Technological Difficulty: Love & Technology in D.R.A.M.’s “WiFi.” feat. Erykah Badu

 

Today on Popilogue I’ll be debuting a new feature: Modern Monday!

The title in inspired by Instagrammer @vintage_daily but the concept is a little more Popilogue style. I hope to use Modern Monday to explore the ways that pop history shows up in the music of current artists I love in really unique and brilliant ways.

Today’s Modern Monday jam is “WiFi,” the premium slow jam off of D.R.A.M.’s recent release, Big Baby D.R.A.M.

 

My curiosity was drawn to this song before I even heard it because of the title. In today’s world where we have acknowledged that technologies become obsolete at a staggering pace, and we’re all already laughing at the pink Motorola Razrs we had 6 years ago, naming a song after an internet technology seems destined to be passé in a heartbeat. (Isn’t it funny how a year seems so futuristic on January 1,seems played out by December, and so long ago by the next year).

What I love most about D.R.A.M. as an artist is the sense of humour he approaches his music with. Even at his most serious, his voice has a hint of a cheeky grin to it, a charming self-caricature.

D.R.A.M.’s  vocal delivery on “WiFi” is among the most subdued on the album. While it feels like he’s getting serious for a second, the content of the song hints at a deadpan joke. The vibe is an absolutely classic 90’s R&B slow jam with a very crisp edge from to-the-minute electronic production. Choosing a consciously 90’s vehicle for a song about WiFi and iPhones is where D.R.A.M.’s cheek comes through brilliantly. Not only is the song’s formula a tribute to the classic slow jam, but the song features Erykah Badu, who as everyone knows is the penultimate queen of 90’s R&B. Badu herself was a throwback artist in her day, credited as one of the founding members of the neo-soul movement, even suggested to be a reincarnation of Billie Holiday by veteran journalist dream hampton and scholar Farah Jasmine Griffin.

D.R.A.M.’s choice to feature Badu is a deliberate tribute to her historical status. Made even more obvious by his introduction of Badu – dropping the music back and saying “Ladies and gentlemen, Miss Erykah Badu…”- the feature clearly establishes a comparison between twenty years ago and today, both in R&B/hip hop style and in modern love. Set in Badu’s living room, the love scene unfolds between Badu and D.R.A.M. He asks to connect to her WiFi to show her something on his phone, she complies but quickly chides him to put his phone down so they can get it poppin. The self-awareness of the piece is so brilliant because it plays on Badu’s seniority both in age and in artistic expertise as she sings “Mama Badu bout to teach you a lesson.”

As a very fortunately timed treat, video surfaced yesterday of the Badu and D.R.A.M.’s live duet of the song at Sunday’s Soul Train Awards, which you can watch here.

“WiFi” is a brilliant song that captures our simultaneous addiction and  angst about love and technology. It’s my favorite song on an outstanding album, which by the way you should also listen to immediately.

For more on this subject, stay tuned for my next post where I fondly remember my 10 favorite songs about love & technology!

 

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