Reviewed it, reviewed it, reviewed it, reviewed it, reviewed it, reviewed it, reviewed it, reviewed it, reviewed the album and thought “Ok, enjoyable”, aaaaand…Lupe Fiasco?! Alright, that happened. We’re looking at Lupe Fiasco this week, since he apparently has a Top 10 hit. I’ve never followed Lupe, to be honest, but from what I’ve gathered through internet reading and what my friends say, he’s an alternative rapper with some major anti-establishment ideas. While his beats and production just get a passing grade, everyone seems to agree that as a rapper he’s quite good.
So how the hell did Mr. Non-Conformist have the tenth biggest song in the country? Well, let’s take a listen!
About ten seconds after pretending it’s not, “The Show Goes On” reveals it’s pretty much built, decorated, and furnished on a sample of Modest Mouse’s “Float On”. To be fair, I love the effect that Kane Beatz put on guitar riff. The extra production on the chorus might be a little too ornate, but it really makes the song sound like a celebration. From a production stand-point, it’s a clever sample.
But here’s the chorus from “Float On”: “Alright, all ready/And we’ll all float on, alright, already/We’ll all float on, alright/Don’t worry, even if things end up a bit too heavy/We’ll all float on”.
Now, here’s the chorus from “The Show Goes On”: “Alright, all ready/The show goes on/All night, ’til the morning/We dream so long/Anybody ever wonder/When they see the sun up/Just remember when you come up/The show goes on”.
Seeing it written out isn’t quite as bad, but it’s really weird to hear one after the other. In addition to using the exact same melody at the beginning and end (ditto with the rhyme scheme), the two also express the exact same sentiment. True, Lupe’s version does have a line or two of variation, but as a Modest Mouse fan, the chorus for “The Show Goes On” is kind of awkward to listen to. It falls in the uncomfortable zone of not being the exact same, but not being different enough to disassociate it with the original.
But there’s more to a song than its chorus. Lupe’s first verse is about
backing his car into a cop car the other day keeping strong. Not bad, and his strong delivery keeps the verse afloat, but he gets more personal with “That’s how that Chi-town raised me, that’s my daddy raised me”. “That glittering may not be gold” probably means something special to him, too, considering the frustration Lupe went through to get Lasers released.
However, I really do love most every Lupe does in his second verse. His flow picks up considerably, and unlike other feel-good hits, his message that your location is not your destiny is worth a damn. It’s a solid message delivered in solid lyrics from a skilled rapper.
Which makes “The Show Goes On”s light put-your-hands-up chorus feel weak by comparison. Switching from intelligent verse to a generic and empty chorus isn’t bad enough to give you whiplash, but it still feels fairly conflicted. The last verse tries to keep the balance going with some specifics alongside the first verse’s generalities, but it doesn’t hit quite as well.
Don’t get me wrong, “The Show Goes On” is an enjoyable listen, but as a whole, it feels conflicted. Out of curiosity, I took a listen to a couple of Lupe’s older songs, and while they sound less polished and poppy, he sounds much more comfortable. Could it be that here’s an alternative, non-mainstream minded artist who was told by his label that he had to do a big single, otherwise his album wouldn’t be put out? And that on that album, they pushed him towards a poppier sound so that it’d sell more?