“Fall For Your Type”: For What, Exactly?

17 May

Reviews? Huh. Of long-forgotten songs? Okay.

“Fall For Your Type” stands out for its instrumental and its hook. Noah “40” Shebib has made great hay in the two-plus years since Drake’s So Far Gone dropped with variations on huge drums that sound like echoes off the ocean floor, and here he sets them up to quiver as synths skim the surface. That’s a great background for the Drake-penned hook, which milks every syllable of its one killer phrase, turning “I always fall for your type” into “I! Alll! Ways! Fall… for your type, yeah,” a much more palatable consolation for the luckless guy who still believes in types.

But what are Aubrey and Jamie’s types, exactly?

In the pop marketplace, the idea of omni-anthemic songs that appeal to everyone by buffering out the details that make them appeal to someone specific has always been a potent one for the label representatives in charge of making sure songs sell. That’s why Dr. Luke is the go-to provider of “Let’s have fun” tracks that sometimes sound only different enough from each other to be consecutive bits of the mix, and why Bruno Mars is likely to be one of this generation’s leading songwriters, with his ability to make melodies out of sweet nothings (“Just The Way You Are”) and childhood credos (“Billionaire”), but it’s not exactly new.

Motown was great at this assembly-line songwriting, setting easily digestible, generic sentiments to music (“Please Mr. Postman,” “My Guy”/”My Girl,” “Get Ready”) to great effect, and getting adventurous by doing things like matching songs to seasons (“(Love Is Like A) Heat Wave” dropped on July 9th, 1963) or, occasionally, getting “political,” as with the ur-rap of “Ball of Confusion,” which is about as strident as “We Didn’t Start the Fire.”

The architecture of those songs, I’d argue, is significantly more substantial than most of today’s pop, but the framework’s more or less the same: guy falls for girl; girl falls for guy; guy and gal are in love; guy and gal are out of love; thing happens in world at large, song reacts; there is a party. There aren’t too many contexts that connect with everyone on the radio, and while the Motown strategy was a masterstroke that helped bridge the gap from black artists to white audiences, the continued use of omni-anthems is proof that it’s just sound business.

But that tendency toward generic in an effort to be anthemic can leave songs bloodless; it’s no shock that Drake, a guy who steadfastly refused to drop references to commodities in verses, avoided being photographed in logo-emblazoned threads, and then knew enough to shout “Sprite and the millions they puttin’ up” after that deal came to fruition, is one of the worst at being less than universal. (Irony: Drake’s a Universal Motown artist.) Drake shares writing credits on “Fall For Your Type” with Shebib, Noel Campbell (who?), and possibly Marco Rodriguez (ibid), but it leaked in reference form with only Drake on it: I can confidently credit Drake alone for the track’s failures.

The idea of the song is that both versions Lothario find themselves falling for the same type over and over. For Foxx, that type is completely inscrutable: the only details we get about the girl are that Foxx asks to “save (her) from (her),” that she’s sipping champagne, that she has a past, that Foxx prays she won’t let him down. Those four things suggest only that she might get tipsy; beyond that, she could be anyone, and any type the listener wants. The omni-song doesn’t work so well when the title and conceit demand details!

Drake’s verse might be even worse. He goes from giving sort-of details (“Dress hangin’ off your shoulder, barely sober / You tellin’ me that you movin’ away and starting over”) and a profession (“Oh, you dance? Dance like how, like ballet and shit? Oh” is subtle, but, well) to talking about how he is always the same way with these ladies, “makin’ all the same mistakes.” I can extrapolate from “When anyone will come with you” that Drake’s bagging groupies and clubgoers, but relying on listeners’ understanding of context and prior knowledge is a poor substitute for writing details.

And so every time that gorgeous, spacious instrumental came on the radio earlier this year, I was left wondering about which guys and gals found this song anthemic, falling for a type of music that revels in opacity rather than specification.

2 Responses to ““Fall For Your Type”: For What, Exactly?”

  1. B Michael May 17, 2011 at 2:48 PM #

    It’s hard to believe such a slow burner gets played on the radio. Sonically, I really dig this song.

    Just a note on your site: The light text on white is pretty hard for me to read.

    • Andy Hutchins May 17, 2011 at 3:59 PM #

      Yeah, and unfortunately, I don’t think there’s a ton I can do about that, because I’m not trying to stay on WordPress forever but I don’t want to pay for the custom CSS.

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