Pop Song Review: Professor Green feat. Tori Kelly – “Lullaby”

Hey gang, guess who’s back? Yeah, it’s been a little while since I posted. I started a new postgraduate course recently so I haven’t had much time to even think about pop music, let alone write anything on it, but let’s see what we can get out this week. Today’s pop song review is “Lullaby” by Professor Green featuring Tori Kelly.

First impressions: I feel like I’ve heard this song before. Don’t we get one of these every few months: these half-rap, half soul emotional ballads with beats heavy enough for a club remix? From what I’m hearing so far this really is just more of the same.

The music: So this is urban pop that tries to mix the grit of urban hip hop music with the smoothness of pop, which really is like putting lipstick on a bulldog. Tori Kelly tries to coo a gentle, romantic vocal over a stomping hip-hop beat while Green raps in the verses, and the result is confusing. What am I supposed to do with this, exactly? The harshness of the beat won’t let me relax to it and the softness of the melody won’t let me rock out to it. Pop music doesn’t have a clue what it’s doing anymore and nobody cares – how did we become okay with this?

The melismatic vocal part in the chorus sounds like something from an Eastern-European Eurovision entry. It’s not particularly memorable but I guess it’s nice: Kelly has a lovely voice and sings her part professionally without trampling over the melody with any vocal gymnastics, which I appreciate, even if she’s no more interesting than any of the other modern soul-pop singers who could slot into her place. The melody is pleasant but not particularly catchy: only the “woah-oh-ah-oh” part leaves any impression. There is a harsh contrast, as well, between her vocals and Green’s which are too nasally and tough to work with such a soft song as this. Sure, it’s mixing two different styles to create one more eclectic product, but it’s like mixing thumb tacks into an angel delight: it’s different but I still don’t want to eat it.

The lyrics: What I can deduce from the rap lyrics is that Green is trying to evoke the feelings of depression: anxiety eating away at him, no hope on the horizon, sleeplessness and the worry that he’ll end up the way his dad did (Green’s father took his own life in 2008). So it’s pretty heavy stuff we’re working with here. Not having ever been depressed (at least that I know of) I can’t really comment on how accurate it is as a depiction, but one of the YouTube comments I read (from someone who currently suffers from depression) seemed to really appreciate what Green was talking about, so it does look as if it’s having a positive effect. That’s just lovely – because of that I’m not even going to pick at or make fun of what Green is saying here.

What I will pick on are the chorus lyrics, which are less to do with depression and more about some random couple having relationship problems. “All the time I have laid in your love.” Ew. Sorry about that: “when your love kept me safe in the night / all the time I was sure you were mine.” So it’s unrelated to the verse lyrics and it’s painfully vague? Tremendous. His (I assume it’s a he she’s addressing given that it’s a man delivering the verses; I could be wrong but until the English language comes up with a gender-neutral singular pronoun I’ll run the risk) love kept her safe in the night – not sure how that works, unless he had to act as a human shield at one point. “All the time I was sure you were mine”. So he actually wasn’t hers? Was he somebody else’s? Did his love keep that person safe in the night as well? And all this has precisely what to do with depression?

“And before time demands our goodbye / Can you sing me a last lullaby?” Mature, fully-functioning adults of the internet, I ask you sincerely: you are aware that lullabies are simplistic, languid tunes intended for young children, right? Unless you’re into some pretty kinky stuff, asking your lover to sing you a lullaby is objectively weird. Even on a purely metaphorical level it’s still bizarre because lullabies aren’t romantic ballads of affection: they’re sleep aids for developing minds, usually sung by parents to their children. So what exactly is going on here between these two? Admittedly I like the idea of Professor Green attempting to sedate his lover with a rap rendition of “Rock a Bye Baby”, but I don’t think “uproarious laughter” was the sensation they were trying to evoke here.

Verdict: As a song it’s pretty dull, but what Green is talking about is a pretty important topic that doesn’t get discussed as much as it should be. As much as I ragged on the whole “lullaby” thing, if you suffer from depression and find some sort of comfort in this song, that’s fantastic. I’ll give it a 3 out of 5, more for the lyrics than the music, and leave it be.

Today’s double-up is “Wake Up” by Mad Season. I’d also like to divert your attention towards Twinkle Twinkle Little Rock Star, a company that makes lullaby versions of famous rock and pop songs. They’re astonishingly good, too.

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