The best thing about “Prom Queen,” [artist id="510062"]Lil Wayne’s[/artist] much-discussed foray into the world of rock, is probably the intro: 20 seconds of chugging minor chords and exploding guitar frippery that manages to sound a bit like an M1 Abrams crashing into a fireworks factory (it also sounds a little bit like Hum). It is a strangely accomplished and somewhat beguiling opening — you start to believe that perhaps Wayne can actually pull this off — but then he starts singing about underwear, and it’s all downhill from there.
Actually, that’s not entirely true (the bit about the intro being the best part, not the bit about it all being downhill from there). The best thing about “Prom Queen” is that it actually exists.
Because, while the song is kinda lousy, there’s no denying the fact that Wayne made it — and fully intended on promoting it as the first single off his “rock” album, Rebirth before it leaked earlier this week . This is real. This is actually happening. And by its very existence, “Prom Queen” is so much more than most “rock” songs, because it reveals universal truths. It is proof positive of several things.
First and foremost, Lil Wayne is crazy. For months, he claimed that he was going to record an honest-to-goodness rock album, that he was seriously considering ditching rapping altogether. Nobody seemed to believe him when he said this, perhaps because nobody believed that anyone could deliberately derail such a successful career (or perhaps because they’d seen him “play” guitar). After all, Wayne had just come off a year in which he became (arguably) the biggest rap star on the planet. He sold a million albums in a week, landed eight Grammy nominations and shilled Nike and Gatorade. To throw this all away would be beyond crazy … and yet, Wayne decided to do just that. “Prom Queen” is proof.
Secondly, Lil Wayne gets terrible career advice. Or he gets sound career advice, but chooses to ignore it. (The latter is probably the case.) I cannot imagine anyone telling Wayne that recording a rock album would be a good idea, and yet, he did it anyway. And this also could be explained by another truth: Wayne surrounds himself with people who don’t tell him “no.” And, judging by “Prom Queen,” perhaps “no” is the most powerful word in the English language.
In a recent interview with Billboard, the two producers who worked on the song admitted that they too were thrown by just how rock “Prom Queen” is. And when they offered to add some organs to the track — which would, admittedly, probably make the thing about 50 percent better — he told them that he didn’t want them on there. For whatever reason — it’s Wayne’s song, after all — “Prom Queen” is what it is.
Third, that Wayne does not let a perceived lack of talent stand in the way of realizing his dreams. It’s not clear how much of “Prom Queen” he played himself, though judging by the skill he’s shown on the guitar to this point, I’d say it’s probably somewhere in between “none” and “one bar, but only because the producers accidentally hit record while Wayne was wooshing his fingers up and down the fretboard like a hyperactive 3-year-old, and everyone was too baked to delete it later.” I don’t think any of that actually matters, though — Wayne the Rock Star is basically the same as Wayne the Rap Star: deceptively gifted, yet dangerously determined.
And finally — after considering all these things — Wayne is the most interesting rock star in the world. By a mile. In fact, here’s an even better one: He is [artist id="1322928"]Axl Rose[/artist]. It’s not that great of a leap. Both could kindly be described as “eccentric” (or full-blown batsh–). Both promised (threatened?) to release ill-advised vanity projects, neither listening to the doubters who sniggered that it would never happen and the advisers who said it would be a terrible idea. To extend the comparison, Wayne’s Rebirth is basically Rose’s Chinese Democracy, minus 15 years and millions of dollars. (“Prom Queen” actually sounds like one of the more industrial tracks on Democracy.) It will probably garner the same reception, both critically and commercially.
Like Wayne, it’s fairly obvious — given Democracy’s epic time in the oven and its uneven marketing scheme — that no one ever told Rose “no,” either. Or if they did, he certainly didn’t listen (or he fired them). The only difference between the two seems to be talent. I will begrudgingly admit that, when it comes to singing, Weezy F. Baby is no W. Axl Rose. But it’s 2009. Auto-Tune is everywhere. Since when does singing matter, anyway?
All of this might be complete nonsense. Rebirth might never see the light of day (actually, given Wayne’s track record with release dates, this seems very possible). But “Prom Queen” exists. This cannot be denied. And that existence is meaningful. Take a look at this week’s Billboard Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks chart. The top five features songs by Shinedown, Disturbed, Nickelback, Mudvayne and Seether. It is probably the most depressing list in history. None of these songs make you feel anything … they reveal no truths (except Nickelback’s “Something In Your Mouth,” which affirms that, yes, you would look better with something in your mouth). And that’s why Wayne’s song is better than each of them. Not, you know, musically; universal truth-ily. And that’s important. Axl would be proud. Or jealous.
Questions? Concerns? Hit me up at BTTS@MTVStaff.com.