It certainly seems that Beyonce’s “Drunk In Love” is inspiring more than just overflowing bathtubs and increased sales of mops and buckets.
Some of the more righteous Youtube singers have taken the hit single and put a sanctified spin on it. Like YouTube user LaThelma Armstrong, who walks into the church, sits down in the pew and starts belting out:
I’ve been prayin’, I’ve been prayin’.
I can’t keep quiet when the spirit gets into me.
I’ve been thinking, I’ve been thinking
Why can’t people see they need you Jesus
We need you. Yeah, Yeah…
I’m not going to lie, the girl’s voice is on point. And I can’t stop singing “I been prayin, I been prayin…” – that’s until it gets to the bridge of the song, then it gets a bit weird for me, particularly the lines:
“God fill me up, half way and use me for your purpose.
Studying your word, Stu-studying your word.
I’m swerving on that, Swe-swerving on them
Cursing, I’ve been trusting in you.
Trust it’s working for my good-good…”
Jesus? Good-good? All in the same sentence? And that brings me to my point: who hears a song about drinking Jay Z’s babies (shivers at the visuals) and riding the D in bathtubs and thinks Jesus?
Well okay, maybe if the dude you are surfboarding has the last name of Rodriquez, that would make sense. And sure, good sex has been considered by many to be comparable to a religious experience. So it wouldn’t be that much of a stretch to think of Jesus, along with Abraham, Moses, Allah, Xenu and the spaghetti monster too. However that is in another context. And I’m thinking that if I’m driving down the street, listening to “Drunk in Love” on the radio (and not while on the D), I’m not thinking that this needs a gospel remix.
Not to mention that whole thing is like bad Christian karaoke. Or worse, this guy I used to work retail with back in the day. He too was a singer with long roots in the church. He also liked to praise HIM through song all damn day long. Even when assisting other customers, he would be humming melodically under his breath. It’s when we rode the bus to and from work, where he would take his praise up a notch. Just like Tyrese in that Coca-Cola commercial, he would stand towards the back of the bus he would belt out some of the most ear-enchanting vocals this side of heaven. There would be hand clapping and plenty of riff and runs, mostly to the delight of fellow passengers. Mostly. Those who rode the bus frequently grew tired early on with his impromptu revival, in particular his penchant for taking top 40 songs and adding Jesus’ name in it. Like changing Sisqo’s “The Thong Song” to: “Without Jesus, you’re dead wrong, wr- wrong, wrong, wrong…”
I guess these gospel remixes shouldn’t bother me as other genres of music co-opt themes and completely lift whole songs without raising an eyebrow. Reggae is a good example of that. And so is Go-Go music. There are even a few secular songs, which have borrowed material from the gospel songs. So technicality, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise if a gospel singer does the same.
Besides, while lyrics are important, most times it is the rhythm and beats, which tend to move us. Although, I typically am not a listener of gospel music, I do like some of Kirk Franklin’s, Mary Mary’s and a few other artists who tend to mix secular with their Jesus-worshipping. Also I don’t mind when rappers like DMX, Bone, Thugs & Harmony and Kanye West mix their religiosity without their secular arts neither. And I am not alone. My best friend, who was born and reared as a Muslim, once confessed to me about the time, she was the car, dressed in full garb, singing at the top of her lungs, “Jesus Walks…,” to the bemusement of traffic in the passing lanes. Point is, if it is a good song, it does not really matter which genre or style the song borrows from.
With that said though, I do feel like there are lines, which should not be crossed because no matter how good a song is, sometimes our subconscious mind will have a hard time separating the original context with its newer, more church-friendlier version. In particular, adapting secular songs with sexualized meaning and content, like the gospel song Baby Got Book, which is a remix of Sir Mix Alot’s rump shaking classic “Baby Got Back.” It features inspirational lyrics like, “I like Big Bibles And I can’t not lie…” Nope, still thinking about Becky and them staring and gawking at that big black butt. Or this guy with the gators and crushed velour suit, who on some local Atlanta-area talk show, committed one of the most egregious cases of copyright infringement with his gospel rendition of R Kelly’s “Bump N Grind” that included such sanctimoniously-sexay lyrics as “I don’t see nothing wrong, with living for Jesus Christ-es…” Not to sound too much like blasphemy but it all does makes me wonder about what kind of relationship some folks are envisioning themselves having with the man upstairs?
And that’s the problem that I have with the “Drunk in Love” gospel remakes. No matter how hard I try, all I keep thinking of is: “surfboard, graining on that wood…” Now I confess: I am a bit of a freak. So depending on what version of God we are we talking about here… If it is Morgan Freeman God? I’ll pass. However if we can get Hollywood to stop being racist and make Idris Elba our Lord and Savior than I would humbly bow to that. Watermelon.