Monday, March 19, 2007

Pompous Maturity

I love and hate Jay-Z’s latest album Kingdom Come (iTunes link) in equal measure.

Obsessing over the accumulation and spending of wealth, fame and celebrity (defined as celebrity in New York City and Hollywood circles), Jay-Z’s songs are entirely unseasoned with passion, life-giving joy, or anything sustainable. All that’s left is numbness and smallish worlds. To his credit, he doesn’t wallow or navel-gaze, like gawdawful emo-rockers.

If an expression of world-weariness is his aim, he has done a fair job, albeit no better or different than Oscar Wilde (A Picture of Dorian Gray) a full century ago, or U2 (Pop) a decade ago (both of whom, incidentally, were Irish—people who have known more than their share of laughter in the face of tragedy). Jay-Z has yet to learn that there is more to life, more joy and more tragedy, than what one person can experience.

In fact, Jay-Z comes off so utterly unaware of anything beyond his horizons that his arrogance fails to even offend. It merely seems like as much provincial chest-beating. For all his cosmopolitan airs, Jay-Z is country.

I mean, he brags about having a passport. As if international travel is the same as broadening one’s horizons. Which brings me to what I love about Kingdom Come.

For all his pompous braggadocio, Jay-Z reveals a refreshing capacity to learn, and change his mind. His song 30-something is an ode to maturity. He expresses how he’s outgrown the street-smart swagger of his youth, in favor of wisdom. No longer does he flash his gold and diamonds—he’s got a stock portfolio. He’s young enough, he says, to know the right car to buy, but old enough to know not to put rims on it. This is funny, refreshing, and every bit as arrogant as before, but there’s some real life to it.

Is it possible for one song to redeem an album? In the days of iTunes, the question no longer matters. Get this one song, and celebrate the passing of time and the maturity that comes with it. Jay-Z too shall pass, but this one song may well be the best he’s ever written.


At 12:27 PM, March 23, 2007, Blogger staceyhoff said...

Have you heard of Kurtis Allen? His cd,Voice Progression, is a much better listen.
You should download one of his songs for.99 at's 'Music Box' section, and review it on your blog. That would be sweet! You download it directly into your mp3 player... promise! you will love his stuff!!


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