A close reading of your favourite club hits, by a Cambridge English student
The real literature today can be found in unexpected places
We all know that time of the night.
Knee joints begin to falter, osteoporosis settles in and the alcohol snaking its way through our central nervous system no longer can block out Diplo’s latest mistake. Every club-goer has experienced this epiphany of sorts, and it can really put a downer onto the evening – especially if your fellow party animals catch you staring into the void. Luckily, there is an easy and simple solution to being flattened by the big red bus of sobriety, and that is to be a classic Cambridge student and begin work again.
‘But Ania,’ I hear you cry, ‘How on earth could I possibly begin to work in an environment such as this, where the air is 80% herpes and I don’t even have my full set of highlighters?’
Well, you’re in for a treat. My Top Tip does not require even half of the Staples catalogue; it simply demands a good imagination and the ability to hear. And a stellar ability for close textual examination. So nothing you wouldn’t usually bring to Cindies.
My advice is to begin by analysing (or should I say…Ania-lysing? No. I shouldn’t) the one true piece of art that permeates the low-brow world of Cambridge night culture, and that is the music.
‘But Ania,’ I hear you cry, repetitively, ‘How can I peruse the works of The Weeknd when he can’t even spell his own name correctly?’ This is a perfectly acceptable question, and one that I shall demonstrate the answer to in much the same style as any well qualified lecturer – through example.
Wiggle – Jason Derulo feat. Snoop Dogg
The song opens with an extremely meta, introspective observation about the self, as Derulo switches into the third person to instruct himself: ‘Hey, yo, Jason, / Say somethin’ to her / Holla at her’. The encouragement of this cat calling behaviour suggests Derulo was one of the many who did not attend the Clare College consent workshop.
Later, Jason describes that a lady’s ‘patty cake’ has ‘got him in the club making wedding plans’ – a college marriage scenario we can all only dream of. Snoop Dogg then uses the imperative to implore the subject to ‘shake what your mama gave you’, however this poses clear issues as it is difficult to shake the abstract concept of self respect.
I Gotta Feeling – The Black Eyed Peas
In their mid-2009 work, the Peas explore the use of repetition, moving on significantly from their obsession with onomatopoeia as demonstrated in the cult classic ‘Boom Boom Pow’. The line, ‘I gotta feeling that tonight’s gonna be a good night’ appears twenty three times in the song, and perhaps serves to create a sense of self reassurance.
It almost envelops the listener in a cloud of comfort, and for a brief three minutes they can truly believe that going out on every night of fresher’s week was a good idea. However, the fact that the semantics of this piece largely remain in the future tense suggests an element of the unachievable, and it is important to question: is the night really going to be a good, good night if Lola’s is playing anything including Will.I.Am?
Side to Side – Ariana Grande feat. Nicki Minaj
Despite being a more modern piece of work, the subject matter of this song is clear. As Ariana describes, ‘I’ve been there all night / I’ve been there all day / And boy, got me walkin’ side to side’ it becomes apparent that Grande has also experienced the momentous task of navigating a faculty library. She reveals, ‘tonight I’m making deals with the devil’, giving the listener a glimpse into the kind of illicit activities she has engaged with to get around a short day loan period.
The only slightly implausible part of this song comes later, when Nicki Minaj suggests, ‘If you wanna Minaj I got a tricycle’. Any self respecting Cambridge student is fully aware of the havoc that a three wheeler wrecks up the racks. Have some class, Nicki.
I hope my demonstrations have provided you with a new angle to approach your evenings with, and that you implore this type of close textual analysis whenever possible.
Not only does this technique make for a new level of intellectual stimulation previously unreachable on a Cambridge night out, but it obviously shows that the humanities subjects are far, far more useful than their reputation denotes.