Big Sean – Beware [feat. Jhene Aiko & Lil Wayne]
- Hall of Fame
- Year :
- RIYL :
- J. Cole / Ludacris / T-Pain
When you make party music for mass consumption, there’s a critical balance that needs to be struck if there is any hope of said music landing between ears. Obviously, the track needs to be catchy, uptempo, and performed with competence and confidence in equal measure. That’s the easy part—or at least the obvious part. Push too far in the other direction (that is to say reach for greatness) and you might have just bounced your work right off of a playlist.
To better understand, look no further than Kanye West’s “Black Skinhead”. It’s a powerful, daring, abrasive, and arguably great song. It’s been a grand success on the internet and heard by millions. Slip “Black Skinhead” into your Saturday night party playlist, however, and watch the vibe in the room shrivel and die a three minute death. The song is so strikingly different and so much more ambitious than the average radio hit there is essentially no hope for it in a room full of casual listeners.
Big Sean has solved this problem, though It’s not for lack of ambition. Sean has been a fixture on the airwaves for the last two years and worked with some of the biggest names in pop music, from Justin Bieber to Fall Out Boy. The man works hard. But, his success is rooted in knowing exactly what it is that he does well—make top-notch, mediocre music. This is not intended as a put-down. Consider his latest, “Beware.” It’s an expertly crafted pop exercise, combining a smooth R&B vocal hook, a refreshingly lean EDM-flavored beat, and Sean’s own distinct dork-Lothario flow. The cherry on the top is Lil Wayne’s guest-spot verse. The parts add up to something that is not great but good and abundantly enjoyable. It’s one of the best currently on the Hot 100 and a perfect warm-up song for a night of bar-hopping.
At the same time, though, the “Beware” is fundamentally mediocre. It’s a difficult concept to wrap one’s mind around. And, it’s also difficult to talk about. Great minds have spent countless hours dissecting great works of music and critics have long held sacred the tradition of bashing the worst of the worst. But, there is a real dearth of discourse on the mediocre.
That is, until now. I give you The Weezy Curve.
Named for our present-day patron saint of pop-music inconsistency, Lil Wayne, The Weezy Curve helps describe the correlation between a pop song’s quality and the level of enjoyment a listener experiences while listening to that song. Weezy’s own career can be charted out nicely along the W-shaped curve, helping us understand why both the technically brilliant “Look At Me Now” and the god-awful “How To Love” are both strangely enjoyable to large swaths of the population. But the central feature of The Weezy Curve is not the highs and lows—it’s what I like to call Peak Mediocrity.
Peak Mediocrity is location on The Weezy Curve where you will find the vast majority of Lil Wayne’s output over the last five years and it’s fitting that he’s teamed up with Big Sean on “Beware.” Unlike Weezy, who has achieved genuine greatness at times, Big Sean has made Peak Mediocrity his calling card to great effect. Sean does the pop-music version of what sports announcers call “playing within yourself.” He knows what he can do well consistently and never strays from that path. He’s winning the game with average shots.
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