May 13, 2010

Tearria Mari's "Sponsor": Under the Ghetto Values, A Black Woman's Desire for Economic Security in Relationships?

Tearria Mari. Cute Girl.  My wife is much better looking though
My wife, the Hot Little Number, blames me for destroying her enjoyment of what passes for R&B music these days. This charge goes all the way back to our dating days.  I listened to NPR then, as I do now, a practice the Hot Little Number enjoyed cracking on.  She liked R&B and was always bopping her head to this or that tune. One day, innocently enough, I pointed out the foulness of the lyrics in the song she was bopping her head to on the radio (Blue's Too Close).  I remarked that the song was fun and made your head bounce, but that the lyrics were bankrupt of morals and an example of whats wrong with our young people. This auditory swill is being poured into their brains all the time and we wonder why they can't think straight.

The Hot Little Number didn't really pay attention to lyrics then, she just liked the music.  After that though, she started listening to the lyrics and thinking about the meaning in them.  Because the Love of My Life is to her core a naturally ethical woman, at the point at which she actually recognized the low moral quality of MOST R&B lyrics in songs that get radio air play, she recoiled from it.  She hasn't been able to enjoy most R&B since then, a condition she laments and blame for which she places squarely at my doorstep.

Now, when something foul comes on, she turns the station to NPR, a listening habit she got from me and which she considers the province of the nerdy.  She finds the situation all the more infuriating because I, being a much more base, unrefined and corrupt moral being than my wife, still enjoy R&B music just fine, even as I recognize its valueless lyrics. Which brings me to Teairra Mari's  tune, Sponsor:


 Today's R&B lyrics are mostly devoid of redeeming qualities and "Sponsor" doesn't depart from that script. However, sometimes I find something else going on in a song, another element beyond the appeal to the ghetto.  If you ignore for a moment the juvenile focus on material things in the lyrics, you hear a suggestion not of a mercenary golddigging woman out to take advantage of a man, but of a woman desiring to be taken care of, to be cherished and even pampered by the man in her life:

Yeah yeah he put the low profiles on my car, he treat me to a pedi plus manicure. Anything that I ask for from my sponsor he go to buy buy buy(ha ha ha). A baby blue medallion I just got, my feet they speak italian walk so high. I told you baby thanks a lot my sponsor he go and buy buy buy

He treats....she asks, she tells him thank you. Its not about taking advantage or juicing a loser for his money because his nose is wide open.  This isn't a predatory relationship:

He ain't no square, he just like to share. In love with a tipper throwing hundreds in the air, throw some over here. Lui, and dropping lui, dropping lui in my lap(damn)

He's not a sucker. There is respect.  He's generous...What's he doing for her?

I got myself a sponsor . Say hey (yeah) to fill up a drink for me (yeah) to fill up my tank for me (yeah) to put something in the bank for me. I got myself a sponsor.

Gets her a drink, fills up the gas tank, puts aside some resources for her.  What woman doesn't want that kind of treatment from her man?  What man doesn't want to be this guy? And notice, she's not concerned about the status attached to how he earns his ends, she's all about how he is treating her..

He must be a rapper,baller, doctor, dentist, corner boy ,cook/chef, chemist (yeah). I don't even care just as long as he don't say bye bye bye.

Yes, its superficial on the surface, but underneath the skin of the lyrics, its a fantasy of economic security, and perhaps not all that fantastical in its articulated needs.  The video has the billionaire presentation, but the lyrics talk about gas, hair, nails, car and money in the bank, the most prosaic of economic components. Don't think the Hot Little Number wants to call me sponsor? Don't think I want her singing that song about me? Think again.

Exit thoughts: In watching the video, I had two thoughts. 1: those dance moves made me think of Amerie's excellent video for "One Thing ", done far less well.  Ameri remains for me the poster girl for what it means to "sell the video" (in a good way) with her totally committed dance moves. Tearria's moves here don't rise to that standard, which brings me to my second observation, hardly original, that the music industry attempts to bust out young women, black and white, as sexual commodities for sale. Tearria is young and sometimes looks in this video like she's doing what people told her was sexy, what people told her was how to sell it. But its not necessarily about what she the artist would have done.  I'm not convinced this is the artist she wants to be.  She is barely 23 and is made to look older in this video.  Contrast her performer persona in the video with the young woman in this 2008 interview talking about being dropped from the Def Jam label in 2006.

Check her reference to the way she was marketed at young girls with adult content that got a parental advisory label  which  meant she couldn't legally buy the album she headlined when she was still a minor. That's a commentary on the industry right there. As for her, she comes off here as young, vivacious, pleasant.....a nice girl. Contrast that with the artistic persona in the video and the uncommitted dance moves and the impression it left me with was of an artist that's simply been packaged for domestic sexual consumption and is not entirely comfortable in the skin they put her in. I'm not familiar with any of her other music video's, it's quite possible a review of them would convince me that she's already had the full bust out treatment  ala "Spectacular".  The music industry modus operandi is packaging young female artists for maximum pimping out potential to sell them as video vixen sexpots.  Its why my kids don't watch or listen to R&B.