a literary lovehate: Jay Sean's "Down"

Just because a song has a repetitive banal dance beat, and an autotuned vocal track to boot, doesn't mean the lyrics can't by high literature. I offer up the current Number One Billboard Radio Song as an example of a lyric that contains all of the thematic complexity of Shakespeare and Siddhartha. Why can't you people bow down and acknowledge lyrical genius when you read it? I heard that on his next album there will be a song trilogy that sums up the key elements of Camus, Proust, and Ezra Pound.

by Jay Sean

Baby are you down down down down down,
Downnnnnnn, downnnnnnn,

Obviously calling upon his Marxist teachings of class warfare, Jay Sean calls to mind how struggling lower class infants not only are trapped by their predicament within a modern capitalist society, but that the slippery slope becomes inescapable as echoed by the persistent repetition of the title.

Even if the sky is falling down,
Downnnnn, downnnnn
Ooohhh (ohhh)

Calling upon the children's literary reference "Chicken Little" Sean expresses the deep-seeded fear felt by young children confronted a society where everything seems crumbling around. A clever allusion is also apparent whereby Roots' protagonist Chicken George is melded with Canadian elder statesman impressionist Rich Little in illustrating the hypocrisy involved in the illusion of rising up without action to back it up.

You oughta know, tonight is the night to let it go,
Put on a show, i wanna see how you lose control,

A cry for a needed self-examination of the internal walls put up around the empowerment of the lower class. Sean sits back as the provoker/reporter who recalls many a standard Shakespearean metaphor about the deconstruction of life as play. Here he asks the everyman youth to abandon class-based expectations and act outside of themselves in an effort to assess the potential for an eventual revolution against the upper class.

So leave it behind ‘cause we, have a night to get away,
So come on and fly with me, as we make our great escape.

In an obvious homage to bleak outlook of life under a capitalist oligarchy, Sean encourages hallucinogenic experimentation as a means of escape and empowerment. As the sky falls down around the disenfranchised, only by letting go inhibitions will they be able to exceed the social parameters they've been forced into.

So baby don’t worry, you are my only, 
You won’t be lonely, even if the sky is falling down,
You’ll be my only, no need to worry,

In recalling the struggle of the underclass, Sean asserts a subtle, yet meaningful appreciation for the formation and galvanizing effort of urban guerrilla squads where affected youth can gather under shared roofs of poverty and fear while relying on each other for support. Within these impromptu families, those who have been abandoned by society or their families can gain strength under a unified cause while not having to constantly worry.

Just let it be, come on and bring your body next to me,
I’ll take you away, hey, turn this place into our private getaway,

In evoking the pastoral tones of McCartney's Let it Be, Sean seeks to share his strength in a effort to not only respond to the insurgent threat that seeks to shatter his domain, but also turn revolution into assimilation. By turning the place into a private getaway, Sean admits the temptation embodied in a Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous attitude of co-opting that which is depressed and omnipresent around him into a place of exclusion and privilege.

So leave it behind ‘cause we, have a night to get away,
So come on and fly with me, as we make our great escape,
(So why don’t we run away)

While recalling the sense of chemical escapism from earlier, Sean, in a clever turn, brings the fantasy back down to reality by acknowledging the folly of flying to make an escape. His acceptance of the crushing world coming down upon him will not allow him to fly. Flying to him has been the refuge of fantasies and the dreams of a perceived move to a state in which he would become "hyperhuman". Instead Sean's realization that flight is folly, leads him to the conclusion that sometimes the most prudent escape is just to run away. The dreams of flying will have to remain just that.

Even if the sky is falling down like she supposed to be,
She gets down low for me,
Down like her temperature, ‘cause to me she too raw degree,
She crawl all over things,

In taking us on a cycle of flight to walking to crawling, Sean encompasses the entire pattern of the evolution of life. His personification of the sky lends credence to the parallel he draws between the struggle of one's relationship with society as being analogous to one's struggle in a relationship. His evocation of the classic madonna/whore paradigm from the angelic woman in the clouds to one crawling at his feet reveals his confusion at the complexity of interpersonal dynamics in a world where class  presupposes humanity.

I got that girl from overseas,
Now she my miss America,
I can’t help be her souljah pleaser,
I’m fighting for this girl,

In an effort to overcome the confusion over his role in relationships with the opposite sex, Sean redefines the archetype by narrowing the field. The allusion to the soldier away at war who, by the symbolism of uniform and mission, can become a de facto hero to the citizens he's trying to liberate becomes a dark irony when recalling the same types of downtrodden attitudes felt by the same people back home. An obvious moment of Sean shining the light on the hypocrisy of military recruitment in lower class communities where the mission becomes escapism as a uniform and gun becomes equated with power, only to evaporate upon the return home.

I’m in battlefield love,
Don’t it look like baby cupid sent his arrows from above,
Don’t you ever leave the side of me,
Indefinitely, now probably, and honestly get down like that, be proud of me,

Sean surrenders to this role of leaving home to become imbued with a sense of power by a rifle and a rank. Where, back home, the sky was falling down,while serving overseas there is now arrows of love showering down from the skies. We begin to realize very quickly that the woman in the song was really just a foil for his own sense of diffused empowerment. While he surely may have found a way out of the circumstances that he found himself in under the class struggles of a constricting economic system back home, the defined militaristic life has replaced that crutch with a new one: dependency. The duality of powerlessness rings true as the protagonist has substituted social dependency for personal dependency. 

The supposed escape has failed. Sean moves the protagonist from one failed system to another. It's at this point we realize the eloquent refrain of the title throughout this song in spurring a reminiscence of the old wisdom which acknowledges that while you can climb out of a hole, you cannot dig out of one. In so doing, Sean completes this tragic tale with a faint recollection that seems more Beckett than Biggie.