Sean Rose is a comedian/writer type guy a real ass passion for teen pop that transcends the typical halfhearted modern poptimism most music writers dip their toes into once in a while. He gives the 33 1/3rd treatment to forgotten nuggets (some of them deservedly so) and undeniable classics from the bygone boy band era on his totally vital teen pop blog, Digital Get Down.
It's refreshing to see someone write as passionately about anything as Sean does about M2M, a group probably best remembered by you and I as the baby-voiced duo who did the one song from the first Pokemon movie. Check out a recent entry from Digital Get Down, and don't miss the next edition of Sean's excellent live pop music essay show show, Collector's Edition, July 31st at the Upstairs Gallery.
A FEW WORDS ON THE B4-4 SONG “GET DOWN” AND IT’S ACCOMPANYING MUSIC VIDEO
It’s worthless to talk about B4-4 without talking about this video, because anybody who knows anything about B4-4 has had their perceptions colored by this video in some way, and it’s such an unusual piece of boy band miscellanea that it needs to be addressed. Because if we don’t talk about it now then talking about anything else B4-4 has ever done will be impossible. Because this video will be there, a looming ghost in our minds, waiting.
So let’s talk.
B4-4′s “Get Down” is a boy band song about cunnilingus. And also fellatio. Oral sex. There is very little attempt to hide this. “If you get down on me, I’ll get down on you.” “No pressure to go all the way – there’s other places we can go.” The idea of a mutual-oral song directed at teenagers (by adult men) is indeed strange (and borderline irresponsible) but let’s tuck those concerns away for now. The video for the song is what will stick with you. If you haven’t watched it yet, please take a moment to watch it. Sit down and stay with it beginning to end. You might need to watch it twice, maybe more. That’s just fine.
Video’s plot in a nutshell: kid finds a viewfinder in a garbage can. Kid looks through viewfinder and sees the B4-4 boys singing RIGHT at him. Kid finds himself transported to B4-4 World, which is exactly like our world only with more beaches and beach babes in bikinis per capita. Also B4-4 are there. Kid starts flexing for the ladies and finds himself surrounded by their admiring eyes, much to the chagrin of B4-4. These used to be B4-4′s ladies, see, before this kid walked in.
Rarely do we see the kid and B4-4 together in the video. There are moments of recognition, but they are fleeting. We have a shot of the three B4-4 boys upset that their babes are being stolen, and one more shot of the boys flabbergasted at this new kid’s rad b-ball dunk, but that’s about it. I don’t think the kid directly addresses the boys even once. I’m under the impression they weren’t even on the set at the same time.
All the while, B4-4 are singing “Get Down” directly at the camera. At YOU. Reports of the boys singing their cunnilingus anthem at the kid are grossly exaggerated. They do for a hot second at the beginning, but that’s it. Anything more would imply some sort of meaningful connection between B4-4 and this kid. Rest assured, there is none. B4-4 and their “Get Down” song have nothing to do with this young man’s coming of age journey in B4-4 World. They sleep in separate beds. The kid is having fun in a fantastical beach world, while the boys of B4-4 are hounding you – YOU, the human watching this video – to suck on their penises so they can lick your vagina. They are insatiable hounddogs. Nothing will distract them from their goal.
You get the impression that whoever directed this thing had no idea what “Get Down” was actually about. Or, more likely, they knew EXACTLY what it was about and tried to hide it in strange ways, somehow making its uncomfortable sexual content all the more apparent. At the same time, we should pass some blame onto the song itself: “Get Down”‘s lyrics are brazenly sexual, but its music is a fanciful kid’s coloring book, about as adorably cutesy cute as millennial boy band music gets. Unlike the similarly icky “Liquid Dreams,” there is no hint of naughtiness in this tune. That sweet harmony-rich carousel intro. That fun-in-the-summertime chorus. Sounds like you’re getting pulled into a storybook! It’s an adventure! Why wouldn’t its accompanying video complement that?
But then you sit down and you watch and you’re left cold. Confused. Scared. That was not the intent. We deserve more than this.
The oral sex isn’t even a problem. Throw it away. I want to know why B4-4 and this kid can’t be friends. Why? We see that this kid clearly had a great time in B4-4 World, to the point where he passes his magic viewfinder to a homeless man as if he was giving him the keys to God’s Kingdom. But it’s more ’cause of the ladies and his rad magic car than the B4-4 guys themselves. And on the other side of the fence, the B4-4 guys seem to hate this kid. Three tanned blonde buffmen seething with jealously at a small boy who never seems to notice them. No human connection here! Not pleasant to watch!
Heck. What if the boy – let’s call him Clyde – were a big B4-4 fan but lost out on tickets to their concert, only to find that magic viewfinder and get transported to a fantastic magic boy band world? With his heroes, the legendary hunks of B4-4? The cool hunks of B4-4 recognize that Clyde is kind of a geek and vow to make him cool, just like them. They buy him some sweet-ass threads and rockin shades and dye his hair a blazing blonde, just like their own. And in an even more incredible twist, they take Clyde ON TOUR with them. Teach him how to harmonize the B4-4 way, show him a jammin dance move or two, and – in the climactic final scene – invite him onstage during a Madison Square Garden show. Our protagonist takes the stage, busts out some incredible moves with the guys, and drives the crowd wild. Fans rush the stage and security falls away as young Cylde is surrounded by adoring love. The B4-4 guys lift him on their strongman shoulders and carry him away, victorious… his dream forever realized.
“Pull it away..” What? “The viewfinder. Pull it away..”
“You have to pull it away..”
“It’s time for you to go. We’ll always love you..”
The boy looks down to see three hunky faces, tears streaming. B4-4 are letting him go. He knows he must go. It will never be better than this.
He pulls the viewfinder away. He is now also crying, but he is stronger. He’s enriched by the experience, and he gives the viewfinder to his new homeless friend knowing he is giving him a gift better than any food or shelter. He is giving him a bit of boy band magic. That is priceless. That is eternal.
That’s not what we have, here.
Jesus, didn’t we all want that when we were kids? To get pulled into a magic adventureworld where everyone loved us? Didn’t we all want to break down that TV screen barrier and jump into our favorite movies and video games? I did. I did all the time. I know you did, too. We all want to hang out with that rad magic boy band in a fantasy beach on the other side of the screen.
But we never will. And heck, even if we did, we’d probably end up fucking up those rad boys’ sexual mouthplans and they’d just resent us for it. And not talk to us. And we’d walk away from B4-4 Beach, lonely and crushed. And lame.
The “Get Down” video is nothing but a reminder of this limitation. It is a useless restraint on our dreams. It deserves no more words.
WELL NOW A FEW WORDS ON THE DEBUT B4-4 RECORD, B4-4, ON WHICH “GET DOWN” IS INCLUDED
“Get Down” shares space with eleven other songs on B4-4. Hearing this record makes it clear that “Get Down”‘s seismic blast of fantasysex color flattened the energy of its surrounding tracks. Pounded them into submission. It’s almost as if the B4-4 boys and their producers used up all their resources creating the more bizarre, beautiful concoction they could imagine in “Get Down,” felt like they’d accomplished all they needed to accomplish, and took a break for the rest of the record.
So after “Get Down,” what is left? Mellow jam after mellow jam after ballad after mellow jam. Designed for sleep? Ranging from middle-of-the road nothings to pleasant groovers. I can’t say I have any problem with the likes of “Ball & Chain,” “Smile,” or “That’s How I Know” other than – y’know, they don’t do much. There are a couple attempts at power-singles: opener “Really Gotta Want It” goes for a half-hearted “Larger Than Life” give-it-up-for-the-fans vibe, and “Go Go” is an admirable attempt at a rockin’ rocker with a slammin chorus and an electrifying!! guitar solo. They come and they go, and then it’s more mellow romantic sweetness. Track after track after track.
And then, we hit track 7. “Get Down.” It is now clear what these boys wanted, all along. Those nice romantic lyrics? A feint. A sick ruse. They just wanted to get down on you, while you get down on them. And that is all.
Following “Get Down” are five more songs of sweet romance, but they’re useless now. Don’t work. How can we take a cover of “You’ve Got a Friend” seriously, from the guys who just sang “I’m gonna make you come tonight – over to my house” right in our faces? You know they’ve got 69-special-part-kissin in the back of their minds the whole time. You know what they really want.
Don’t give it to them! I know I won’t!
No thank you please!
Is it fair to judge a full 47 minutes of music based solely on one 3 minute and 45 second chunk? The answer is yes. Because that chunk is the unavoidable vortex of strange that is “Get Down.” If it is unfair to anybody, it is to the listener. It’s B4-4′s fault for sticking that thing in the middle of an album of perfectly pleasant boy band smoothness. Why include it? Why release it??
That’s the problem. Consistency. “Get Down” is a blowjob anthem in a sea of odes to hand-holding. If B4-4‘s track listing were more like this, we’d have less of a problem:
Gosh, that would be amazing!!
Sorry, B4-4. It’s too much. Promise I’ll give your second album a fair shake. The one that doesn’t have “Get Down” on it. Then we’ll be able to talk like adults.
Good day, sirs!
Note: This piece originally appeared on the Digital Get Down blog and was run with Sean Rose's full consent.