Thursday, February 28, 2013

Handicapped for Hip-Hop

Jack went to see Method Man at the Domino Room last night. Jack is an older white gentleman and the crowd last night was pretty much all 2-1/2 to 3 times younger than him. Jack was at a disadvantage, music-wise, but not necessarily due to his whiteness or age, but for another reason.

Let me explain.

First of all, the crowd was a lot of fun. The place was packed and the energy was high. There were three, roughly, opening acts (members kind of blended with each other, for example, Mike Fish [Person People] was onstage with other artists), and more than a few folk provided DJ function.

Wearing my black Wu-Tang hoodie I hoped to avoid mocking from the younger people, but it probably wasn't needed. The kids were fine.

I arrived early enough to snag one of the few bar stools upstairs and drag it to the front of the balcony (this being my plan to avoid standing all evening long, something we elders try to avoid). As the place filled, a fellow, about 24 years old, said "Great seat!"

I said yeah, but the problem is that if you go to the bar and don't have someone to hold the seat, you'll lose it.

He asked what I was drinking.

He left, then, returning a few minutes later, handed me a fresh drink.

Seeing my surprise, he said, "Yeah. I'm that guy."

The guy who kindly brings a codger a drink at his seat. Nice guy.

I stayed for about half of Method Man's set, then took a cab home. Mrs Elliott was asleep when I let myself into the house, I kissed her when I got into bed.

And reflected that I would have gotten a lot out of the music were it not for my handicap. You see, I have "lyric blindness," an unofficial phrase that means I don't hear the words in songs. You know that song by Adele that had all the ladies crying last year? I've heard it many times -- I have no idea what she's singing about. In fact, I have no idea what singers sing about, ever.

It's not due to not listening or not paying attention. I hear the words, but the part of my brain that tries to process the voices is overwhelmed by the part that listens to the music. I hear the music, I hear the parts the instrumentalists are playing, I hear the beat, I hear the sound of the voice. But what they're singing about? Not so much.

Musicals, much beloved by many, are boring to me. I saw "Rent" a few years ago. It might as well have been in Italian. Which is fine, because I like "La Boheme", the opera by Pucinni, a lot. And listening to folk sing in a foreign language means that I don't need to worry about trying to tease meaning out of the sounds coming out of the singers's mouths.

Poetry is baffling to me. That might be associated.

Anyway, the problem I have with hip-hop isn't cultural or because I'm old or white, it's because what hip-hop is about is the poetry, the words, the stories and feelings. And without having a sense of what they're talking about, the music just isn't that interesting.


  1. And yet you can write and speak eloquently.

  2. I know, right? This word-deafness only seems to show up while listening to music, or when reading or hearing poetry. Processing lyrics/poetry must involve another part of the noggin.

    It's very odd.

    But then, I've always felt that the words in songs are just vehicles for the melody, otherwise the singers would just sing "Blah blah blah, hunna hunna hunna, da da da."

    Which is what it sounds like to me anyway. To illustrate, check out this snip from the last episode of "30 Rock" and pick it up at about the 2:00 point.

    That's what it's like.


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