"I'm a part of the problem," Lupe Fiasco raps on this track, but jokingly. "The problem is I'm peaceful."
Well, according to some, the music on "Words I Never Said" is really a part of the problem, even if the lyrics are a part of the solution to the many political troubles Lupe Fiasco addresses. Guardian reviewer Alex Macpherson described the music on Lasers as "[s]ynthy choruses that Taio Cruz would reject as too generically Auto-Tuned, trite empowerment anthems as subtle as a Katy Perry hit." And indeed, even "Words I Never Said" has a pop hit sound to it that could easily back a Katy Perry song (or at least a popular Jay-Z collaboration with someone like Alicia Keys; click here to see what Shmoop had to say about that one). Skylar Grey's lagging hook lacks the emotional intensity of Lupe Fiasco's fast-paced political critique and comes off as a concession to the pop-oriented powers that be. The L.A. Times called Grey a "rent-a-Rihanna" in their review, and it may be mean, but that doesn't necessarily make it untrue.
Clearly the critics had a field day with this one, but on the other hand, there are reasons that "pop songs" are created to sound like this. The song's heavy beat and synthed-out samples make a great dance floor song out of a serious political critique. It's no small feat to set a song up for ubiquitous radio play even as the lyrics propose 9/11 conspiracy theories, criticize Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck, and express anger at President Obama for not opposing Israeli bombings of the Gaza Strip. The music is, in effect, a thin veil of frivolousness hung by Atlantic Records over a serious and challenging piece of music. They got the formula for success from the source: the track, produced by Alex da Kid, reminds us of his production on one of the most popular rap tracks of 2010.
Haters on hip-hop's crossover tendencies won't like it, and some Fiasco fans didn't either, but it's not half bad to listen to—and listen to—and listen to—and listen to. Still, if Atlantic hoped for a huge, controversial hit on a par with "Love the Way You Lie," they unfortunately didn't get it. They got a popular song full of unpopular compromises. So it seems the jury is still out on whether pop concessions were the way to go on "Words I Never Said." Do you think the music on this track an asset or a liability?