How Erykah Badu’s “But You Caint Use My Phone” Changed My Views on Music
Erykah Badu just released a mixtape, But You Caint Use My Phone, and it immediately breathed much needed life into music. But more importantly, it gave me new appreciation for Drake’s “Hotline Bling” and insight into how my own preferences won’t allow me to enjoy certain musicians.
The most prominent aspect of But You Caint Use My Phone is that the collection of songs have one, cohesive theme. This isn’t a handful of songs that she just liked a lot. It’s not a desperate attempt for relevancy concealed as interpretations of current music’s most popular songs. No, But You Caint Use My Phone is a body of work themed around connections that uses the phone as its proxy. And adding to the audacity of the mixtape’s cohesiveness, she uses interludes to great effect, creating a fluid flow from track to track and making listening to the album an event instead of an exercise in skipping the tracks you don’t care for much.
Her take on Drake’s “Hotline Bling”, “Cell U Lar Device”, is a revelation. She turned a song that I loathed from the first listen to something I plan on keeping in my rotation. And Badu didn’t radically deviate from the source material. Sure, she massaged it, flipped it, infused some soul, and dripped some stank on top, but at its core, “Hotline Bling” is wholly recognizable. The big difference here is in who is delivering the song.
And that was what made me see the light.
A lot of these earworm songs that I despise but can’t get out of my head aren’t actually bad songs. In many cases, they are actually good. The shortcoming stems from the artist. And while singers used to have to be truly talented, the industry discovered that they could focus more on package and settle in the vocals department as long as the content itself was catchy enough.
This is what Ciara’s entire career was predicated on. She was cute, could dance her ass off, and her voice wasn’t terribly offensive. Give that package the right songs and the right marketing campaign and you’ve got a cash cow. This goes a long way in rationalizing my irrational enjoyment of her addictive “I Bet”.
Take the Babyface tribute that was performed at the 2015 Soul Train Music Awards. We were treated to hit after hit that Babyface had a hand in putting together. All great songs. All great performances. All great singers. Now imagine that different people could lay claim to the songs. You might hate “Can We Talk” if The Weeknd sang it instead of Tevin Campbell. And can you imagine Trey Songz taking on “I’ll Make Love To You”? The songs would still have their merits, just not their magic.
Now I understand how some of my younger counterparts can listen to the music they are subjected to and actually like it. Maybe the songs themselves just aren’t that bad.
All that being said, Erykah Badu’s But You Caint Use My Phone is more than worth a listen, even if for nothing more than Andre 3000’s appearance on “Hello”. Just hearing him rap again makes me weep for Fetty Wap and Future fans.
Stream the album below and purchase it on iTunes:
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