Ashanti was always a middling singer to me back in the early 2000s I felt she was unfairly benefiting from Janet Jackson’s nasal wheeze and Aaliyah’s untimely death. She was crappy. Her songs were crappy and she couldn’t dance. She was useless to me.
On top of that she made songs with Ja Rule and I felt he was benefiting too greatly from the death of Tupac. (But then so was Masta P and DMX. The Ice Cream Man and the Pit Bull Whisperer would be mere hip hop footnotes if ‘Pac hadn’t managed to get him self shot up a second time.) Then on top of that I learned her voice was the back up on all Jennifer Lopez’ banal pop hits. Then she dated Nelly, which to me was like dating Will Smith’s untalented, tired, sing-songy cousin three-times removed. What was not to hate?
Out comes this song, out of the blue, on the radio and I’m a sucker for a good “chick done wrong” song. From Alanis Morrisette’s “You Oughtta Know” to Effie White screaming how she ain’t going no where. I love the raw emotion and pain out of those songs that are like beautiful, violent verbal assaults bellowing, “Mutha fucker, you will not ignore me! I will sing so loud the capillaries in your eyes will burst!”
And you can’t be a decent R&B singer, lounge lizard, Broadway diva, opera diva, jazz crooner or blues singer and not be able to tackle a decent done wrong song. Any respectable female singer needs to have one at her disposal. Who wants to listen to happy songs all the time? That’s boring. Give me songs about bitter ex-girlfriends of No Doubt bassist Tony Kanal and how my body never knew such pleasure and my heart never knew such paaay-eee-yaaay-eee-yain!
I was conflicted when I learned the song was Ashanti’s “The Way That I Love You.” But it wasn’t crappy?! My mind reeled. I can’t. I must’nt like it! Then I saw the video and it was an angry wrong woman smörgåsbord with Ashanti going both “Fatal Attraction” and “Basic Instinct” on a fella.
It was great.
It was even better than the Beyonce song I’d initially planned on hating – “Ring The Alarm” – because it reminded me too much of Kelis’ infinitely better “Caught Out There.” But Beyonce’s track won me over. It was just so angry! With violent allusions! I couldn’t resist.
“Caught Out There” is still the standard bearer for modern, hip hop tinged Valentines to love gone horribly awry. Kelis was the first R&B woman to scream with a grunge rock bravada in the middle of a Neptunes production. Between literally tearing shit up, killing her boyfriend, watching him die and leading a protest of pissed off women of every race in their pajamas, this song was dramatically different from the usual “poor pitiful me,” prettily warbled diatribes of prepubescent pop starlets airing their slights. Kelis was on some Ani DiFranco, Tori Amos, angry white woman with guitars and guns shit there. She was both Bernadette “Git Yo’ Shit” Harris and “Dear, Perseus, I’m Killing the Kids,” Medea.
She was the Alpha and the Omega. She was both Godzilla and Mothra. It was great!
That brilliance aside, I will be accepting that I actually like an Ashanti song and I will be downloading it for $.99 when it pops up on Amazon. Or downloading it for free. Whatever. But I’m not buying the album
You can’t trust that Ashanti. She might flip it and do a song with Chingy or something and my high will be blown. I only take full CD purchase risks on Beyonce.