This week on the Billboard R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay chart, DJ Khaled’s “I’ll Hold You Down” is #1. The song features Chris Brown, August Alsina, Future, and Jeremih. The actual video is cringe-inducing, so I’ll embed a fan’s lyric video instead.
Evidently, to “hold a person down” is to “protect” and “support” the person, even though it sounds like a phrase-length portmanteau of “hold you back” and “keep you down.” The ethos of the song is one of heartfelt gratitude and commitment, which, I suppose, puts it in the “Love Song” genre.
In this case, unlike the case of Bobby Shurda’s “Hot *****,” the lyrics are central to the appeal of the song. And yet two of the gentleman promising to hold the women of the world down are Chris Brown and Future. Enjoying the song, then, requires a serious suspension of disbelief on the part of listeners.
But, then again, so does listening to most love songs. And since most pop songs are love songs (or their inverse: breakup songs), enjoying most pop music requires the same suspension. There’s no way a person could actually go through as many breakups and discoveries of true love as are required for a standard pop album.
Popular music, then, reminds one of Mark Twain’s fictional schoolboy who says, “Faith is believing what you know ain’t so.” Except here it is singers, not preachers, who are encouraging self-deception.
Plato worried about the effects of raising children on musical myths. And worrying about the effects of entertainment on children is still something we do today.
Myths can be “true,” of course, if their general picture of the world, and of what it means to be human in the world, is correct. I wonder, however, what the world would be like without what we might call “false” myths: myths like contemporary pop love songs. In many (perhaps most) cases, that would surely be a good thing.
Nevertheless, I’m reminded of what Puddleglum says in The Silver Chair:
We’re just babies making up a game, if you’re right. But four babies playing a game can make a play-world which licks your real world hollow. That’s why I’m going to stand by the play-world. I’m on Aslan’s side even if there isn’t any Aslan to lead it. I’m going to live like a Narnian as I can even if there isn’t any Narnia.