DJ Khaled’s New Hit Song is a Major Milestone for Cremation
Bryson Tiller compares cremation to sex and... it’s really hot.
The problem with cremation is that it’s difficult to see it as romantic.
Burial has ritual – ritual is romantic. It also has pristine crafted wood caskets, elegant headstones, and connection to place. It’s beautiful.
Burial rituals have been mentioned in pop music throughout the last century and across genres. This includes John Denver’s Forest lawn (1970) Gwen Stefani’s Snakes (1993), 2pac Shakur’s Teardrops And Closed Caskets (1999), and Bob Marley’s Wake Up and Live (1979). These songs use the symbols in burial rituals, like gravestones and caskets, to talk about death.
There are two reasons that cremation has been lacking in pop culture references. First, cremation has been (until the last decade) a non-consensus practice in U.S. culture at-large so singing about it is socially risky. The second reason that cremation lacks love from pop music is that it’s incredibly difficult to create an optimistic vibe (or even just “not violent” vibe) around a practice that burns your pets, friends, and family into tiny grey matter which is then returned to you in a bag like magic. In burial, we see the process, but in cremation, we imagine the process.
Cremation isn’t empty, though – It’s a different breed than burial. It’s decided, rapid, passionate, and clean. Cremation is about defined conclusions, essence, and closeness. And it’s just beginning to develop a unique cultural sentiment along with it’s own rituals and souvenirs like urns, scattering, and cremation jewelry. It took burial rituals centuries to develop.
While listening to the radio in my car last week, it occurred to me that cremation just got a big break. DJ Khaled (yes, the pop superstar) just bestowed on cremation what it has been lacking – sex appeal.
Death, Sex, and #ClubLyfe
Imagine for a moment that you’re in a Miami dance club packed with 400 sweaty intoxicated bodies rubbing in sync on each other while seemingly loosing clothing with each song. DJ Khalid’s Crazy Thoughts comes on and the crowd begins to sing along with the featured rapper Bryson Tiller…
Ayy, uh huh, uh huh, I heard that pu**y for the taking
I heard it got these other ni**as goin’ crazy
Yeah I treat you like a lady, lady
F*** you ’til you’re burned out, cremation
Yup. Cremation just got mentioned in the most memorable summer song of 2017 which hit #1 in U.S. Dance Club Charts, #1 in U.S Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Charts, and #1 and on U.S. Rhythmic Charts. The word “cremation” stands proudly product placed in the Wild Thoughts lyrics with the likes of D’usse Cognac, diamonds, Usian Bolt and The Jets. Hell Yes.
Let’s dissect that stanza to extract what Tiller is REALLY saying about cremation. The subject is a single attractive woman who isn’t easily impressed. Tiller says he knows how to attract her… by treating her well. Additionally, he suggests he has an immense amount of stamina during coitis. He is going to have sex with her until she is really really really really tired.
On the surface, there is an obvious reference comparing “burned out” to the fire of cremation. But by placing the subject of cremation in the context of that stanza, Tiller has created more depth.
That final line takes the way we make new life, by “f***ing,” and places it just four words from how we depart from the world, “cremation.” Additionally, this is a brilliant wordplay taking the momentum built with the previous lines about feeling excitement in a new passionate relationship and extends those feelings until death (cremation) or… till’ death do us part. This is a heartwarming romantic reference to extended love, care, desire, closeness, and satisfaction. These feelings are immensely important because they represent the emerging brand image of cremation in our culture.
How Product Placement Just Burned Burial
Product placement is everywhere in modern culture and has been particularly popular in hip-hop. Pop-culture embrace can have a massive impact on a company or idea. Bloomberg reported that in the last 3 years some of the most popular brands were Ferari, Xanix, Jordans, and Henessy. And the top brand in pop songs? Rolls-Royce, who last year celebrated its second-highest sales numbers ever and there is no doubt that being hip-hop’s favorite toy helped sales.
It’s impossible to determine the financial impact that cremation’s appearance in Crazy Thoughts will have on the death care industry and certainly no one paid DJ Khaled for it be placed there… (Matthews…???)
We do know that paid product placement in a music video can cost around $150,000 (according to hollywoodbranded), but most song lyric placements are just artistic choices by the artist. That dollar figure is irrelevant though because… can you really put a value on future millennial funeral planners watching Bryson Tiller say “cremation” 311 million times on YouTube?
Congratulations cremation – you’ve emerged from puberty and lost your virginity in the same summer.
Cover Illustration: Kyle Platts (via bloomberg.com)
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