Sorting Out The Many Voices of “Drunk in Love”

"We be all night" means different things to different people

Take a single solitary writing class or job and you will hear about voice early and often. You may also hear that you should never cite Wikipedia, but the Wikipedia entry for “Writers voice” describes it as: “The individual writing style of an author, a combination of idiotypical usage of syntax, diction, punctuation, character development, dialogue, etc., within a given body of text.”

It strikes me then, as all of these “Drunk in Love” remixes pour out, just how different each sounds depending on who’s behind it. Imagine “March of the Penguins” narrated by Jerry Seinfeld or Lil Wayne instead of Morgan Freeman. Different, right? The meaning and interpretation of a work changes when you change the voice, and these “Drunk in Love” remixes are evoking a wide variety of interpretations for me today.

It’s really down to a molecular and lyrical level. For instance, when Beyoncé, the song’s original proprietor, says “We be all night,” how much can we really trust her? I imagine with a toddler in the house (and, like, busy careers and shit) her and Jay cherish their sleep. Many of my relatives don’t even stay up till midnight on New Year’s Eve, don’t even try, so up all night here has to mean somewhere around 11:35. Eventually time catches up to you.

Unless you’re somebody like The Weeknd, well-versed in late night romps, the ringmaster of such escapades; popping pills like popcorn, taming a beast the Ringling Brothers have never even heard of. When he says “We be all night,” it’s with a higher level of authenticity. I believe that he be all night because it’s consistent with his voice. Like 4, 5, 6, in the morning…? Later? I have no doubt.

He also bites, er, reinterprets, “woke up in the kitchen, saying, ‘How the hell did this shit happen? Oh baby.” I don’t know, maybe I’m bored and spend too much time imagining the lives of my favorite artists, but the Yoncé original doesn’t seem that raunchy. An air mattress on the island maybe, the quilt that’s usually on the couch pulled up to their Carter collar bones. The Weeknd’s version: face cake used for pillows, clothing flung over different appliances, cocaine residue everywhere like it’s an appropriate flour substitute and this was an episode of “Cupcake Wars.” How the hell did that shit happen?

There’s much more to the Weeknd version, pervasions naturally more prevalent, but the whole tone and resonance of the remix is a departure from the original. The instrumental is also altered, adding to that possessed effect. It is entirely in his voice.

But the remixes, and voices, continue. Kanye’s verse might as well be the sequel to Kim Kardashian’s original meal ticket. It’s arguably more graphic. “Woo! cause you a milf and I’m a motherfucker / Told you give the drummer some, now the drummer cummin’ / I’m pa rum pa pum pumin’ all on your stomach.” And elsewhere: “You reverse, you reverse, and I impregnated your mouth, girl, ooooh / That’s when I knew you could be my spouse, girl.” Romantic. Beautiful. Mildly nauseating. Ye doesn’t keep any of those holdover lines, but you get the image of Kim and Kanye in a room surrounded by mirrors, “Bound 2” on repeat, an E! cameraman hidden in the air duct. It isn’t great songwriting or all that eloquent of a love letter, but it does capture a “Drunk in Love” mindset, which in this case doubles as a “drunk on self” motif.

There’s also this T.I. remix that I hadn’t listened to until starting this paragraph. It’s a dancified take, the beat getting chopped, dropped, and turned up. It’s a higher octane rendition, likely to cause a twerk or two in these here clubs, and that doesn’t really seem true to the song. It’s the least interesting to me, T.I. weaving some hypotheticals that don’t advance or add to his persona or voice.

I’m partial to the Weeknd version myself, but that’s a matter of taste and preference. His voice, both literal and figurative, fits best. He also evokes the most ridiculous imagery, so maybe that says more about me than the song or any of its artists. Either way, the multiple reimaginings are a good thing. Rather than declare “Drunk in Love” the new “A Milli” or “Control” lets be thankful that we’re getting such a thorough mix of voices. We all listen to and process music differently, so there will always be an audience for such variety. An audience standing in the kitchen wondering how the hell they got there.

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  • Clarence Fruster

    Nice & Insightful read.

  • Ted

    Thanks Clarence. Going to get more of these ‘Ted Thoughts’ type posts up.