Jesse Jarnow

“shake ya tailfeather” – nelly, p. diddy, & murphy lee (part II)

The vocals flit by pretty quickly. Maybe I’m a 24-year old classist geezer, but I don’t think you’re particularly supposed to pick up on all of ’em. At any rate, I’m not gonna try. The vocal arrangement is centered around the chorus.

During the chorus, the three vocal parts interweave pretty much equally: I’m not sure who’s who, so I’ll just assign numbers to ’em:
1.) Vaguely epic “whoa”ing.
2.) A rhythmic semi-chant, building around the title.
3.) A slightly higher melody, building around the phrase (I think): “Just take your ass to the floor…”There might even be another layer or two in there.

Each of the song’s sets of verses – one each, I’m assuming, from Nelly. P. Diddy, and Murphy Lee – takes an aspect of the chorus and puts it in the foreground. A common trick through all is to have alternate (sometimes unpredictably pattern) words/phrases doubled.

The first verse, pulling from the “whoa”ing is the catchiest to me, especially the first few lines: “Who your names is, where you’re from, turn around, who you came with…”

The second verse, pulling from the title chant, has a cool little game. It begins with a call-and-response/echo between the lead voice and the background. Then, the lead phrase expands until there’s no room for an echo. Cool effect.

The third verse has a cool high voice doubling some lines to great effect (“when I’m really a Thundercat!”)

Since I can’t pick up on the vocals too well, I don’t really get a narrative outta the tune, and I don’t think I’m supposed to. Like I said last night, there’s no real instrumental narrative, either, in terms of solos. What pushes the song along is the combination of elements — in this case, the voices. In that sense, I guess it is a performance, albeit not the kind of literal/live/linear type that I (unfairly?) expect out of a song. It’s a collaborative performance in the one-off studio sense — not quite improvisation, but not quite pre-conceived (and certainly more of a collaboration than a random guitarist sitting in with a band and soloing over changes). And given that these are all megastars, it’s also a performance in a cultural sense — a specific combination of star power, perhaps never to be repeated again.


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