Intensities in Ten Suburbs

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10 Years, 100 Songs: #12. “Now Watch Me YOU…”

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on December 10, 2009

Over the final months of our fine decade, Intensities in Ten Suburbs will be sending the Naughty Oughties out in style with a series of essays devoted to the top 100 songs of the decade–the ones we will most remember as we look back fondly on this period of pop music years down the road. The archives can be found here. If you want to argue about the order, you can’t, because we’re not totally sure what the qualifications are either. Otherwise, sit back and enjoy.

Oh boy. It’s hard to know where to start with this one. I’ll say that I’m still a little disappointed with myself for not seeing this one coming at all. I downloaded the song off Soulseek when it first started climbing the pop charts, and my reaction was something to the effect of “Are you fucking serious? There’s no way this is ever gonna be a hit!” I should probably have had known pop music better than that by then–understood the power it had to make normative any of the strangest, most outlying shit, as long as it had the necessary momentum to get just a little bit off the ground on its own. If I needed reminding about that core principle of the top 40, “Crank Dat Soulja Boy” crammed the point down my throat enough on its way to the top of the charts to make sure that I would never be so dismissive towards a song like it again.

Of course, I hesitate to predict that there ever will be another song like “Crank Dat Soulja Boy” again. (For the record, this song has like eight different titles, including “Crank That,” “Crank Dat (Soulja Boy)” and “Crank That Soulja Boy, Oh My Little Soulja Boy,” but “Crank Dat Soulja Boy” is still what I first remember it getting called and that’s what I’m sticking with). The place it holds in Naughty Oughties pop culture is such a strange and singular one–I don’t know if any song was more omnipresent at the height of its powers as “Crank Dat” was, but almost immediately after peaking in popularity, it disappeared entirely. I remember hearing the song  for the first time after it was popular some months ago, and feeling so far removed from that time in my life where I rarely went a day without hearing it that I wondered if the whole thing was a dream of some sort. But one thing definitely hadn’t changed about “Crank Dat” since then–I still loved the damn thing as much as ever.

It’s probably going to get annoying to keep reading me talk about just how fucking bizarre a song “Crank Dat” was, and you’re probably even thinking to yourself “This was one of the most popular songs of the decade, how weird could it really have been?” No. Just no. I just listened to it again before writing, and the song continues to utterly blow my mind. And in a very large way, that’s sort of the appeal of the whole thing. I always equated “Crank Dat Soulja Boy” to an intercepted alien transmission from some far-away planet, intended to hypnotize our minds and bodies. Think about it: How many of the phrases in “Crank Dat” even sound like English? “Haters getting mad ‘coz I got me some Bathin’ Apes”? “I’m too fresh now watch me do”? “Now watch me YOOUUUU!!!” If you played the song to someone from 35 years ago–or hell, to anyone today currently over the age of 35–how many lines from it do you think they would be able to write down correctly on a piece of paper? OK, so all hip-hop is slang-based to an extent, but this didn’t sound like slang, it sounded like someone speaking in tongues. There’s just a quintessential difference between “Errr’body in the club gettin’ Tipsy!” and “Soulja Boy off in this ho / Watch me crank that watch me roll” Twenty years from now, someone will catch it on the radio (or whatever the future-equivalent to radio is) and assume it was written in some foreign language they didn’t study in high school.

And the beat…well, let’s just say it was a logical conclusion for the decade. Since our #15 single, hip-hop hits had just been getting more and more minimal and cheap-sounding, from “Drop It Like It’s Hot” to “Wait (The Whisper Song)” to “I Think They Like Me” to “Laffy Taffy.” I didn’t think it could get any dinkier or sparser than the 8-bit snap of the latter D4L hit, but damned if “Crank Dat Soulja Boy” didn’t take it to a whole new level. Just some snapping and a tinny-sounding steel drum to comprise the beat here, the rest of the song’s percussion and melody (ha) coming from Soulja Boy’s monotone delivery. It almost taunts the listener with its unwillingness to stretch out even the slightest bit–there’s something almost DIY, a little punk rock about Soulja’s (who also produced the song, by the way) utter refusal to give the listener anything more to work with then the skeletal, frill-less, purposefully lazy-sounding excuse for a beat that he lays out for us.

So now we’re at the point in this article where an entirely reasonable, entirely necessary question starts to pose itself. Shitty beat. Nonsensical lyrics. Ridiculous clothing and sunglasses. Why the hell do you consider this to be a good song? Good question, and the answer is this: Because pop music is the greatest thing in the world. It has the power to make the impossible possible, to add up a series of negative numbers and somehow end up with a positive, to take a song that by all rights should be the most sonically abhorrent thing ever concocted and make it absolutely irresistible. Besides that, I don’t really have all that much for you; What “Crank Dat Soulja Boy” does that’s good and right just doesn’t show up in the box score, and would be utterly impossible to attempt to quantify here. Elvis Costello (and/or Frank Zappa) may not have had Soulja Boy in mind when he compared writing about music to dancing about architecture, but it’s hard to think of too many other songs for which the comment better applies.

There is one aspect of “Crank Dat Soulja Boy” to which I can legitimately attribute some of the song’s success, however, and that’s confidence. Soulja Boy was barely 17 when “Crank Dat” was released, but he had the arrogance of youth behind him, and aside from a short spoken-word explanation about the nature of the “Soulja Boy” dance at the song’s beginning, he presents his debut single to audiences with precious little attempt at making it accessible to audiences. He believed in the power of his music and image to make audiences not care if they didn’t know how to Crank That Roosevelt, or who A-Rab was, or what “Supersoak that ho!” meant. The most important thing in this life is to have the courage of your convictions, and Soulja Boy’s faith in his demented little anthem was never in question–he understood what I initially did not, that he just needed a handful of people to understand for everyone else to eventually get on board. No wonder Mr. Collipark wanted to sign him to a record deal just a couple of seconds after watching his kids perform the Soulja Boy dance.

I would have bet my life or something close to it that this would be the only hit that Soulja Boy had. I mean, yeah, “Soulja Girl” made it to #20 or so based purely on “Crank Dat” fallout, and “Yahhh!!!” is still one of the five funniest things to happen in my lifetime (WATCH IT WATCH IT WATCH IT WATCH IT), but I figured that was the last we’d hear from Soulja until the release of Trivial Pursuit: 00s Edition. Imagine my surprise when “Kiss Me Thru the Phone” (which I still have yet to cotton to) and “Turn My Swag On” (which I think is actually one of the best singles of the year) became legitimate hits in their own right, meaning that Soulja boy might actually stick around a few years into the 10s, when I was surer than sure that DeAndre Way (real name, btx) was the ultimate shooting star of the Naughty Oughties. Props to Soulja for proving the doubters (such as myself) wrong, even if I still view Mr. Collipark’s claims to him being reminiscent of Michael Jackson somewhat dubious.

Nonetheless, when we look back on the 00s, I’m not sure any song will be as purely reminiscent of the decade as this one. Every decade needs one signature hit that nobody’s really sure where it came from, nobody can really explain its success to future generations, and no one wants to admit to liking when it was popular, and by those criteria, “Crank Dat Soulja Boy” will be as inextricable part of Naughty Oughties lure as “Ice Ice Baby” was to the 90s and “We Built This City” was to the 80s. And I will be performing this song on 00s karaoke night for many years to come. Might attempt the dance too one of these days, who knows.

(Have any thoughts or remembrances of this song? Want to correct our lyrics or call us out for relying too much on Wikipedia? Please feel free to leave a comment here, or (gulp) Tweet us about it at twitter.com/intensities. Your input is lusted after and appreciated.)

The List So Far (Now With Links!):

100. Green Day – “Jesus of Suburbia
99. The Ying Yang Twins – “Wait (The Whisper Song)
98. Crazytown – “Butterfly
97. Taylor Swift – “Teardrops on My Guitar
96. The Fray – “Over My Head (Cable Car)
95. Fergie – “Fergalicious
94. Lidstrom – “I Feel Space
93. Chevelle – “Send the Pain Below
92. T-Pain f/ Yung Joc – “Buy U a Drank (Shawty Snappin’)
91. The Arctic Monkeys – “I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor
90. Cassie – “Me & U
89. Nelly Furtado – “Maneater
88. Mike Jones f/ Slim Thug & Paul Wall – “Still Tippin’
87. Bat for Lashes – “Daniel
86. The Darkness – “I Believe in a Thing Called Love
85. Dynamite Hack – “Boyz n the Hood
84. DJ Khaled f/ T.I., Rick Ross, Fat Joe, Birdman, Lil’ Wayne & Akon – “We Takin’ Over
83. Matchbox20 – “Bent
82. The Game f/ 50 Cent – “Hate It or Love It
81. 311 – “Amber
80. 3 Doors Down – “Krptonite
79. Nas – “Made You Look
78. Royksopp – “Eple
77. The Pussycat Dolls – “Don’t Cha
76. DMX – “Party Up (Up in Here)
75. Junior Senior – “Move Your Feet
74. Twista f/ Kanye West & Jamie Foxx – “Slow Jamz
73. The Streets – “Weak Become Heroes
72. Jimmy Eat World – “The Middle
71. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs – “Maps
70. Snoop Dogg f/ Pharrell – “Drop It Like It’s Hot
69. Alice DeeJay – “Better Off Alone
68. Xiu Xiu – “I Luv the Valley OH!
67. Incubus – “Stellar
66. Mariah Carey – “We Belong Together
65. Andrew W.K. – “Party Hard
64. Jurgen Paape – “So Weit Wie Noch Nie
63. Taking Back Sunday – “MakeDamnSure
62. Kid Cudi – “Day n Nite
61. Paramore – “That’s What You Get
60. System of a Down – “Toxicity
59. dNTEL f/ Ben Gibbard – “(This Is) The Dream of Evan and Chan
58. Three 6 Mafia f/ 8Ball & MJG – “Stay Fly
57. Good Charlotte – “The Anthem
56. The Lonely Island – “Lazy Sunday
55. Darude – “Sandstorm
54. Yellowcard – “Ocean Avenue
53. The Killers – “Mr. Brightside
52. Luomo – “Tessio
51. Blink-182 – “Stay Together For the Kids
50. My Chemical Romance – “I’m Not Okay (I Promise)
49. Freelance Hellraiser – “A Stroke of Genius
48. Daft Punk – “Digital Love
47. Snow Patrol – “Chasing Cars
46. Sean Paul – “Like Glue
45. Ludacris – “Stand Up
44. Britney Spears – “Toxic
43. Kings of Leon – “Sex on Fire
42. Jennifer Lopez f/ Ja Rule – “I’m Real (Remix)
41. Lifehouse – “Hanging By a Moment
40. Plain White T’s – “Hey There Delilah
39. MGMT – “Kids
38. Gym Class Heroes f/ Patrick Stump – “Cupid’s Chokehold
37. Franz Ferdinand – “Do You Want To
36. Kylie Minogue – “Can’t Get You Out of My Head
35. Vertical Horizon – “Everything You Want
34. The White Stripes – “Fell in Love With a Girl
33. Jay-Z – “Takeover
32. Maroon 5 – “This Love
31. Silversun Pickups – “Lazy Eye
30. M.I.A. – “Paper Planes
29. Timbaland f/ OneRepublic – “Apologize
28. Beyonce f/ Jay-Z – “Crazy in Love
27. Coldplay – “Yellow
26. Lil’ Wayne – “A Milli
25. Shaggy f/ Ricardo “RikRok” Ducent – “It Wasn’t Me
24. The Strokes  – “Last Night
23. Kelly Clarkson – “Since U Been Gone
22. Radiohead – “Idioteque
21. Fall Out Boy – “Sugar, We’re Going Down
20. The All-American Rejects – “Move Along
19. OutKast – “B.O.B. (Bombs Over Baghdad)
18. Interpol – “PDA
17. Justin Timberlake – “Rock Your Body
16. Vanessa Carlton – “A Thousand Miles
15. The Clipse – “Grindin‘”
14. Cam’Ron f/ Juelz Santana & Freekey Zeke – “Hey Ma
13. LCD Soundsystem – “Losing My Edge”


(Have any thoughts or remembrances of this song? Want to correct our lyrics or call us out for relying too much on Wikipedia? Please feel free to leave a comment here, or (gulp) Tweet us about it at twitter.com/intensities. Your input is lusted after and appreciated.)

The List So Far (Now With Links!):

100. Green Day – “Jesus of Suburbia
99. The Ying Yang Twins – “Wait (The Whisper Song)
98. Crazytown – “Butterfly
97. Taylor Swift – “Teardrops on My Guitar
96. The Fray – “Over My Head (Cable Car)
95. Fergie – “Fergalicious
94. Lidstrom – “I Feel Space
93. Chevelle – “Send the Pain Below
92. T-Pain f/ Yung Joc – “Buy U a Drank (Shawty Snappin’)
91. The Arctic Monkeys – “I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor
90. Cassie – “Me & U
89. Nelly Furtado – “Maneater
88. Mike Jones f/ Slim Thug & Paul Wall – “Still Tippin’
87. Bat for Lashes – “Daniel
86. The Darkness – “I Believe in a Thing Called Love
85. Dynamite Hack – “Boyz n the Hood
84. DJ Khaled f/ T.I., Rick Ross, Fat Joe, Birdman, Lil’ Wayne & Akon – “We Takin’ Over
83. Matchbox20 – “Bent
82. The Game f/ 50 Cent – “Hate It or Love It
81. 311 – “Amber
80. 3 Doors Down – “Krptonite
79. Nas – “Made You Look
78. Royksopp – “Eple
77. The Pussycat Dolls – “Don’t Cha
76. DMX – “Party Up (Up in Here)
75. Junior Senior – “Move Your Feet
74. Twista f/ Kanye West & Jamie Foxx – “Slow Jamz
73. The Streets – “Weak Become Heroes
72. Jimmy Eat World – “The Middle
71. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs – “Maps
70. Snoop Dogg f/ Pharrell – “Drop It Like It’s Hot
69. Alice DeeJay – “Better Off Alone
68. Xiu Xiu – “I Luv the Valley OH!
67. Incubus – “Stellar
66. Mariah Carey – “We Belong Together
65. Andrew W.K. – “Party Hard
64. Jurgen Paape – “So Weit Wie Noch Nie
63. Taking Back Sunday – “MakeDamnSure
62. Kid Cudi – “Day n Nite
61. Paramore – “That’s What You Get
60. System of a Down – “Toxicity
59. dNTEL f/ Ben Gibbard – “(This Is) The Dream of Evan and Chan
58. Three 6 Mafia f/ 8Ball & MJG – “Stay Fly
57. Good Charlotte – “The Anthem
56. The Lonely Island – “Lazy Sunday
55. Darude – “Sandstorm
54. Yellowcard – “Ocean Avenue
53. The Killers – “Mr. Brightside
52. Luomo – “Tessio
51. Blink-182 – “Stay Together For the Kids
50. My Chemical Romance – “I’m Not Okay (I Promise)
49. Freelance Hellraiser – “A Stroke of Genius
48. Daft Punk – “Digital Love
47. Snow Patrol – “Chasing Cars
46. Sean Paul – “Like Glue
45. Ludacris – “Stand Up
44. Britney Spears – “Toxic
43. Kings of Leon – “Sex on Fire
42. Jennifer Lopez f/ Ja Rule – “I’m Real (Remix)
41. Lifehouse – “Hanging By a Moment
40. Plain White T’s – “Hey There Delilah
39. MGMT – “Kids
38. Gym Class Heroes f/ Patrick Stump – “Cupid’s Chokehold
37. Franz Ferdinand – “Do You Want To
36. Kylie Minogue – “Can’t Get You Out of My Head
35. Vertical Horizon – “Everything You Want
34. The White Stripes – “Fell in Love With a Girl
33. Jay-Z – “Takeover
32. Maroon 5 – “This Love
31. Silversun Pickups – “Lazy Eye
30. M.I.A. – “Paper Planes
29. Timbaland f/ OneRepublic – “Apologize
28. Beyonce f/ Jay-Z – “Crazy in Love
27. Coldplay – “Yellow
26. Lil’ Wayne – “A Milli
25. Shaggy f/ Ricardo “RikRok” Ducent – “It Wasn’t Me
24. The Strokes  – “Last Night
23. Kelly Clarkson – “Since U Been Gone
22. Radiohead – “Idioteque
21. Fall Out Boy – “Sugar, We’re Going Down
20. The All-American Rejects – “Move Along
19. OutKast – “B.O.B. (Bombs Over Baghdad)
18. Interpol – “PDA
17. Justin Timberlake – “Rock Your Body
16. Vanessa Carlton – “A Thousand Miles
15. The Clipse – “Grindin‘”
14. Cam’Ron f/ Juelz Santana & Freekey Zeke – “Hey Ma
13. LCD Soundsystem – “Losing My Edge”


8 Responses to “10 Years, 100 Songs: #12. “Now Watch Me YOU…””

  1. Brent said

    No.

    Just no.

  2. MBI said

    Thank God that’s fucking over with.

  3. Dylan said

    I was waiting for this one.

  4. MBI said

    An ’00s “Ice Ice Baby”? I don’t know. I think a better comparison would be an ’00s “Macarena” — a big dance song, absurdly popular, and nowhere near worth talking about.

  5. Garret said

    It’s no “George W. Pussy.”

  6. jared (not swilley) said

    I must say this list has, on several occasions, made me think harder about a song I dismissed or just outright hated.

    But duuuu-hu-hu-huuuuude…

    You mentioned “I Think They Like Me” and “Laffy Taffy”, and could have said all of this and more about those songs, plus “Chain Hang Low”, “This Is Why I’m Hot”, “Party Like a Rock Star”, “Who Let the Dogs Out?”, “There It Go (the Whistle Song)”, etc. (Shit, hope I didn’t blow the top ten!) – one of these god damn songs comes out every week and almost every single one is less obnoxious and more enduring than “Crank Dat”.

    But, you chose “Crank Dat” and that was your choice. We all must live with it.

  7. ZD said

    My comparison is to Biz Markie’s Just a Friend, another gigantic hit by an artist who frankly may not have deserved one, and who almost certainly won’t be getting two. Plus, they both have the X Factor: each video features the singer wearing something with a logo that gets blurred out.

    Still, when it comes to CTSB vs. the other similarly sophisticated tracks mentioned above — for how many of those can you see videoclips of Bo Ryan, the Texas Longhorns’ sideline, and Sebastian the Ibis doing the dance? This cannot be underestimated.

  8. Ken said

    This song is completely terrible in every possible way, but it’s undeniably a major fixture of the 00s, so I guess it deserves a place on this list. I just think it should’ve been lower (WAY lower).

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