You Probably Think This Song Is About You

20 Jan

As the whole world likely knows by now, Jay-Z and Beyonce welcomed their first child, a little girl named Blue Ivy Carter, into the world about two weeks ago. And while most proud parents send around ebuilient Facebook updates or share cigars, Jay-Z was moved to song. Very soon thereafter, he dropped “Glory”, an ecstatic paean to his baby. Thanks to a sample of little girl Blue crying, “Glory” carries a “featuring B.I.C.” credit – and as a result, Miss Carter now holds the Billboard record for the youngest Hot 100-charting artist in history.

New pub quiz trivia aside, the release of “Glory” is pretty astonishing. Not so much for the “song for a child” angle; the Beatles got there decades ago – Paul with “Hey Jude”, then John with solo track  “Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy)”. Though it does have to be strange to have a song written about you, and to have the entire freaking world know it. Does Julian Lennon smile or cringe when he hears “Hey Jude”? Does it make up for the fact that his father was pretty much a non-entity in his life, especially once half-brother Sean came on the scene? Or does “Hey Jude” just exacerbate the fact that everyone knows John Lennon was aloof towards his firstborn son?

It’s perhaps a salve that “Hey Jude” is at least pro-Julian. Adults don’t seem to get off so easy in song. When you hear Alanis Morissette’s “You Oughta Know”, do you flashback to 1995 – or do you think of Dave Coulier? It still blows my mind to think that the man responsible for that classic slice of angry grrl vitriol was Uncle Joey from Full House. Trippier still is that we’ve waited for years to find out the target of Carly Simon’s sublime takedown “You’re So Vain”, and are STILL waiting to find out who the inspiring bastard is. So far, we know it’s not Warren Beatty (who apparently called Simon to say, “Thanks for the song”), not Mick Jagger (though it would’ve been awesome if she’d tricked Jagger into singing backing vocals on his own dis track), and not David Geffen (target of some UK internet rumors around 2010).

While we’re on the topic of Carly Simon, anyone else remember this song?

Mr. Vain is most likely a class act compared to the ex-boyfriend of Adele, a dude so vile that he inspired a whole album, 2008’s 19, and I’m assuming some choice cuts on last year’s 21 as well. Apparently, the d-bag rang up Adele and asked for a cut of the profits from 19.  Adele at this point is laughing all the way to the bank about her past heartbreak.

While an interesting hook, “Glory”’s baby-sampling doesn’t break new ground, either. Aaliyah’s late 90s smash “Are You That Somebody?” prominently featured a cooing baby in its beat, leading to rumors that the sampled kid was actually the secret love child of Aaliyah and R. Kelly. The Web doesn’t necessarily clear up this controversy, as the sample is sometimes credited to Prince’s 1982 hit “Delirious”, sometimes as a recording of Aaliyah herself as a babygirl, and sometimes as an obscure 60s jam called “Countdown at 6”.

No, what’s most astonishing about “Glory” is its unbridled honesty, especially coming from a couple that’s historically kept their private life private. In less than 4 minutes, we learn: that Beyonce suffered at least one miscarriage before Blue came along; that Blue was conceived in Paris (and that “Mama woke up the next day and shot her album package”); and that perhaps Jay’s dad was flawed (at least, that’s what I can guess dying of “N—- failure” would be). It’s not the best rap Jay-Z ever put out, but it feels like the purest. While Blue Ivy Carter is forever blessed/saddled – depending on your perspective – with an anthem for life, she should perhaps thank her stars that the song that put her in even more of a spotlight comes from a place of love. Should anyone ever be inspired to write a song for me (hey, it could happen) or for you, I can only hope for the same.

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