Singles of the year: #47

47. Yeah – Usher featuring Ludacris & Lil’ Jon

– Mike, what’s crunk?

Hang on, let me just check this is really happening. Firstly, K has acquired – of his own accord – a relatively esoteric piece of information about modern music. Secondly, he seems genuinely interested in building on this knowledge. This is almost unprecedented.

– It’s… it’s…

Christ, what is crunk when it’s at home, anyway? I’m skating on thin ice here. Oh, but what does he know; I’ll just busk it.

– …it’s a particularly raw and rudimentary new form of hip-hop, where the vocals are all dead gruff and rasping, and the lyrics are all about getting blasted and partying. It’s an amalgamation of “crazy” and “drunk”, you see: a sort of “portmanteau” word.

– Yes, that fits. Thank you. To be honest, I wasn’t even sure that it was a real genre.

– Sorry, but why on earth do you want to know?

– Oh, it’s just that Tom Wolfe mentions it in “I Am Charlotte Church” – sorry, sorry, “I Am Charlotte Simmons”. I keep saying that, don’t I? OK, how about a rapper called Doctor Dis?

– No, he’s made up…

I do perform this occasional service for K. Although he has no real interest in emergent musical sub-genres, he does like to know just enough to be able to slag them off convincingly. Just to show he’s still au courant. Which reminds me: I must fill him in on microhouse and glitch. (*)

Anyway. Usher’s Yeah – featuring crunk’s main man of the moment, the ubiquitous Lil’ Jon (**) – is the nearest approximation to the genre to have come my way in 2004. (Actually, I have a creeping suspicion that to true “crunkheadz” – yes, I have just made that word up – it’s probably a shockingly watered-down commercial cash-in, but no matter. I have long since ceased to aspire to purism.) It’s a tune which slightly annoyed me for most of the year – that repeated four-note squawk that runs all the way through can work like Chinese water torture – before suddenly flipping itself over and becoming really most enjoyable. It’s that wilful gonzoid dumbness, you see: once you stop fighting against it, it can actually become quite endearing. (See also The Ramones, and minimal hardcore techno.)

(*) As scratching is to vinyl, so “glitch” is to CDs. In other words: “glitch” is a sub-genre of electronic music which is deliberately designed to sound like the CD is on the blink. No, don’t laugh, some of it is actually quite good; primitive and intricate at the same time, and generally fairly desolate and melancholy. Not that I’m exactly drenching myself in the stuff, but, you know.

(**) All bona fide music critics are currently obliged to preface each mention of Lil’ Jon with the approved epithet “the ubiquitous”. Them’s the rules; I don’t make ’em.

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