Where Dreams Are Made Of
There is a long thread on MetaFilter about Alicia Keys’s appearance on The Colbert Report and his duet with her on ‘Empire State Of Mind’. It quickly turns into a referendum on whether Jay-Z’s original is any good.
I love the song but it is impossible to deny its detracters have a point. It is a fairly standard Jay-Z rap about how he used to be the world’s greatest crack dealer but is now the world’s greatest hip hop mogul. This is due to the character-building crucible of New York which Keys helpfully informs us is “where dreams are made of”. In addition to the chorus, Keys has her own guest verse:
One hand in the air for the big city,
Street lights, big dreams, all looking pretty,
No place in the world that can compare,
Put your lighters in the air, everybody say yeaaahh
Even if you had some sort of computerised cliche generator it is hard to imagine it could come up with something more generic than this. And yet… Part of its attraction is that it is so alien: you can’t imagine a song about London sounding so upbeat, optimistic almost to the point of euphoria. What’s the closest we’ve managed? Camden Town by Suggs? It’s hardly the same, is it? On balance, I’m happy with this situation – my sensibility has always been more LDN than Empire State – but still, sometimes its nice to wallow (even vicariously) in this sort of triumpalist tubthumping.