are we an item?
Girl quit playing
We're just friends
What are you saying?
And just shake me 'till you wake me from this bad dream
I'm going down, down, down, down
And I just can't believe my first love won't be around
Truth be told, there isn't much else wrong or stupid about the verses.  Besides, I'll bet you after enough time has passed, everyone's going to forget the verses whereas the chorus will live on in their minds - and trust me when I say it'll dig itself in there uncomfortably deep.

Baby, baby, baby (ohhh)
Like baby, baby, baby (noo)
Like baby, baby, baby (ohh)
Thought you'd always be mine (mine)
Baby, baby, baby (ohhh)
Like baby, baby, baby (noo)
Like baby, baby, baby (ohh)
Thought you'd always be mine (mine)
In case you haven't noticed, almost the whole thing is just the word "baby" repeated over and over!  No seriously, the word is uses 56 times in the whole song, 54 of them in the choruses alone, and depending on how you count it, it makes up 54 to 72% of all the words in each chorus!  If you thought it was annoying when songs repeated one line in a chorus over and over, this'll drive you mad even sooner.  Even if you are immune to its insanity-inducing effects, like somehow I am, it still comes off as completely unprofessional.  Gah, what is it with pop songwriters' refusal to use more words in a chorus than can be counted on your fingers!?


Oh, and Ludacris has a guest verse on this song too.  He used to be one of my favorite rappers despite (or maybe because of) his penchant for silly similies, but his mere presence next to Justin Bieber makes is a blow to his street cred which makes him almost impossible to be taken seriously in my eyes.  ...Sorry, I shouldn't make that kind of judgement without checking for any lyrical merit, so, shall we?  ...Well, I would if I could understand what he was saying.  See, his delivert randomly switches between languid, laidback slow lines and this double-speed rapping which is impossible to make out.  But that's why I got the lyrics online.  Until you figure out the pattern, the transition from slow to fast lines is jarring.
(Slow) When I was thirteen
I had my first love
(Fast) There was nobody that compared to my baby
Ain't nobody came between us no one could ever come above
(Slow) She had me going crazy
Oh, I was starstruck
Yeah, it's kinda like that. Oh, and can I get you some product placement while I'm at it?
(Slow) She woke me up daily
Don't need no Starbucks (whoo)
More speed-swapping hijinks ensue...
(Slow) She made my heart pound
(Fast) And skip a beat when I see her in the street and
(Slow) At school on the playground
(Fast) But I really wanna see her on the weekend
...Until we're delivered the final blow.
(Slow) She know she got me dazing
Cause she was so amazing
And now my heart is breaking
But I just keep on saying
Why do both Justin and Luda keep assuming the girl knows all these things?  Wishful thinking, I calls it.  Also, I've never seen "dazing" used as a verb before; I guess it's a replacement for being "in a daze".  Oh the things we sacrifice in the name of keeping meter and rhyme...  Alright,  truth be told, this isn't a terrible guest appearance, in terms of lyrics.  But Ludacris, for the sake of your career, please choose your collaborators more carefully.  I can understand if you see talent in this guy, but for the moment, it's not coming across to all of us.

Which brings me to my major criticism of this song, apart from... you know.  The music is some generic pop thing with traces of modern R&B here and there, and lots of syncopation, in the key of E-flat major.  So in layman's terms, it sounds happy: way too happy for a song about some girl dumping you!  ...Come to think of it, isn't there a song out there that does the same thing?  Where the lyrics discuss heartbreak but the music is upbeat and major-key?

Of course, it's F??? You", or "Forget You" if you are so inclined, by Cee-Lo Green!  But although this song may have a couple of similarities with "Baby", the differences between them are huge. Well, there is one obvious difference in tone if you're listening to the uncensored version of that song... I'll let that one slide.  But apart from that, "Forget You" is both ironic and serious at the same time, whereas "Baby" is neither of these.  Most importantly, Cee-Lo puts effort into his performance on the song, as opposed to Bieber, who delivers the verses of "Baby" with little to no energy.  He clearly sounds like he has lost interest in the project, as did producers The-Dream and Tricky Stewart, who made a background track which does nothing to fit in with the subject matter!  I may want to appreciate pop singers writing or even co-writing their own songs, but from this and other efforts, Justin Bieber proves that this is one of many talents he does not have right now, should he ever acquire them in the future.  You, sir, have made my dislike list, and believe me, it has nothing to do with your popularity.

One final note, I've decided to move away from giving individual songs full percentage grades in favor of a simpler 5-star rating system.  With the grading system I currently use, going from 0 to 100 percent in increments of 5, there are 21 possible ranks something can get.  It takes a lot of criteria for me to zero in one of these spots, and when the average song lasts about four minutes, there's just not enough material to do so properly.  I may be in the ballpark of what I want, like within a letter grade, but from there I have to randomly assign a specific percentage.  Well from now on I'm going to take that margin of error out of the equation.  Full-sized works, like video games, feature-length films, TV series, and whole albums will still get the full treatment, and those are the majority of what I review anyway.  But for individual songs, episodes, or smaller pieces, I will score them with up to five units and a letter grade to match.  I'll also throw in a humorous representation of the grade as a bonus.  So, with all that said, I now finally present my score for "Baby":

The Call: 1 (million) repetitions of the word "baby" out of 5 (million) (F)

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