Unspoken Message in 90s Song

By Peter Chien

Throughout the 1990s, there were numerous event involving racial conflicts and stereotypes towards gender and between races. As we browse through music videos and songs from the 90s, it was not hard to discover some additional message beyond their lyrics and title. In fact, most of the popular hip hop the word hip hop is not capitalized; neither are most musical genres. songs on the Billboard back in 1990s were the songs about love. In other words, most of them describe romantic relationships. As we dig further into the lyrics and music videos, we can also find some links towards deeper messages behind the song. In “the Blues,” by Tony Toni Tone, the producer and artists used various hidden perks to demonstrate how African Americans were being treated unequally in the Caucasian dominated society. Also, “So You Like What You See,” by Samuelle, portrays how the law enforcement and medias’ responses towards the riot were caused by racial conflicts. Moreover, in the song “I’ll Be Good to You,” by Quincy Jones, various symbolic techniques were used to demonstrate how stereotypes and racism are sins. All three songs demonstrate how African American society was struggling to adapt while trying to fit themselves into the white dominated society. The music video producer and artist may use various links to tell the listener to think beyond the lyrics themselves. Therefore, a simple love song that seems to be about relationships can be interpreted in different angles. By doing so, those songs could give deeper meaning and messages to the real society at that time period.

Tony! Toni! Tone! “The Blues.” The Revival. By D’Wayne Wiggins, Timothy Christian Riley. 5 Mar. 1990. Ed Eckstine.

This song will give a first impression of a love song when you read its lyrics. However, while reading it repeatedly, along with the music video, I observed some different meanings behind it. In the lyrics, a main theme is they will “spending all my time pleasing you, all you ever give me is the blue,” which indicates that no matter how hard they try, it eventually become useless. Also, extending to another piece, “every day, every night, all you ever give me is the blues” tells us this type of emotional state occurs all day. In other words, they been treated like that in their daily life. As we look into the music video, there were only two groups in the video. One is the band playing music and the other was an African American girl with a pure white dress, white hair, and white shoes. One thing that caught my eyes was that the two groups were never in the same frame in the video. This might imply the author was trying to portray this song was much more than just a love song. If we looked at the song as African Americans’ trying to please and fit in Caucasian society, this song would potentially be telling listeners how much African American struggle in the white dominated society.

Samuelle Prater “So You Like What You See.” So You Like What You See. By  Denzil Foster, Smuelle Prater,Thomas McElroy. 30 Oct. 1990. Thomas McElroy.

The music video starts by showing a photo shoot. In one of the themes, there are signs of a riot. This can link to the riot outbreak in California. It seems like Samuelle was trying to say a majority of people only believe what they see on the news media. Moreover, the news was beautified and well covered – just like professional photo shoot. Therefore, people won’t be able to understand the real situation regarding the riot. Also, in the lyrics, “every day now I can feel you watching me from after… why you’re so into me in such a way,” can be seen as the police in the riot. The law enforcement would just stand aside and watch, instead of immediately stopping the riot. At the end of the song, it says, “now it’s time you get with the program and learn to leave forcefully”, this is another piece which shows the end of the riot will be stopped by heavy force without negotiation. This song can be viewed as how police force, media, and public reactions contributed to the riot.

Quincy Jones “I’ll Be Good To You.” Back on the Block. By George Johnson, Louis Johnson, Sonora Sam. 22 Sep. 1989. Quincy Jones.

This song’s music video starts with a bunch of green apple rolling on the floor, which can be seen as a symbol for knowledge, immortality, temptation and the fall of man and sin. Throughout the video, there were various themes that dance from different races and genders mixed up in pairs to create a symbolic meaning of the society. Moreover, it symbolizes stereotypes. In other words, this type of technique might be used to express the conflict of different stereotypes in races and genders. In the lyrics, “we’ve been together so very long… take a stand, now and let me know how,” this piece shows us the society is trying to erase the conflicts due to stereotypes. Additionally, this can be viewed as a representation of the state of society, regarding their stands on racial difference and stereotypes. Therefore, this song can be viewed from the angle of how those people want the society to understand them in order to ease the prejudice.


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