New DaBaby Single Feels more like a Business Plan than a Song

For better and worse, we are living in an era where social media plays a vital role in artist success. In many regards, this has proven to be beneficial for both artists and consumers. While the music industry still wields immense power when it comes to elevating artists and choosing who and what becomes popular, the internet ended the monopoly by giving artists the ability to release music on their own for anyone in the world to hear without the backing of a major label. It also gave music fans a much greater ability to discover artists and music they like outside of what the industry chooses to present them with. While the fastest road to success still lies with major labels, by utilizing social media, an artist can now go directly to fans and build their own audience without wading into the industrial swamp; and if a major label comes knocking, the artist has much more leverage in negotiating a fair and transparent deal, as well as the ability to walk away from a bad one.

While many music fans are content listening to whatever they are fed through the radio or mainstream playlists, there are also countless music lovers who have long been aware that there is just as much good music to be found outside of the industrial channels, and social media has made that music much easier to find. Fans now have the ability to discover artists and customize their musical experience toward what they truly like to a far greater extent than they could in the pre-streaming era, when an artist having their own website was considered cutting edge and physical CDs were still the primary way music was distributed. Overall, the ability for artists and fans to connect directly online can be considered a net positive.

However, like everything else in life, change comes with tradeoffs, and the marriage of music and social media is no exception. While artists now have more control over their own destinies than ever before, quality counts for something, and this freedom has led to a rise in low quality music. While it is undeniably good that talented artists can now showcase their talent on their own, it does come at the price of audio pollution. For every incredible artist making incredible music independently, there is another self-unaware artist releasing subpar music. This isn’t always bad in itself, as many of today’s great artists were yesterday’s awful ones. Development is part of the game, and it is extremely rare that anyone’s first song is good. Additionally, we have seen a shift in mindset when it comes to how music and social media interact. While social media is a great tool for music, we have seen the growing trend of music being made for social media, music that is not made with the goal of becoming classic or mattering beyond the short-term, but rather going viral and captivating an audience for a brief period until it is inevitably replaced by newest thing in a couple weeks or months.

DaBaby’s newest single, Red Light Green Light is one of these songs. If there was a beat-generating machine with a button labeled “generic Tik Tok beat”, this is what you would get if you pressed it. The beat is extremely simple, with a slow tempo, heavy bass, and flute pattern that is more than slightly similar to the key melody used on Jack Harlow’s WHATS POPPIN. There’s nothing wrong with the beat, as it checks all the boxes for what it’s aiming for, and what it’s aiming for is obvious from the start. It’s far from original, but when an artist as big as DaBaby is the one rapping, originality isn’t really necessary.

As far as Dababy is concerned, he sounds exactly like himself, using the same swagger and flow that he has stuck to since blowing up, although on this beat it doesn’t work as well as it has on the majority of his previous work. The beat alone is already somewhat abrupt, and at points it feels like DaBaby is barely able to squeeze his bars in before punching in the next one. There are moments when the bass, the end of Dababy’s previous bar, and the beginning of the next one all seem to interrupt each other. On its own, the track isn’t particularly enjoyable.

However, it’s almost certain this song wasn’t released for pure listenability. Dababy’s lyrics contain the trademark humorous and witty brags he’s known for, delivered in the same way he always delivers them. This isn’t a knock. After all, he’s quite talented. But this song isn’t meant to showcase any of that, it’s really meant for Tik Tok and Instagram Reels. It’s likely that this track will soon be all over our feeds as public figures start posting dance challenges and other content centered around the song. When that interactive element comes into play, the song will suddenly seem much more well-executed, since that is undoubtedly what it’s purpose is. It’s certainly not high art in any sense, but the reality is that high art isn’t in particularly high demand at the moment. Cheap fun has its merits too, and if this becomes the next song to go viral because of the content social media users both create and consume from it, then that’s fine too. It’s hard to hate on someone doing what works, especially in an industry as competitive as the music business. Dababy is at the top of the pyramid right now, and, for better or worse, being able to hold people’s attention is just as important to musical success as making great music.

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