As spring subsides and summer rides on an impending heat wave, I have been stricken. I am sick. I normally hate summer colds the worse because they come at the most inappropriate times. It’s a bug that has been going around the city of Atlanta; and apparently the world. I can no longer hide it, I have to admit: I have caught Janelle Monae fever! My blood pressure has risen to the cosmos and my temperature is solar. I allowed myself to be injected with the infectious creations of the lovely Ms. Monae and The Wondaland Society. I believe it to be incurable and the only known treatment is to submerge myself in the same music that has caused my condition.
But this is not the column for album reviews and admiration of artistic beauty.
It is indeed Life. Lessons. Lyrics.
Now let’s explore how to tip on the Tightrope.
The idea of being neither too high nor too low has been explored by the likes of Michael Jackson and Parliament Funkadelic. In fact, both assess the situation with the same ideology: you can’t get over it, you can’t get under it and you most certainly can’t get around it. Though neither artist explained what the “it” is, I feel it is safe to presume they were referencing this wonderful mottled quilt which is life. More importantly, the aforementioned offerings address conflict, turmoil and personal struggle.
The funk and groove of the “Wanna be Starting Something” and “One Nation under a Groove” often undercut the intensity of their message, since we are accustomed to shaking our proverbial groove things every time the songs play. Whereas the dance-ibility of Tightrope is no different, its message blares even louder than the horns of the travel-verse.
Baby, whether you’re high or low
Whether you’re high or low
You gotta tip on the tightrope
The tightrope. It is either the straight and narrow path that the righteous attempt to travel or it is the balancing act one must perform in attempts to reconcile dreams with reality. It is almost a cross between “The Road Less Traveled” and “The Wayfarer.” We have what we must do as well as what we would like to do. The tightrope is that delicate line drawn between responsibility and desire. Ms. Monae informs and reminds us that no matter our feelings about said conundrum we must remain tightly associated and affiliated with that separating line. It is not about sitting on the fence, but traversing the fence that is our lot in life.
But that is just the surface.
I would contend that Tightrope aspires to resurrect the personal power that we often defer to the world and its demands. It is about perseverance, as evidenced by the first verse:
Some people talk about ya
Like they know all about ya
When you get down they doubt ya
And when you tip it on the scene
Yeah they talkin’ bout it
Cause they can’t tip on the scene
Whatcha talk about it
T-t-t-talkin’ bout it
When you get elevated,
They love it or they hate it
You dance up on them haters
Keep getting funky on the scene
Why they jumpin’ round ya
They trying to take all your dreams
But you can’t allow it
Now this song is more than an anthem for rising despite the pervasive hate that has become a calling card for modern society. Within the lyrics is hidden a jewel, for those that hate on your personal development are indeed attempting to rob you of your dreams. That is not allowed.
Janelle Monae takes a more “gangsta” approach when she croons:
Some callin me a sinner
Some callin me a winner
I’m callin you to dinner
And you know exactly what I mean,
Yeah I’m talkin bout you
You can rock or you can leave
Watch me tip without you
Far be it from me to attempt to explain such a work of artistic gold; however, it strikes me that the line in which she calls “you dinner” has many interesting interpretations. Either she is a loving mother; inviting even the haters to eat of the food she has lovingly prepared or she is a mother “sonning” those who have the audacity to speak ill of her existence. There is also the carnivore/predator aspect in which the haters become dinner. Each interpretation suffices as a personal mantra for life. We should strive to kill our enemies with kindness, suffer their insolence with a cool authority or rip them to shreds and feed them to the starving. Either way, they ARE called and SHOULD be called dinner.
Finally I love the fact that we are “tipping” on the tightrope. It conjures an image of one teetering from one extreme to the other; forever re-adjusting to maintain balance. The tipping insinuates and calls upon the ever changing nature of life and progression. It is not that we have to choose rigid sides and standards that apply like a blanket to every situation. Rather, we constantly readjust; and as such, often find ourselves “tipping” from one stance or circumstance to the other.
You can’t get too high
I said you can’t get too low
Cause you get too high
No you’ll surely be low
Let’s be real talk with ourselves. Peace is an internal struggle and blessing. It is attainable, but turmoil and tribulations will be with us as surely will the poor. It is not that we ascend to an earthly nirvana whereby we can no longer be affected by the minutia of terrestrial living. The reality is that we will be both high and low in oscillating cycles in which one may exist more frequently than the other. The idea of “good jobs” and “job security” and even “monogamy” feel like relics pointing to an ancient time. We are destined to ride the crests and falls of the waves which are our mortal coil. We will never get over, under or around any of our issues or destinies. In fact, the only thing that is certain in this ever-changing world is remaining firm within us while being flexible to those changes.
In other words:
Like a tip of the hat to a passerby or the tip of any metaphorical iceberg, we are tipping. We are acrobats in a surreal circus. We are high flyers and low layers. We are palpitating pain and truth Sayers. John Wayne’s and John Mayers’. We will always have a destiny or doom in our scope. And in spite of it all…
We gotta tip…
We gotta tip…
On that Tightrope.
Ahmariah Anon Jackson