I’m torn between whether I should narrate my perceptive history with this song, or whether I should just accept that I have been lucky enough to experience a subjective experience the likes of which its very description will provoke ire and scorn. What do I do? I just want you to know that there’s part of me that doesn’t even want to waste time telling of my pathetic subjective perspective taking its sweet time to align with the divine. I guess I want you to know that this is not a joke, and if you can’t understand that, then hopefully my relationship with this song will provide some clarity:
I’m a rapper. I’ve made my own music that I’m quite proud of. I’m not trying to say what I’m saying is justified, I’m just saying this was how I felt, even if it was wrong. One of my songs, which I also produced, uses a similar percussive aesthetic. So, while Team Nicki obviously couldn’t have heard my song, the first time I heard it, I distanced myself from it. The vibe was so similar to a vibe I had gone for, and I guess I just thought that my own music wouldn’t get heard ‘till long after people had heard “Pills N Potions”.
So before I could even join the first impression bandwagon of “that chorus is annoying”, I had already, seemingly irreversibly, distanced myself. However, I did feel it was “too simple” (in addition to the grating chorus). Time passed; I listened to Future some more; I made more music; I enjoyed the weather. One day I was driving home and heard Potions on the radio (to this day my cassette player’s death has been the best thing to happen for my taste since I discovered Warp Records). Yet the very instance of this song on the radio had triggered another side of the song I hadn’t even noticed.
With every additional listen I found myself changing my attitude a bit more and more, until I realized I didn’t hate the song at all now. All the reasons I had ‘hated’ it for had become the very reasons I LOVED it. It’s funny how that works, and it’s also why one’s perspective is generally irrelevant on matters of taste – you identifying why this chorus is too grating or this vocal is too loud or this is lyric is too overt is nothing more than that, an identification. How you FEEL about that doesn’t translate to your feeling having been verified with “proof” (via identification). What you just identified might actually be why another loves the song – so who’s “right”? You both are and you both aren’t. It’s okay to not like a song, but it’s also okay to like a song. Neither perspective is necessarily superior, but one of these perspectives gives you a benefit – a good song to listen to.
While pop can sometimes feel superficial, flimsy and with a bad after-taste, there are always deeper sentiments within “stupid” songs. Additionally, in the most ‘complex’ music you can imagine, one can still map down the overall vibe of the song to a few, core feelings. To show the infinite complexity of a few, focused ideas or to embrace the similarities of the complex whole: one approach is intensely focused on detail; the other, conveying the uniformity of all the differences, when zoomed-out.
In-between the simplicity (and the sometimes pandering-aesthetic) of top 40 pop are universal insights into how we feel as a collective species. While the artists throughout the world vary, the general vibe is a shared one. What we listen to reflects how we feel as people, so we give our support to those whom best represent these unspoken intricacies. Though the actual musicians may vary based on geographic and cultural context, the most popular tend to embrace an interpretation encompassing one part of the present mentality.
No matter how many times I go through these revelations, I will still knee-jerk react to new pop songs like “Pills N Potions” — not really giving them the benefit of the doubt. If you look at what I’ve rated highly on RYM, you’d think I was pretty much always down for top 40 radio, but really, every pop song I love is the result of an intense battle between what I’m expecting music to be and what music actually is. When I came around to Pills N Potions, after hearing it on the radio and then on my own set-up at home, I couldn’t honestly believe how much I disliked the song at first – my own ego preventing me from evaluating the song with a clear-head (via “Since this song sounds like one of my own, I’m going to pretend this song doesn’t exist”).
This has culminated into a manifesto of praise. I keep thinking, it is not necessary to share these thoughts. Even if some haven’t considered them, I think a lot of people have been coming around to this sort of mentality. From musicians with respect and integrity, and people like your’s truly, and people in general, I’ve been reading and hearing more of the “it’s okay to like pop — even if it sounds ‘feminine’ or the lyrics have nothing to do with my life”-perspective. Maybe it’s not so much that people ever WEREN’T part of this perspective, but it was the financial and commercial nature, so boldly embraced (in this music video, there are at least two advertisements for Nicki Minaj-related products), that might’ve made it feel downright WRONG to devote even three minutes to its stage; its charade. You weren’t just going against pop, you were SUPPORTING independent artists, obviously more worthy of everyone’s time…
But if you are thinking about it from a musical perspective, you can certainly appreciate the hi-end world of pop music, proudly on display like a tech demo, in a song like “Pills N Potions”. It’s not always clear who does what on most Top 40 hits — who’s REALLY the brains behind the song (even with the credits in front of you, it can be tricky to tell unless you actually know how the song/album was made) — but what IS clear is that this represents the thoughts of some very talented producers, songwriters and musically-minded folk in general, in addition to the perspective of Nicki Minaj as a lyricist.
I want you to imagine your favorite band covering this song. This is where I think you’ll see me eye-to-eye. It’s a pretty easy sentiment to get on-board with: it’s one of pinnacle; of pending impact. Yes, there is a teenager in me who appreciates the juvenile novelty of bragging about getting high (via “I get high on your memory”), but the idea of a “high” isn’t necessarily drug-related, though if it is, that doesn’t take away from the high’s authenticity, either – feeling is feeling. I just like the idea of experiencing something meaningful, yet natural, and this song provides me that. It builds and builds and by the time it’s about to fade-out, it feels like I’m JUST understanding the chorus for the first time. It hits so powerfully.
Think about all the things in your life you still have love for. Think about how happy you are these places were part of your journey — these people are in your memory. You get HIGH off the MEMORY of her. It doesn’t even have to be a lover — just thinking of a friend… a happy moment: eating chocolate ice cream with your best friend on a warm summer day. Even the sad moments; the angry moments — the times when you had your love betrayed. Everything. "It’s all there, y’know — and it’s the same as in a flower: everything’s there. Y’know, it just is, and if you look long enough, all answers are in it."
Listen: “Pills N Potions”