A Year of Lil Wayne: What Happened When Pop Tried to Go EDM?
An examination of Enrique Iglesias's, Usher's, and Lil Wayne's "Dirty Dancer."
Day 192: "Dirty Dancer" feat. Usher and Lil Wayne – Enrique Iglesias, Euphoria, 2011
To wrap up this week of Wayne's semi-unlikely 90s R&B singer collabs in the 2010s, here's a double feature: Enrique Iglesias and Usher. It's a song from the weirdest period of pop music perhaps ever, the part of the early 2010s where everyone was convinced EDM was the future of pop but didn't really know what that meant in practical terms. As a result we got a ton of terrible pop songs like this one from people who were too talented to let them suck completely (the best example of this, for my money, is Usher's "OMG").
It's a weird phenomenon because it always felt so forced: Everyone knew that electronic dance production was going to make its way into pop music, and now, in 2017, it assuredly has, but I don't think anyone understood how the two would actually connect to sound good. Even at the time we knew this shit wasn't tight; we just weren't sure what was and still counted as electronic music. The answer, largely, was that the balance would stay with pop: Hit songs became more electronic-oriented when electronic music started drawing more on the pop-facing genres that were already being produced digitally, particularly hip-hop (especially trap) and dancehall. The most successful "EDM" pop songs are ones like "Where Are U Now," which subsume existing digital sounds to make something that still feels organic, or ones like "Get Lucky," which draw on traditional dance music and discard the corny hologram sci-fi entirely. Calvin Harris's current singles—or even the Chainsmokers' current singles—which are essentially bending production to the universes of human artists instead of the other way around, are a good example of how this trend has evolved and become more organic.
Yet we're still left with weird artifacts from the early EDM pop era, including this video of Enrique Iglesias looking at hologram strippers—ordering them on his iPad?—while sitting very uncomfortably in what looks like a first class airline seat the way they are shown in airline commercials:
Look, I like digital strippers as much as the next guy, and I am willing to look for the redeeming qualities in just about anything. I think that Lil Wayne maybe thrived on pop radio from 2009-2011 above other rappers in part because he was one of the few rappers who could hop on an EDM-R&B-pop song like this and sound at home. I think this is a phenomenal line from Enrique, even though you could probably argue in several ways that it's problematic: "She's a five when she drinks, but she's a ten when she's on top of me." Who hasn't felt that someone is less attractive when they're drunk and the most attractive when they are hooking up with you, you total narcissist?
But neither the strippers nor that line nor even Lil Wayne's verse is enough to rescue this song, which will go down in history as an odd period piece, just as we are discussing it right now. However, it may have the distinction of having the best hashtag rap bar I've ever heard, which is, "it's going down / depreciating." God bless Wayne for using the word "depreciating" as a punchline. That is one reason why he is the greatest, even if it turns out that "it's going down / depreciating" was mostly an accurate way of describing how this song would age.
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