Friday, July 25, 2014


Why I Have To Be So "Rude"

FUCK YA BRO"Rude" is the #1 song in America; “Rude” is a strong contender for the worst song I have ever heard. For the lucky uninitiated, I can only explain “Rude” like this: it’s the aural equivalent of a man listening to reggae for the first time in his racecar bed, slowly fucking the hole in a Kidz Bop CD.

Here, take a dip, the water's absolutely disgusting!

Ostensibly, the success of Magic!’s “Rude” can at least partially be explained by the history of American top 40's irregular dabbles in reggae, which have tended to appear in the form of one-offs rather than any tangible wave: “I Can See Clearly Now” in 1973, “Red Red Wine” in 1984, Shaggy in 2000. But “Rude” is a reggae song the way a gas station taquito is a formal expression of Mexican cuisine, and I think, if we’re going to situate the song in some larger context, “Rude” is most interesting as an artifact in the realm of ideas. “Rude” is like a Dorito bag that got stuck on a spike of the crown of the Statue of Liberty: it’s a pop object with no content and only as much form as is necessary to deliver brief chemical gratification, which, through an unlikely ascension, becomes newly visible as a pure expression of tragedy, degradation and American garbage. “Rude” is utterly embarrassing and radically unselfconscious, a derpfaced college sophomore defensively grunting FML as he waddles to the closet for toilet paper because he ran out mid-wipe.

The first time I heard “Rude” I thought it was a 1-800-411-PAIN ad, because Detroit radio is currently running one that sounds sort of like a more palatable version of “Rude.” The next couple of times I had the sort of physical reaction I associate with suddenly coming in contact with bees; before my mind could process what was happening, I pawed at my radio dial quickly, ahhh, get it away!

Eventually, because I do spend a lot of time in my car listening to top 40, I let my guard down for long enough to consciously hear the end of the chorus: the “marry that girl” refrain, suggesting cartoon lobsters singing under the sea, and then the “marry her anyway” echo that follows, frenzied and palm-sweaty sentimental, like a sonic blend of Crazytown and Tal Bachman. MARRY DAT GURL, marry her anyway; MARRY DAT GURL, marry her anyway.

Thus was I swept under the horrible surface to briefly swim in the song’s tenuous claim to an idea: “Rude” is one of those songs with a “story.” A drunk second cousin to the “You don’t know you’re beautiful (babe, let me help you with that low self-esteem [WITH MY DICK])” mainstream pop banger, this song takes as its central conceit the retrograde plight of a young man requesting a title transfer. Can I have your daughter for the rest of my life, sings the singer to a dad, the melody wandering downwards to illuminate the fact that this is not a real question. Say yes say yes because I need to know. I am from the South and understand that some people enjoy this “tradition” but it’s also 2014 and the only true “need to know” situation I can imagine is if the daughter is under the age of consent, in which case: ask away. Otherwise, time to do a little less.

About a month ago, I was in Los Angeles and very stoned in the middle of the afternoon and taking an Uber across town. Stuck in traffic, the guy driving sent a string of emails from his Blackberry, pausing only to turn up the radio when “Rude” came on, and then, a few seconds later, turn the song up even more. I accepted this divine message: the light in me needed to salute and honor the light in “Rude.” So I listened closely, wanting to understand.

Separating the topline into melody and words, it’s easy to see why “Rude” hit #1. The melody is insidiously jingle-catchy: as Emma pointed out, Rihanna on this melody is an idea that really makes u think. But everything else about the song is horrible. The production brings to mind a backing track for a '90s youth group musical in Orlando; the instrumentation is cheap, loose and stupid, featuring beginner’s guitar strums on the downbeat of every chorus chord change, brief bouts of overly pat yet somehow struggleful syncopation over an unholy noodling bass line, and a mangled guitar solo that’s half-hearted and smarmy to the point that it immediately reads as its own send-up. The denatured skank beat is pitched high, like a headache, and the whomping elementary on-beat weighs it relentlessly down.

I often have intensely physical reactions to music, mostly when I love it; in this instance I was gasping for breath by the end, as if the song were trying to kill me. But then it ended and we were still gridlocked by a wide expanse of bored, sad humans on our long collective journey from song to terrible song. The smog and heat shimmered around the windows, and the driver put down his phone and surfed through stations, landing, again, on “Rude.”

“I really like this one,” he said, offhandedly.

When I got to my friend Derek's house I immediately lay face down on a long wooden bench in his living room, unable to speak. He finally extracted the word “rude” out of me as explanation. “You gotta watch the video,” Derek said.

“Absolutely not,” I replied.

Then we watched the video.

Here is the lead singer. When he first appeared on screen I almost started crying because I was still stoned and I thought he was a weimaraner wearing a wig:

c/o william wegman

Here is his love object, an Instagram filter:


Here’s how her dad responds when our protagonist shows up at the door:

team dad

Here is the singer's face when dad says no (please note the bros well in sight in the back):


Here is the awful thing his bandmates do during “marry that girl”:

god help us

Here’s how, pumped up by his bros, he chooses to present himself the second time the chorus comes around:

my worst nightmare

Dad, quite sensibly, does not open the door. So the girl changes from her Dad outfit:


To her crazy/sexy/boyfriend outfit:

there's that damn filter again

She sneaks out of the house, and he gets on his knees and proposes. Because no one involved in the production in this video has even the slightest bit of chill, here's how they show up at the front door the third time the chorus hits:


The literalism of the '90s is alive in Rudetown. And here is the rest of their wedding:

wedding beanie Screen Shot 2014-07-24 at 5.03.21 PM Screen Shot 2014-07-24 at 5.03.34 PM

Love that wedding beanie.

After watching the video, I became heuristically unable to understand “Rude” in any other framework outside it being a joke. My friend’s roommate, a successful music producer, got home and said, “Oh yeah, love that song,” and I was 100% convinced that he was kidding; even now, after several more of my tunewise, trustworthy friends have voiced genuine enthusiasm for it, I can’t imagine any possibility other than them kidding me and everyone trolling from Magic! on down.

This is my own problem, an idiot’s problem, the inevitable result of so much time spent doubling down on jokes until they become unrecognizably assimilated into my lifestyle; the distance between poles eventually had to go. But now “Rude” has become the tesseract of both my musical universe and my structural understanding of the relationship between intention and result. It now seems not only possible but staggeringly well-accomplished that a song could draw all its life force from achingly spot-on and specifically out-of-date self-parody without no one involved in the production ever really finding out or in any way having to know. Everything’s collapsed now, everything’s embarrassing.

It’s worth mentioning that Magic! got their name from a joke suggestion. Their producer suggested that “Magic,” unpunctuated, was too generic; he “sarcastically drew an exclamation. We were like, 'Eh, looks good to us.'"

But like, how good did it look?

The frontman of Magic! is Nasri, an incredibly successful and versatile songwriter (Bieber’s “Never Say Never” and Pitbull’s “Feel This Moment,” among many others) who goes by his first name only. In late April he gave an interview to a radio station: “The message for us right now is bringing back really good music, and people who play together in a really good band. Just to bring back really fresh music. And also just positivity. You know, relax, chill out. That’s why our music is really chilled out, because we believe in that.”

In the same interview, he talks about the origin of “Rude.”

It actually started off a lot darker. It was about a real life situation, I was in a not very healthy relationship, and she got mad at me, and she was mean. And the next day I was singing, why you gotta be so rude, don’t you know I’m human too, and it was a really dark vibe, but that didn’t really work for our band.

So they changed the vibe to what it is currently, which is a lot of things but not “really dark,” and now they’re on top of the charts. Puja Patel interviewed Nasri more recently at Spin, and asked him if the lyrics came from personal experience.

“No,” he said, “it’s just made up. The lyrics are made up. I was just having fun. Most of the album is more personal, but ‘Rude’ is just something fictional that popped into my head.”

And this is probably the greatest argument against “Rude”: it’s the type of song where it doesn’t matter at all that its writer and frontman can’t keep his barely delivered stories straight for one minute. The idea of sincerity is flagrantly unimportant within the framework of “Rude.” It doesn’t matter if the song’s aesthetic and lyrics and video seem like a joke, or even maybe (okay, probably not) are a joke; it doesn’t matter how or why people like it, because the Dorito bag has ascended, and “Rude” has hit #1. Smug, tiresome, mealy-mouthed hack job or not, it’s the first reggae song to top the charts in more than a decade.

At the end of their interview, Puja asked Nasri if he was worried that the hook of “Rude” would make the song come off as a shtick. “No,” he said again. “Everything is a shtick, man. Everything is a shtick. Everything. Who is completely organic? It doesn't make any sense.”



Jia is not a music critic but she is gonna be a "Rude" scholar on Rap Genius.

78 Comments / Post A Comment

Are They Biting Ducks?

THANK YOU. This song is so fucking terrible I cannot even be coherent when it is brought up. Now I can just forward this article to everyone and be like HERE ARE MY FEELINGS.


This is just a brilliant piece of writing.


What I find even worse is the Dad's response video, where he's basically saying that a guy has to do better to get his approval, while his wife joins in LITERALLY while doing laundry in the background. I didn't think I could like any version of the song less, but there you have it. But I guess "I'm not giving you my approval because my daughter is an actual human adult who is capable of making her own life choices" doesn't make for a catchy chorus.


@SarahDances Oh god, agreed. I commented on someone's post of it on facebook, "Where's the version where the woman has her own sexual agency instead of being passed from one man to another like chattel?"


@SarahDances "I'm not giving you my approval because my daughter is an actual human adult who is capable of making her own life choices"

Uh...I'm pretty sure the vid indicates the father is making the choice FOR her, and not letting her have a say in the matter.


@298613760@twitter I know. I'm saying I'd like to see a parody version where someone acknowledges the woman's agency, rather than all these dudes making decisions for her.


@SarahDances I now seriously want to make a parody from the woman's point of view, where she is like "You asked my dad if you could marry me instead of asking me! Immediate disqualification!" And then she's kind of heartbroken because she loved the guy, but she ends up meeting another guy who asks her rather than her dad, or maybe she asks him. And all is well.


There is no further conversation to be had around this topic, so I am just making my agreement known: This song is an abomination.


When I grow up, I want to write like Jia, who expresses my thoughts 100x better than I can.


Can we also please issue a moratorium on songs that begin with some version of "it was the morning so I got out of bed."


Would this song be kind of awesome if Nasri was singing "marry than man" instead?

Rookie (not the magazine) (not that there's anything wrong with that)

@Joolia I was coming to the comments to wonder whether "Don't you know I'm human too?" sung by a soft, melodic female voice would have the same effect, or if pop music in general would be like ACK! FEMINISM! it's one of those things where a mediocre, probably nonsensical pop song can just be considered background music to everyone's lives, to turn up if they please, because it comes from a "neutral" hetero cis male voice.

Jennifer Dziura@facebook

@Joolia Hrm. The artist is of Palestinian descent. I'm not sure that's exactly a "'neutral' hetero cis male voice", although it may be perceived that way by people listening on the radio.


@Joolia Maybe, but I doubt a woman would be in the position of asking a man's father for permission to propose.


@Jaya in my imaginary version of the song, nothing changes except the gender of the (male) singer's beloved!


I didn't know I knew what this song was! I started reading thinking I'd never heard it, but then when Jia quoted the refrain, I realized I have heard it but never actually LISTENED to it. Luckily for me, the refrain is now stuck in my head.

paper bag princess

This was wonderful. Jia, please write more eviscerations of shitty pop songs!

Better to Eat You With

I'm very, very happy to be one of the lucky uninitiated. And your writing here is just fucking delightful.

Amy L.

Standing ovation for this. Incidentally, the lead singer, Nasri, and his songwriting partner have made a living writing melodies for Chris Brown, Justin Bieber, Michael Bolton, and the New Kids on the Block. An excerpt from http://www.nicholasjennings.com/2013/the-messengers : "The Canadians’ contributions were praised for adding a seductive, calm air to what critics called Bolton’s most confident release in years." So.

Juan Formababy

I spit my tea at the computer at the "weimaraner wearing a wig" bit. I want to punch all these guys' faces so hard.

Jia Tolentino

@Juan Formababy i was literally crying with fear and panic the first time i saw the video

Jia Tolentino



JIA. Never change, Jia. Never change.

(I don't think I've actually heard this song, but I'm not sure it matters b/c this is just such wonderful writing.)


If you're down with the conceit of asking dad (which, barf), don't you have to accept that dad has a right to say no, I'd rather you didn't? I think it's rude to take your three friends to ask him an ostensibly serious question and then throw a little fit when he gives you a serious answer.

Also, this makes me want to stream Say Anything.


I am Canadian and these guys are our NATIONAL TREASURE.

(lolz jokes)


@SarahHyphen: Okay, now I know why this nightmare song has been playing on Canadian radio for what feels like FOREVER and is just hitting American ears now - CanCon that managed to insinuate its way across the border.
Sorry, America - but we did give you Tegan and Sara so maybe that makes things better?


@SarahHyphen: No, we needed both Tegan AND Sara to balance out Justin Bieber.


@SarahHyphen omg WHAT


This is not very chill of me, but how you feel about "Rude" is precisely how I feel about all of the EDM remixes y'all post.

Jia Tolentino

@drydenlane lol

Jia Tolentino

@drydenlane please let me know who's making you listen to them, and i'll mail them an angry letter

Story #2

Is the wedding beanie maybe a taqiyah?


@Story #2 No. That is one hundred percent a beanie purchased at PacSun. Look at it!

All Time Top Ten

Holy hell that is terrible. Not in a "so dumb it's brilliant" way, like these:

Matthew Lawrence@twitter

Oh my god the 1-800-411-PAIN jinngles are amazing. One of them is based on Da Dip!

Jia Tolentino

@Matthew Lawrence@twitter i am really digging the latest one, sounds sorta like Pharrell??


i love that freeze frame of the dad frowning no. i can just hear the director saying "no, that's too much of a glare. try to get your lips to do more of a frowny upside down U shape. you know, like a cartoon character."


For one thing, that is a HELL of a hook. And the lead singer, though certainly resembling a bewigged weimeraner, has some vocal swagger. But I agree the song is nonsensical (how is "I'm gonna marry her anyway" not infinitely more rude?) and offensively retrograde in its concept of gender norms.


@525561540@twitter Because, despite the fact he was going to marry her regardless, he had the courtesy to at least *attempt* to get the father's blessing.


Sublime's embarrassing spirit lives on


why is the dad Mitt Romney?!

Arinn Westendorf@facebook

while i agree that this song is horrific, until i read this article, i thought the storyline was that the GIRL was turning him down and he was saying 'i'm gonna marry you anyway' and that it was some kind of scary stalker shit. glad it's not, but still, can i hear this again NEVER


Watched the video. It felt like a prequel to The Room.


This song also deserves shade for its mangling of the word "rude." There's nothing "rude" about a father, when asked, saying that his daughter should not marry a cliche-ridden beanie-wearing Weimaraner-looking lunatic Bob Marley wannabe who brings his creepy friends to sing backup wherever he goes. In fact, that is the only reasonable response a father could give. "Rude" is basically this generation's "Ironic" but much worse as a song.


@mermaidshoes Wow...you're as superficially judgmental as the father in this video. Who cares about "love" as long as you just keep controlling the life of your daughter? That's what matters, right?


"After watching the video, I became heuristically unable to understand “Rude” in any other framework outside it being a joke" This is painfully obvious.

This is the first time I've heard the track/seen the video. If you're looking at it as anything more than a cute video/song about two people in love who have a roadblock in their life because of a family member refusing to understand, then, well, you are another one refusing to understand.

Otherwise, this article is full of nothing but condescension and just outright badmouthing.

Jia Tolentino

@298613760@twitter there is a difference between "a joke" (the song being cutesy and not LITERALLY MEANING its lyrics) and "a joke" (the song having any internal sense of humor whatsoever) and rude got the former but not the latter, unlike, say, shaggy's "it wasn't me" or LMFAO or any top 40 that is smart enough to wink at you while doubling down on a really dumb story


but what do i know


Hats are outerwear!

Caleb Harper@facebook

Ah yes, "Stuck up music snob whines about cookie cutter billboard song" article #245409-B.

Reality: The song got stuck in your head and your inner hipster couldn't take it. And so, a 1500+ word rant was born.

I'll take a stupid song that's fun to listen to over yet another "deep" indie track that is just as generic as the "crap" on the radio that people have to mock to make themselves feel better.

Jia Tolentino

@Caleb Harper@facebook bro i LOVE that pokemon avatar; i also vastly prefer cookie cutter billboard songs to ponderous indie. so in other words get back get back u don't know me like that

Jerry Davis@facebook

Jezzzzus Christ.....lighten up! Obviously you are nowhere near my age, if so you would not ever have made the comment that "Rude" is the worst song that you have ever heard. I am a child of 80's pop and some of that crap has to be so much more painful to listen to than this harmless little ditty. Flock of Seagull's "Ran"....ever heard it? If not please do, you will get the idea!lool


"Successful music producers" don't have roommates.


this song is the worst. but this takedown is THE BEST.

and eff these @facebook haters who hate this hating. dudes, hating on pop songs is like the #2 reason pop songs exist.

and thank you for making screenshots of the video so my curiosity didn't get the better of me and lead me to actually listen to this song voluntarily.


There are radio stations in Hawaii where every song sounds like this one. Your description was hilarious, though.


@807837648@twitter FOREAL. I heard this song for the first time in a thrift store yesterday and I thought it was BackYahd. #jawaiian


Yes. Thank you. I have kept my feelings on this song to myself as I'm pretty sure my friends just Do Not Care about all the songs I hate and how much I hate them, but this was SO satisfying.

young preeezy

I'm so glad you wrote this (and so brilliantly), because I haven't found myself hating a particular song this much in a long time and I felt weird about it. Now I realize I'm totally justified and it's not just me. I was at the beach last weekend and it popped up everywherrrrre. On the road, in a club, creeping up in the background. It was stuck in my head for days after our return and I wanted to cry. Also, I can't believe the band's douchey image went beyond my expectations.

I think what also put me over the edge was the "marry her anyway" line. Psshh. Uggghhh. Go awayyyyyyyyyyyyyy.


So, you didn't care for it?

Jia Tolentino

@ejcsanfran i thought "rude" was ok

Vera Knoop

"Here is the lead singer. When he first appeared on screen I almost started crying because I was still stoned and I thought he was a weimaraner wearing a wig"

I almost cried at this and I'm not even stoned.


When Husband and I first heard this song we both thought it was hilariously similar to the "Ras Trent" bit by Lonely Island. Picturing Andy Samberg yelling "Rastafarianism!" really makes "Rude" more tolerable. www.youtube.com/watch?v=TcK0MYgnHjo


@Tiktaalik "A DVD of Cool Runnings!"


Jia, I luhh you, haters of facebook, h8 u


Who will join me in professing like for the dress she wears at the end?


There are some interesting points in this post but I don’t know if I see all of them heart to eye . There is some validness but I will hold opinion until I look into it further. Good clause, thanks and we want more! Added to FeedBurner likewise.Bigg Boss 8

Joey Joe Joe Jr Shabadoo

This is from the wikipedia entry about the song:

"The lead singer of Magic!, Nasri, had been in an unhealthy relationship with a previous girlfriend. One day after an argument erupted and she became harsh, Nasri began singing the lines "Why you gotta be so rude/ don't you know I'm human too" in what he describes a "dark vibe." However, the concept did not work with the band well so it was revised and eventually made into a man talking to the disapproving father of his lover"


Joey Joe Joe Jr Shabadoo

@Joey Joe Joe Jr Shabadoo Whoops, I didn't read the article down enough to see this was thankfully noted in the article.

Jr John Smith

Yes. Thank you. I have kept my feelings on this song to myself as I'm pretty sure my friends just Do Not Care about all the songs I hate and how much I hate them, but this was SO satisfying.
Amazon Promotional Codes August 2014


i like the way to write the article and reply the comment. Here is the hot list of Poonam Pandey Hot pics

Allison Elizabeth@facebook

This was one of the funniest articles I've ever read. It's like therapy for everyone who's been exposed to this song all summer.

I have to believe all the commenters hating on this are, in fact, Magic! members.

Sanchit Gupta@facebook

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I just want to let you know that I just check out your site and I find it very interesting and informative. I can't wait to read lots of your posts. bigg boss 8


The only thing I can think of that would make this song worse is if Creed did a cover version of it. I just heard this for the 8 millionth time and couldn't stop myself from googling something about it sucking. Your description couldn't come closer to how I feel about this crap, crap song. PS- Loved finding out a girl wrote your post. Awesome!


Excellent article. Very interesting to read. I really love to read such a nice article dieta dimagrante. Thanks! keep rocking!


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