Pop Song Review: Usher feat. Juicy J, “I Don’t Mind”

Let’s talk about Usher. I quite like Usher. Got nothing against the man. I couldn’t care less about Juicy J but I like Usher. That’s about all I have to say, really, so without further ado let’s get down to today’s pop song review: “I Don’t Mind” by Usher featuring Juicy J, because heaven knows they couldn’t leave him out.

NOTE: No official music video for this one, apparently, so enjoy reading some soulless static text instead.

First impressions: This is surprisingly upbeat for a slow jam, isn’t it?

The music: “I Don’t Mind” is a minimalist R&B love jam accentuated by percussive handclaps, a pillow-thud beat and a single repeating synth chime that changes its note to signify some semblance of musical movement. This is a long-winded way of saying that “I Don’t Mind” doesn’t have a great deal going on.

That could work, to be honest. Often less is more and I appreciate that the song holds back more than it does push itself onto you. Admittedly there is something oddly warm and charming about the sheer space that’s been left in this recording and I could easily imagine someone using this as the soundtrack to an intimate moment with their beloved… or at least I could if the melody were up to scratch. As it happens, however, there’s no discernible hook (beyond the weird way Usher sings “I don’t mind” in the chorus) to make this a worthwhile or enjoyable experience. It’s not catchy and it’s not syncopated enough to dance to; matched with the equally underplayed accompanying music it all dissolves into a formless wash.

Usher’s vocals are fine. There are moments where he overdoes it and it sounds silly, but for the most part he keeps restraint on his voice and it suits the song nicely. Unfortunately he hasn’t been given anything good or memorable to sing and as a result the whole effect is pretty underwhelming, like a filler track from one of Michael Jackson’s weaker albums. Then Juicy J’s obnoxious rap cameo comes in, ruins what atmosphere there was with his ugly monotone voice and we can all go home.

Also, why does the time signature change between the verse and the bridge? The verse notes are written in 12/8 but the bridge and chorus are in 4/4. Why do that? The sudden change is just jarring and distracting. There’s no need to show off here. This isn’t a Yes song, it’s an R&B crooner.

The lyrics“Shawty, I don’t mind If you dance on a pole / That don’t make you a ho.” Huh. Well, that’s a change of pace for a modern R&B song: actually acknowledging a woman’s worth beyond her sexualised profession. Now that is actually pretty–

“Shawty, I don’t mind when you work until three / If you’re leaving with me.” Oh. So you don’t mind that she’s a stripper and that she works late as long as she’s having sex with you later? That way you get to be the big man who doesn’t mind that his girlfriend strips for money as long as she is a stripper and as long as she is in fact your girlfriend? That’s just having your cake and eating it, dude. You fool no one. (Or, according to the YouTube comments, apparently you do.)

“They be lookin’, but they can’t touch you, shawty, I’m the only one to get it.” I’m getting some pretty bad “Steal My Girl” vibes here. Even if the sentiment has the best intentions in mind, which I like to think it does, it still comes off as patronising with a strong dose of male fantasy. “No, girl, I don’t mind that you’re a stripper. I don’t mind that other guys fantasise about you, because you’re mine and I get to have sex with you. Not them, me! I truly am the bigger man here.”

“You want your own and you need your own, baby, who am I to judge? / Cause how could I ever trip about it when I met you in the club?” See, he’s trying to be thoughtful, but there’s always this caveat, isn’t there? Some specific clause that allows her to be validated as more than a mere sex object on the predicate that we never forget she is having sex with him and only him. What about all the women in her line of work who aren’t riding his junk for free? Are they still hoes until he validates their existence beyond their sex appeal?

“I make enough for the both of us, but you dance anyway.” Ah jeez, he couldn’t have just let her have that, could he? I mean, “you dance anyway?” This is her job. It’s not some after-hours hobby of hers, it’s how she makes her living. Does he genuinely think he’s being thoughtful with this condescending garbage? He’s rich, has sex with a hot stripper and he gets the moral high ground. Why doesn’t he just give himself wings and the ability to breathe fire while he’s at it?

“You can twerk it while in a split, you racking up them tips / Your body rock and your booty poppin’, I’m proud to call you my bitch.” And I bet she’s totally proud to call you her boyfriend as well. What a considerate guy Usher is here, focusing solely on her body and monetary worth and calling her a bitch. Just the best guy, truly.

Aaaaand here comes Juicy J to trip over the point of the song, not that it wasn’t a banana peel of a point to begin with:

“I’m just tryna cut her up, tryna bust a nut / Tryna take somebody bitch, turn her to a slut.” Cut her up? She’s a stripper, not the Black Dahlia, you psychopath. Coupled with the Jeffrey Dahmer mention in Katy Perry’s “Dark Horse” I’m seriously beginning to worry about this guy’s frame of mind… or is “cut her up” a rap term? Eh, who cares. He’s still screwing up the song’s message: apparently if you strip for money then you are, in fact, a slut. Well done, Juicy J. You’ve made the rest of your pals in the Pleistocene era proud.

“It’s okay if you work late, we can still party like it’s your birthday / We can still party hard in your birthday suit.” Juicy J is a witless moron. That is all.

“Knock that pussy out the park like my name Babe Ruth.” Hey, while you’re at it why not knock her straight to the moon like your name Ralph Kramden, you dunce?

“When we in the bed she like to roleplay, tell her friend to join in both ways.” And of course it wouldn’t be a brainless male fantasy without the promise of a guy-girl-girl threeway for no reason. Hey, Juicy, if she’s bisexual then that’s twice as many people who might be able to steal her away from you. Do you want to take that risk? She is yours, after all.

Verdict: I suppose it’s at least a progressive message for the modern rap/R&B scene to hear that strippers aren’t just sex objects (though given now Neanderthalic the scene is right now that’s hardly saying much), but the clear ego inflation, the tedious music and Juicy J in general make this a 2 out of 5.

Today’s double-up is “Another Piece of Meat” by Scorpions, which at least flips the angle and gives the woman the chance to be the sleazebag for a change. (And yes, that’s the second Scorpions song in a row I’ve used as a double-up. In my defence, it’s my blog and Scorpions rock, so deal with it.)

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