If you haven’t seen the vid twalked about ’round the world you could head here. On a personal note I find this conversation/controversy surrounding this song fascinating. Like, utterly fascinating. I felt the need to simply explore our obsession surrounding language, because honestly that’s really what the debate is about here. We all know that if Brian had chose to change a word or two there would be absolutely no conversation of note surrounding this song save for die-hard fans and folks who would hear the tune and appreciate it for how well it is crafted musically, because it is. No this is about the power of words.

Why are some words “dirty” and others not? Who makes that determination? Was there a meeting and if there was, who was there and why were they chosen to be the arbiters of what is considered vile and what is not? Personally, I like word play and innuendo so I’m not necessarily a fan of the direct, but at the end of the day when we consider language, we have to consider what are really trying to communicate? I mean there are a million ways to say anything, but honestly what makes one way better than the other? Why do we often come up with a kinder and gentler way to say what we mean? Oh, is it not to offend? Yes, often times that is the motivation but is it our words that offend or our actions that are truly in control of offending someone. For example, I could say that I’m going to do XYZ but until I move towards that end I’m just talking… you know the rest(don’t want to be guilty of offending anyone here).

The motivation behind the title of this editorial is to show how one generation’s “Jellyroll” could be another generation’s “Jellyroll” and speaking of Jellyroll Morton, I’m pretty sure he didn’t get that nickname because he had a penchant for donuts. While we’re on the subject we are recognizing Jazz Appreciation Month and during a time at the beginning of the 20th century lots of folks might have found that offensive because of the derogatory connotation of the word. Words. Meanings. Here’s another word…

Parody – because that’s truly what this production is according to Brian himself and I believe that his thesis is correct: You want attention in this society? Say or do something for shock value and watch the attention parade begin. Never has that been more true than in music in the mainstream, and you know as I write this I’ve come to the realization that my problem with music in the main may not be the “words” but it’s the fact that people aren’t saying anything and musically, well I’m not even going to get into that. So when you strip away the “offense” and listen to the music, what is Brian saying? Is there anything offensive with wanting to please your partner? Yeah I know you don’t like the box the gift came in but do you like the gift at least? As I said earlier, musically some of these folks out here who do this type of music seriously would benefit immensely from studying and absorbing even just one measure of this composition from Brian McKnight, because to be quite honest this is music made by a musician and there is a very different commitment and respect for the music when it is in the hands of a craftsman.

Lineage – as I have said for many years on these here internets that R&B stands for Rhythm and Blues and I’ve often lamented how we’ve forsaken the Blues for the Rhythm.

He’s a deep sea diver with a stroke that can’t go wrong
He’s a deep sea diver with a stroke that can’t go wrong
He can stay at the bottom and his wind holds out so long

Bessie Smith – “Empty Bed Blues” 1928

So yes as part of my being a provocateur, I would like to posit the notion that maybe, just maybe Brian (and by extension some others) are following in the long held tradition of the Blues with subject matter that is not designed for the prim and proper set. Of course Bessie wasn’t blatant in her delivery but as I stated earlier we know what she’s talking about. So again I will pose the question: Is what you say more important than how you say it? Because in the final analysis there truly is no difference between sugar walls and p*ssy(see I even self-censored). Sorry, I had to go there…

Ivan Orr is a multi-instrumentalist, composer, performer, and writer. A native of Charlottesville, Virginia Ivan was involved with the forming and nascent days of The Music Resource Center as its first Program Director. A graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University’s Department of Music, Ivan currently resides in Richmond, VA where he maintains an active performance and production schedule while serving as the Music Editor for Grown Folks Music, a position he has held since 2010.