When we look back on 2008, many people will remember two distinct and opposite events; America’s economic turmoil and the election of Barack Obama to presidency. Though the latter provides us with hope for the future, the former is something we cannot escape from memory. Or is it?
In a recent study done by Terry Pettijohn, II and Donald F. Sacco, Jr., entitled Psychology of Music, they looked at #1 chart topping songs and how they are interrelated to the times of that year. “When socioeconomic conditions were more challenging, the songs that had more meaningful themes and content were most popular,” Pettijohn told Rolling Stone.
Not only that, but he explained that in uncertain times people prefer slower songs to more upbeat records. Named on this compiled list was T.I.’s sugar-daddy ballad “Whatever You Like,” which reigned supreme on the Billboard Hot 100 chart this year taking the #1 spot seven non-consecutive times while breaking records in the process.
Though many listeners may only scratch the surface of the song and view it as a lusty, playful approach to grabbing a lover, Pettijohn argues that the popularity of the song is based off people’s desires to have more when in reality they have less than before. Ann Powers, a writer for the L.A. Times, predicted this same result a few months ago in a column about the chart-topping single. “Why would a song about insane levels of affluence entrance pop fans as economic crisis hits?” she asks. “Maybe the answer to that is obvious: We want escape.”
Continuing her comparison, she takes the example of the music video that accompanies the song. Describing the way the girl in the video day dreams about spending time with T.I., it subsequently ends with her having a $100 bill rather than the chance of a lifetime.
“In this scenario, T.I. doesn’t simply play a sugar daddy – he’s the free market itself, enticing a hopeful girl with a little cash and a lot of delicious talk. The money melting in her hand at the video’s end represents the shrinking value of crazy deals in which so many have indulged.”
Coincidence or not, “Whatever You Like” helped one person’s economy; T.I.’s that is.