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…music reviews: “The Show Goes On” Lupe Fiasco

May 11, 2011

“The Show Goes On” Lupe Fiasco (Billboard Hot 100 #14, Week of May 14, 2010)

Dear Lupe,

I wasn’t going to mention that this track felt a little too mainstream for your esthetic.  It swings with a “Kumbaya”-style positivity that’s a little too straight-faced for your thoughtful brand of hip-hop.  The subversive dig at your record label in the first verse helps right matters, however.

Incidentally, the in-song complaint against your label bosses is not a terribly original strategy, but it’s always good for a little smug satisfaction. (See P!nk’s snub of L.A. Reid on “Don’t Let Me Get Me” or Sara Bareilles’ neat double-meaning in “Love Song.”)

After hearing your rather blunt explanation of how “The Show Goes On” came about, it all makes sense and you can be excused for selling yourself out for just this one hit single.  Especially since you admit to it, saying you had nothing to do with the track, that it was forced on you by the powers that be, a sine qua non for this album to be green-lighted.

Fortunately, they didn’t write your lyrics for you, so you were able to turn a bitter pill of artistic compromise into a song about the bitter pills we all must occasionally ingest in order to succeed in life.  So it ends up dovetailing nicely onto itself.  And they gave you a nice, familiar Modest Mouse sample and hook to snag the ears of the music-loving public.

Congratulations.  It works artistically, and the single has enjoyed a half-year-long ascent of the pop charts.  It’s a little pat, a little Disney, but it’s still just Lupe enough.

Sincerely,

Ememon

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