Irony.

If you’ve heard of the song “Bitches Ain’t Shit” by rap artist Dr. Dre, you might like the antidote, performed a cappella, in this million-plus-views YouTube performance:

[On an historical note – and only vaguely relavent to this post – the performers above are the “Night Owls”, an a cappella group from Vassar College (alma mater of the world’s most famous pick-up-artist Neil Strauss, who went there four years and didn’t even get laid once, he says).]

My dictionary defines Irony as, “1a. The use of words to express something different from and often the opposite to their literal meaning.  b. An expression or utterance marked by a deliberate contrast between apparent and intended meaning.”  [American Heritage Dictionary, 4th ed.]

In the eyes of a five year old, the a cappella group would be singing about serious matters demanding respect.  That’s the “apparent meaning” which is the only meaning a five year old would grasp.  Most of the rest of us grasp both the “apparent meaning” and the “intended meaning,” which is that the “protagonists,” as it were, are childish, stupid, small-minded, and vicious.  Irony, being funny, can do psychological heavy lifting beyond the capacity of earnestness.  Against the assault of laughter nothing can stand, and so on.

I don’t think there’s too much irony in the world, but there is too much pseudo-irony, which is marked by a deliberate blurring of the contrast between apparent and intended meaning.  For example, when Eminem says “bitch I’m gonna kill you,” then “I’m just playing ladies,” that’s not exactly ironic.  It’s a “screw you, you’re not in on the joke” attitude best described by a different adjective.  (Not sure the best word for it.)

Here’s some pseudo-ironic misogyny from Eminem.

I’m all for freedom of speech, and am skeptical of campaigns against violent lyrics and such.  Nor do I think art should always be “moral.”  But art should be something – something I’d be better able to describe were I versed in aesthetic philosophy and writing a treatise on the subject.  Here suffice it to say that a pseudo-ironic tone expressed by a performer rarely if ever improves the performance.

 

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