Alicia Keys, Kate Bush and the poetry of domestic appliances

It must be difficult to be poetic and musical about domestic appliances. She Who Can Do No Wrong (for me, at least), Kate Bush, endeavours to rhapsodise about a washing-machine in ‘Mrs. Bartolozzi’ on the otherwise perfect Aerial (no pun intended…perhaps…); the sheer perfection of the unifying trajectory governing side two of Hounds of Love remains untouched in the field of pop music. (I’m still pondering ‘Mrs. Bartolozzi;’ I’ll let you know how it eventually resolves.)

However, the most completely half-assed singing about a kitchen appliance, and the award for Most Brainless Kitchen Appliance-Related Rhyme in Pop, must surely go to Alicia Keys, for her line in ‘Empire State of Mind.’

Picture the scene; Manhattan’s finest piano-playing songstress is pondering the mythical delights of New York City, dwelling on its twin polarities of princedom and poverty, and is moved to contemplate the social contradictions that sit side by side; hookers working the same streets on which preachers are praying; she wants to mention some of the city’s famous landmarks, and duly writes ‘…down from Harlem to the Brooklyn Bridge’ (see 2’20” in the video below.)

So far so good; and then, oh dear, it happens: inspiration perhaps deserts her, or poetic lassitude sets in; what, she thinks, rhymes with ‘bridge ?’ Umm. She reaches for the first, and worst, rhyme which pops into her head. ‘Fridge.’ And then, the fateful thought occurs: ‘That’ll do!’ She looks back at the metre of the verse, and comes up with

”Someone sleeps at night, from a hunger from more than an empty FRI-I-I-IDGE!” (see 2’28”.)

It’s a catastrophe further compounded when no-one – studio producer, best friend, even anyone with any poetic sense At All – points it out to her and says ‘Look, love, Kate Bush struggled to do it: you can’t sing about a domestic appliance like that, it’s just sh*t!’ Alas, no-one mentions it, and it passes into folklore.

Whether the mind-numbing participation of Jay-Z on the studio track was intended as a distraction from this poetic paucity is not clear.



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