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WARNING: This post discusses a song with lyrics that explicitly refer to homosexual sex. In the interest of art criticism, I'll quote when necessary to make my points, but in the interest of my readers, I'll keep those quotes to a minimum. Some of the words, themselves, are very common vulgar terms for male anatomy.

As an addendum to my thread on Charles Tew, I am going to provide some thoughts on Rucka's parody music. I'll start with his video entitled "Am I Gay?", which Tew simply called "vile," after watching "about fifteen seconds of it."

Before getting into the heart of my critique, I'll note that, literally speaking, the first fifteen seconds are not vile, unless you can find vileness in the first line: "Never been up inside of any man." Maybe that meets your standard for vile language, but keep in mind that this is supposed to be a humorous song about gay sex. Frankly, I'm not that easily disturbed by jokers. The music itself is lifted from Fuel's song "Hemorrhage," which is a rock ballad. So I doubt that Tew finds the music particularly vile. Perhaps he actually made it through the second vocal line, where we do get our first vulgar word for penis: "dick." However, it seems unlikely that this rather mild vulgarity caused him to stop watching, when he endured other, much more foul-mouthed Rucka songs. I'm guessing he simply couldn't stomach the explicit talk about sex, which in the second line is actually about heterosexual sex. It's not until the third line that Rucka begins crudely describing a first, gay sexual encounter.

Now, to fully appreciate any work of parody, we should first be familiar with that thing which it parodies. I suggest you take a few minutes to watch Fuel's video.

https://youtu.be/ZbHfgXJKn1Y

I note that Fuel's music video is ostensibly about a man whose girlfriend nearly bleeds to death in his hands. It's unclear, but I guess she survives at the end, or maybe he was having some thoughts about her hemorrhaging and then realizes that she's okay. It's not a particularly well-formed plot, and the ambiguous lyrics themselves are even less helpful; I won't try to tease out their metaphorical meanings. The video's story imagery is intercut with scenes of the band performing inside a modern building. The music is a sort of lightly distorted, electric guitar-driven rock ballad, starting softly and cleanly, and then building to a more gritty and aggressive chorus. Wikipedia describes their style as post-grunge.

Now, if you don't mind gross humor, check out Rucka's parody.

https://youtu.be/hB1LVqIcYVo

It seems obvious to me that Rucka intended to make fun of the original video and the band. If taken out of this context, it might appear essentially as an R-rated story satirically and vulgarly poking fun at a man who questions his sexuality after having his first gay experience. However, if left in context, we might also detect some actual, parodical elements. To start, it seems like the central question, "Am I Gay?", is aimed at the band Fuel, particularly the male singer, who, in my opinion, does spend a little too much time pressed up against that window glass looking longingly into the camera. There's also his tight clothing, bead necklace, and the hairdo. But mostly it's the window-glamming, right? Of course, none of that means he's actually a homosexual. In fact, Brett Scallions is married to a woman, Abby Gennet. But parody is about mocking that which deserves ridicule. So here we have Rucka taking this example of a man acting feminine and turning him into the receiver in a gay relationship. To emphasize the point, I guess, note that his partner has a similar hair color and style as Scallions, and Rucka does some window-glamming of his own in the shower scene.

If you're looking for real parody, there you have it. It's actually hard to miss when you're not focused on simply trashing Rucka's work. This sort of comedy might not be your cup of tea, but it's there, whether Rucka consciously intended it that way or not. I suspect he did. The mimicking is fairly blatant. Plus, this isn't exactly a unique observation: that some rock bands dress and act like girls sometimes. Rucka, however, has perhaps taken the ridicule to a uniquely explicit level.

There is also the purely musical aspect. The original hit song used electric guitar, but Rucka chose to use an acoustic version that the band also released. This might also be a statement on the band's feminine qualities, turning their original sound into something softer. Or, it might be that Rucka simply preferred that version for the video.

As for parody songs in general, it's true that laying joke lyrics on top of someone else's music has the appearance of nihilism, because it severs the original music from the original lyrics. But nihilism seeks to destroy the good for being the good. If the original isn't in fact good, then making parodical fun of it serves a valid and rational purpose.

I challenge the reader to look up the lyrics to "Hemorrhage" and explain how, by a rational standard, they are good lyrics. They represent disintegrated drivel. Putting aside Rucka's vulgarity, his lyrics tell a clearcut story of a confused man. Furthermore, even if you remove the parody element, the thing he's most mocking is confusion, which is not a value. In terms of clarity alone his lyrics far surpass the original. Also, the original video is a typical modern mess in terms of visual elements. Rucka at least integrates his singing scenes with the story being told in superior photography and composition. In all aspects, except the borrowed music, his parody is more artistic and meaningful than the original. I've watched the original several times now, and I still don't fully get it. I doubt there is much there to understand anyway. It seems intended primarily for stimulating the eyes of zombies.

Now, I think we need to accept that using Fuel's music was necessary for the parody to work properly. It's kind of like the movie Spaceballs using very similar characters to Star Wars. It needs to be clear what you're parodying. This is done in movies by mimicking the characters of the original work. And it's typically done in music by copying the music. Rarely do song parodies work by merely imitating the style of the original music. If a particular song is being mocked, then basically that particular music must be used in the parody for people to understand what you're doing. And so I can't really fault Rucka for lifting the music. I do think he's too vulgar and explicit. But, in this case, that's more a matter of personal taste than moral condemnation. I don't see a strong argument for nihilism here, with this particular example of Rucka's art. 

Edited by MisterSwig

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That parody reminded me of this.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pi7gwX7rjOw

There are the more superficial sides of parody that you pointed out. But the nature parity I think tears something apart deeper than what's on the surface - at least if it's good. For the video you linked, I think it's tearing apart some notions of sexuality, especially making fun of absurd rationalizations to claim that you aren't gay or even bi. "It's not gay if it's in a three-way", "it's only gay if our dicks touch". That's already absurd, not to mention that if anyone said that seriously, it's like avoiding anything that remotely seems gay. Rucka highlights that by pushing it even further to say "it's not gay if he doesn't come on me", but then on the other hand, his character accepts that he might not be heterosexual, which would actually wouldn't be a big deal. So it seems only destructive about rationalizing one's behavior, and says nothing negative about being something besides heterosexual.


 

Edited by Eiuol

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Warning: This post describes a song with vulgar words, including racial slang. To make my points, I need to quote a couple of the words below.

In his series on Objectivism and humor, Charles Tew also references Rucka's parody song "Prince Ali Obama." He claims that it "doesn't say anything," and that it's "silly comedy for infants." This example might also be a source for Tew's accusation that Rucka tells "irreverent" jokes about 9/11, which I'll discuss at the end.

The parody is based on a musical number in the Disney film Aladdin. Let's first review that scene.

https://youtu.be/LlU_CYhym0o

Now, let's watch Rucka's parody.

https://youtu.be/I4Pa-OJ7yjQ

I have not seen Aladdin in a long while, so I had to familiarize myself with the plot at Wikipedia. The story is about love and lies and magic. A street urchin named Aladdin finds a magic lamp with a genie. He wishes to be changed into a prince (Ali Ababwa), so that he can trick princess Jasmine into marrying him. The "Prince Ali" song shows Aladdin elephant-riding into town with an entourage and treasures, all to fool Jasmine. Meanwhile, the identity-switching genie gossips and lies to the townsfolk about Aladdin/Prince Ali.

Rucka uses Aladdin to comment on our politics and media. He released the parody in October 2017. Obama (street urchin/prince) had been out of the White House for some time. Trump led the charge against "fake news" media (gossiping genie). And, of course, the idea of switching "gender" identities at will (magic) had become a political issue.

Note that Rucka first establishes the theme of deceit by showing Trump calling everything on TV "fake and gay." He then depicts Obama tractor-riding back to the White House, which refers not only to Ababwa's elephant-riding, but also to a picture of the president on a tractor during the Iowa caucus campaign. (I think riding tractors in Iowa is a ritual for politicians.) Next, Rucka launches into a genie-esque litany of Obama's fabled deeds. But instead of sticking to royalty-based lies (like in Aladdin), Rucka also gives us tall tales of Obama's street cred, such as him standing in welfare lines, smoking blunts, and "mowing down fucking honkeys" with his machine gun-mounted tractor. It's quite an imaginative mix of fact and fiction, taken to Rucka's signature parodical extreme.

It isn't until the climax of the song that Rucka reaches his apex of abstraction and metaphor. Speaking as Obama, he says, "I'm airplanes crashing in 2001," which I take as a statement on Obama's legacy, not irreverence for life. Basically, it's the idea that Obama was a disaster for America. And in the next line he transitions into "fear" itself, proving that our former president is not limited to self-identifying as people and objects, but he can also be pure emotion.

So we've gone from Aladdin pretending to be a prince, to Obama pretending to be a horrendous airplane crash. Rucka's statement on self-deception and fraud seems pretty clear to me. I'm surprised that Tew mistook the video for meaningless, infantile humor. I suppose most parody these days will seem pointlessly puerile if you ignore the original work (and/or real events) upon which it's based.

Edited by MisterSwig

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How would you interpret the parts about Obama as a Muslim? Most of the joke is making fun of the whole "Obama is a Muslim" absurdity. The only true parts are the asides, the rest is about fear of black people and fear of Muslims. More directly, the original is a list of lies and exaggerations, and the parody is a list of lies and exaggerations (mostly from Obama's critics that are outright fabrications). 

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2 hours ago, Eiuol said:

How would you interpret the parts about Obama as a Muslim?

I think the images of Obama in traditional African or Arab attire were too hard to resist. It fits with the Aladdin theme of changing identity to fool other people. The lyrics switch rapidly between two main ideas: Obama as low class/street urchin and Obama as high class/Muslim prince. But Rucka also mixes up these ideas to create hybrids and ramp up the absurdity. For example, Obama is a "Sunni from Alabama," or a "Moslem preparing shawarma" for a redneck.

Screenshot_20190715-183613.thumb.png.2d4f86f459e68221c8e79676ffc468a1.png

Rucka might hit the Left harder in general, but he's also swinging at the Right, using his redneck voice to say that line about Moslem Obama preparing shawarma.

This particular video is not a great example of it, but Rucka does confuse me sometimes with his vulgarity and racial/sexual humor. I'll analyze one of those next, since I'm done with the couple videos that Tew referenced.

Edited by MisterSwig

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I can't find any factual inaccuracies in his "History of Philosophy" rap.

 

 

I CAN think of a few musical aspects I would've changed (such as having it be a rap in the first place) but I don't feel comfortable enough sharing them without trying MY OWN hand at the music thing, first. Just wouldn't seem fair, you know?

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6 hours ago, Harrison Danneskjold said:

I CAN think of a few musical aspects I would've changed (such as having it be a rap in the first place) but I don't feel comfortable enough sharing them without trying MY OWN hand at the music thing, first. Just wouldn't seem fair, you know?

Rap has its purpose in songwriting. It works when you need to emphasize the meaning over the emotion of a lyric. Rap is more storytelling than musical. The music is there to keep the beat and add emotional flourishes.

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On 7/20/2019 at 9:02 AM, MisterSwig said:

Rap has its purpose in songwriting. It works when you need to emphasize the meaning over the emotion of a lyric. Rap is more storytelling than musical. The music is there to keep the beat and add emotional flourishes.

I disagree. Youre treating music as if melody were necessarily its primary characteristic or means of aesthetic expression. It's not, at least not in all cases or instances. Rap's primary musical means is rhythm. Rap is the same thing as traditional operatic patter song, only taken further in its rhythmic vocabulary. In effect, modern rap is what Howard Roark would do to patter song. The patter -- the beat and tempo -- are more expressive than the words. Try it yourself: Isolate both and experience each independently of the other. The words are dry and rather lifeless without the specific rhyth. But the rhythm is still just as stimulating even without identifiable words.

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1 hour ago, Jonathan13 said:

The patter -- the beat and tempo -- are more expressive than the words.

I almost agree with you, but what do you mean by "expressive"?

51536863_Screenshot_20190721-1329242.thumb.png.2bee5051948c2ce3f5ce1b1d392ee433.png

The music (rhythm and melody) primarily conveys feeling, while the lyric (words) primarily conveys thought. You can't say that, in general, one is more expressive than the other, because in that context they are dissimilar. They serve different functions in the song.

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Looking at Rucka's latest offering, "Flat Earth Song (Not Round)," this is one that contains the type of swearing that, at first blush, appeared gratuitous to me. It is a parody of "Better Now" by Post Malone. I don't follow Post Malone, so I was not familiar with his story or music before hearing the Rucka song. You can watch the music video here:

The visual elements focus on Post Malone performing the song and hanging out. They have little or nothing to do with the lyrics, which relate his (or his character's) thoughts on a failed romantic relationship. The general idea, repeated in the chorus, is that both of them claim to be better after the breakup, but only because they aren't around each other anymore. However, Malone seems to be fooling himself, "because no matter how [his] life has changed, [he] keeps on looking back on better days." I suggest reading the full lyrics here.

Now watch Rucka's parody.

His character is a flat-earther who tells the story of how he rejected the round-earth model and became an ostracized street bum. Rucka appears to be drawing a parallel between Post Malone being dumped by his girlfriend and the flat-earther being dumped by society. The line "you dindu anything, they made up everything" is society sarcastically mocking the flat-earther's failure to take responsibility for his own social situation, which resembles Malone's seeming failure to take responsibility for losing the "love of his life." Malone repeatedly says, for example, that he "never meant to let [her] down." Oh, really? The closest he gets to the truth is when he says "everything came second to the Benzo," which apparently refers to Malone's admitted history with drugs for anxiety. But that subject is a mere one line in the first verse, and it's quickly forgotten and drowned out by the mantra-like chorus.

Rucka's parody takes this lack of personal responsibility in one relationship and applies it to one person's relationship with the entire planet, represented by society rejecting the flat-earther.

As for the instances where Rucka uses "shit" and "fuck" in the lyrics, it might be that he's imitating Malone, who also has a bit of a potty mouth, or it might be that his flat-earther must be vulgar to match the ideas and character, or maybe Rucka ran out of more meaningful words to use. I'm not sure, but he does appear to be mocking Malone's style in other ways. For example, he utilizes some slang and ungrammatical sentence construction. So I would guess that the cursing, in this case, is motivated by parodical imitation.

Edited by MisterSwig

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