tremble clef

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Ne-Yo, "So Sick" (2006)

Here's why I felt fucked yesterday.

I spent much of the weekend listening to Ne-Yo's "So Sick." Yet, when Monday rolled around, I didn't especially feel like I should blog about it. One reason, certainly, is that I suspect everyone has heard the produced-by-Norwegians-R&B-ballad (although, if you are as radio-free as I've become over the last few decades, maybe not). The song is Number 1 in the UK this week, and was likewise, in a rare act of near-unanimity, on top of the US charts not too many weeks back. Maybe you're even (let's get this joke out of the way) so sick of it by now. It's definitely not like I'm going to be introducing Ne-Yo to people, not that I've ever seen Tremble Clef as serving that function. So, fine, I'll just write about something else on Monday, and by Tuesday would be past my mild obsession with "So Sick."

But here we are. No post yesterday, "So Sick" today.

"Gotta change my answering machine/Now that I'm alone/Cause right now it says that 'we can't come to the phone.'" To start with, I love how the song starts. It's always the small things that get you after a break-up. The stray shirt that's still in your laundry hamper. The CD that you'll now never get back. Having to throw out the soy milk that was always only for that someone no longer here. These things have the worst potential to spring up and upset you, precisely because they are so small, and therefore will hide in plain sight unless you're careful to weed them out. The calendar that needs to be fixed -- the one "marked July 15th/Because if there’s no more you/There’s no more anniversary" -- that kicks off the second verse is more trite, and doesn't ring as true. Still, like the answering machine, it's an object that marks time, and thus the song crowds us with an unspoken sense of how useless that concept now seems.

But the central conceit of the song lies in the chorus's question: "And I'm so sick of love songs/So tired of tears/So done with wishing you were still here/Said I'm so sick of love songs/So sad and slow/So why can't I turn off the radio?" I think it's easy to look past this moment, even though, as its chief hook, the song repeats it several times. But, really, why can't the narrator turn off the radio? Furthermore, not only does he seem unable to turn off the radio, but he himself is of course creating another addition to the corpus of "stupid love songs." For what is "So Sick" if not another reminder -- and the most exact, detailed one at that -- of lost love? Not only unable to stop the pain, he is further adding to it. The song ends with the sound of a brief snatch of radio static. Has he turn the device off, finally? Or simply changed the channel, in a half-hearted attempt to escape the love songs that are, as if he didn't already know, in fact on every channel? Why this addiction to pain?

The answer is understandable to anyone who has ever been in the situation. Without articulating an answer, the song nevertheless illustrates one: as hurtful as it is, the pain of a break-up is also what best reminds you of the relationship. And even as you wish for the agony to end, you also fear that, when it does, you will have lost your very last tie to the relationship. It sounds like masochism, but it's just human nature.

Eduardo Galeano, in The Book of Embraces: "Recordar: To remember; from the Latin re-cordis, to pass back through the heart." Like with a needle, or a spike.


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