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2011: Emerson Dameron

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Go South, Jung Man!: The Complex Spiritual Dimensions of Chris Brown’s “Wet the Bed.”

2011: Emerson Dameron

When I first heard “Wet the Bed” by Chris Brown (featuring an evocative “Quiet Storm” track from Bigg D, alongside an unforgettable hook and elegant punch-ins from Ludacris), it came as nothing short of a revelation. In this age of rapid-fire communication and the approaching Singularity, I feel compelled to share my revelations with friends in real time, damn the consequences, or, in this case, the cutting comments from those not yet prepared to get it.

Not all of my correspondents were prepared for Chris Brown’s complex truths. One female acquaintance shot back that, after hearing “Wet the Bed,” she was “stitching up [her] cooter permanently” and thanked me for “ruining sex for [her], like, forever.”

This frightening neo-puritan strain is, alas, alive and well in American society. (As justifiably well-compensated writer Katie Roiphe points out, everyone was much less uptight and more adventurous circa the times depicted in TV’s Mad Men.) And that is why I must once again come to Chris Brown’s defense, and insist that he is not aligned with the forces that have stitched out collective love-holes so tightly. Verily, Chris Brown may be the one man with the tweezers that might yet unstitch them.

Consider the song’s title. When most of encounter the phrase “wet the bed,” our wrought-iron-imprisoned imaginations conjure memories of pre-adolescent or post-adolescent (typically drunken) incontinent embarrassment, of early mornings spent laundering our bedclothes in sad hopes of slaloming around parental condescension. But pissing oneself is not what Chris Brown is talking about here, in these deeply subversive, ultimately liberating lyrics. Not at all. Brown speaks of a force that may yet end war, feed the hungry, shoe the children and free us all, a force that our great captains of industry and our most irrelevant serfs alike are only beginning to comprehend. That force, of course, is female orgasm.

My late, dearly missed correspondent Steve Kostecke taught English in various South Asian locales and, in our frequent emails, afforded me generous insights into that culture. But when I forwarded him the classic flash video ”Cunnilingus North Korea, it may have pushed the limits of his understanding. He responded thusly: “Men in North Korea eat pussy because they’re starving.” But, Steve, I insisted: Visualize a world in which they wouldn’t be starving — perhaps a world in which, instead of subjugating a nation and all its libidinal potential, Kim Jong Il himself, for lack of more elegant terminology, ate pussy.

This is precisely the sort of world Chris Brown would, had he his druthers, bring about. A world wherein, to borrow from the Ludacris guest rap, our mightiest dictators could let go of their juvenile craving for ring-kissing, harness their true warrior powers and “kiss both sets of lips.”

The slowly enveloping track, produced by Bigg D, builds on an auditory evocation of dripping water, and makes authoritative use of stereo, a mature sound-production technique we are only yet beginning to understand. A drop in the left ear. A drop in the right. Is it urine? Or a fluid much more profound, with its origins in the spiritual realm as well as the physical? One had better believe that, in the wizardly hands of Chris Brown, Ludacris and Bigg D, it could only be the latter. “Wet the Bed” plays tricks on our engrained cultural Calvinism before making hash of it entirely.

The shame of unintended bed-soiling. The release of orgasm. It’s a powerful juxtaposition. And the Jungian power of “Wet the Bed” doesn’t end there.

In one of many evocative ad libs, Ludacris describes himself as “Hurricane Luda.” Hurricanes, as we well know, can be a force of all-consuming annihilation. Bucking the pessimism of the times, Ludacris sees these runaway storms — and, by extension, himself, and all of us — as forces of equally all-consuming passion.

Back to Chris Brown. “Wet the Bed” and the accompanying long-player F.A.M.E. arrive not without their fair share of baggage. Following his unfortunate physical altercation with on-again-off-again gal-pal Rihanna, Brown’s public behavior, over the last few years, has undergone exhaustive scrutiny. By some lights, he could be seen as behaving like an entitled, infantile, caged-in maniac, or, to borrow a recent coinage, a twatwaffle. Ever the contrarian, I must insist that Brown is not behaving like a twatwaffle in the least. And he is entitled — entitled, that is, to a fair hearing. In hearing Brown out, we may all emerge more free.

I understand his loose-cannon conduct as nothing less than an assertion of his metaphysical principles, a cry for redemption, and, in its own fashion, an olive branch. If the Internet has taught us one thing about Rihanna, it’s that she’s a monster in bed. Flowers, candy and John-Lennon-style self-flagellation simply wouldn’t cut it with Rihanna. So Chris Brown leavens his impulse-control foibles in her native tongue: rough sex. Its vocabulary for pain is matched only by its forbidden, well nigh unspeakable nouns and verbs invoking pleasure. In these times, we would all do well to master it.

R&B both soothing and galvanizing. The forces of sexual pleasure reclaiming the symbolism of hard-fought psych oppression and radically transforming it. One man’s long-sought redemption. It’s all present in “Wet the Bed.” It is my distinct pleasure, therefore, to nominate “Wet the Bed” for song of the year and Chris Brown for man of the year. Pointless counter-arguments will be addressed in the comments section, which Dusted does not have.

R.I.P. Steve Kostecke.

By Emerson Dameron

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