Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Guilty Pleasure #1: "Empire State of Mind"

I like Jay Z’s “Empire State of Mind,” especially the Alicia Keys chorus sections. I like the song despite the fact that it’s sucky and silly. I like the song despite being a Boston kid. Jay Z’s voice sounds strangled and monotone, like he’s holding his breath while pooping, but it doesn’t matter. Hearing the song makes me want to publish a short story in The Paris Review. The beats and rhymes are weak, but after hearing them, I want to hop onto the next Feng Wah to Bowery Street. From there I’d hail a cab to the office of Farrar, Straus, and Giroux where I’d stand on the desk of Lorin Stein and begin reading the first chapter of my unpublished novel to the beat of Alicia Keys singing Let’s hear it for New York, New York, New York.

I can’t explain my deep-seated love for this song. I don’t like any other Jay Z songs and this one seems particularly artless. Not only are the beats and rhymes weak, but the lyrics are repetitive. Yeah, Jay Z, I get it. You know lots of ballplayers (and hookers). The song sounds like a PG-13 commercial for the new Yankee Stadium, but fuck it, I’m tossing out my Red Sox cap and buying a Yankee one. The song moves me that much, which maybe isn’t that impressive given Theo Epstein’s dismantling of the Red Sox. Listening to the Dropkick Murphys while Papelbon takes the mound has never inspired my literary aspirations. Take that Leslie Epstein!

New York City brings out the best and worst in people; sometimes it brings out the best and worst in a single person simultaneously. You can’t foster genius without delusions of grandeur. You can’t capitalize on genius without fucking a few people over. I haven’t capitalized on shit, so let’s focus on delusions of grandeur. I remember my first time in NYC. I stood against the window of my friend’s 36th floor apartment in Hell’s Kitchen, wondering if Don DeLillo could see my Alpo Glow all the way from Bronxville. When I hear “Empire State of Mind” I truly believe that Deborah Treisman is going to select my short story from the New Yorker slush pile, or all I have to do is show up at the KGB Bar and begin reading...And since I made it here, I can make it anywhere. Yeah, they love me everywhere

This line doesn’t make sense, yet I believe it when Jay Z and Sinatra sing it. It’s much easier to make it in NYC than it is Topeka. There is no anywhere other than NYC, not unless you have movie aspirations, then maybe it’s L.A. or perhaps D.C. if you have political ambitions. Otherwise, it would be more impressive for a person to have made a name for themselves having never left Cleveland. Jay Z and Sinatra made it in New York. Big deal. There’s more overpaid, over-hyped mediocrity in that city than any other. But perhaps that is the new American Dream, fame and fortune as a result of ho-hum talent. Now that I think of it, signing up for this blog was even cheaper than a one-way ticket on the Fung Wah, and I don’t have to worry about losing a wheel and flipping over on the Mass Pike. Can anyone link this post onto the wall of Lorin Stein’s Facebook?


  1. First!

    -Lester Burhham

  2. If I recall, during that same visit you also dropped your pants in my office on the 46th floor at 599 Lexington(much to the surprise of myself and your wife)and managed to let all of lower Manhattan truly see what kind of man it takes to make it in NYC.

    But don't you worry...your talent is more than ho-hum and your Sicilian stamina will get you over the finish line.

    Keep on truckin...

    Matt J.

  3. I read this yesterday (and BTW I love it) and now I have that stupid song stuck in my head. Thanks a lot Eugenio.