death bed (coffee for your head)

POP SONG REVIEW Death Bed (Coffee for Your Head).jpg

Date Aired
September 22, 2020
Running Time
14:47
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...

Todd plays "death bed (coffee for your head)" on the piano.

POWFU ft. BEABADOOBEE - DEATH BED (COFFEE FOR YOUR HEAD)

Todd stares at the text listed above while still playing

Todd: Those aren't real names.

A pop song review

Todd: Hey everyone. Uh, I'm back, took last month off, it's the first real break I've had since I've been doing this. And what a great time for a vacation, you know, I...

Clips of people partying with Noisestorm - "Crab Rave" playing in background

Todd (VO): ...took a trip out to Acapulco and I hit all the clubs.

Todd: No. But regardless, I feel recharged. Uh, let's see what I missed, [gets phone out] what's big right now?

Clips of Harry Styles - "Watermelon Sugar"...

Harry: Watermelon sugar

Strawberry...

Todd (VO): Mm-hm.

...DaBaby ft. Roddy Ricch - "ROCKSTAR"... DaBaby: Brand new Lamborghini, fuck a cop car

Todd (VO): Mm-hm.

...and The Weeknd - "Blinding Lights" The Weeknd: I'm blinded by the lights

Todd (VO): Mm-hm.

Todd: Okay, yeah, this is all shit from February.

News montage

Todd (VO): As we enter the sixth month of lockdown, the pace of popular music, just like TV and movies, has gotten very slow. There just haven't been a lot of major releases and rumour has it that a lot of the big names like Kendrick Lamar are sitting on their next projects until they can actually go out and promote and tour for it.

Todd: So it's felt like we're in kind of a holding pattern.

Image of "The Top Songs of Summer 2020"

Todd (VO): Here's the list of the "Songs of the Summer." [arrow points to "Blinding Lights"] Like, this is from November, [arrow points to Post Malone - "Circles"] this has been around literally an entire year.

Todd: Popular music depends on these big blockbuster albums, and what have we gotten? Uh, there's...

Clips of "cardigan" by...

Todd (VO): ...uh, I guess Taylor Swift, who found an ideal time to shore up her cred with a less commercial indie folk album. [..."Got It On Me" by...] We got some new albums from Pop Smoke and [...and "Wishing Well" by...] Juice WRLD, who... [memorial images for Pop Smoke and Juice WRLD] would not have been touring for those albums regardless. Ahem.

Todd: But that's it as far as big hype releases.

Clip of Ariana Grande & Justin Bieber - "Stuck with U"

Todd (VO): Instead, we've gotten some new songs. You know, mostly one-off's, topical singles. But eighty percent of them have dropped like rocks.

Todd: So it's been slim pickens.

Clips of "Laugh Now Cry Later" (ft. Lil Durk) by...

Todd (VO): Like, of course we've got Drake, who's incapable of not having hits. [..."Dynamite" by...] BTS are still promoting themselves from the safety of Korea. [...and "WAP" by Cardi B and...] Megan Thee Stallion has upward momentum she can't waste right now. Now, if I were smart enough to chase clicks, I'd cover one of those and make some money.

Todd: But, I'm a little rusty, [rolls shoulders an drubs hands together] I wanna warm up to those. In the meantime, there is just this...

Clip of Powfu ft. beabadoobee - "death bed (coffee for your head)"

Todd (VO): ...one song that's been stuck in my head like a splinter, that I think says a lot more about where music is right now...

Todd: ...during these weird pandemic times.

Powfu: I don't wanna fall asleep, I don't...

Todd (VO): This one, dweeby [clip of Powfu Genius interview] white rap song by some unknown who looks like a 13-year-old Jason Mraz. So, [picture of...] you know, like Jason Mraz.

Powfu: I wish it could be me but I won't make it out this bed

Todd: Okay, so who and what is this?

Todd (VO): And how did it get here? And why won't it go away?

Todd: Well, the question of what this is doing here is fairly simple. Now, I've been told, and I don't know if this is true, but I've been told...

Clip of On Air with Ryan Seacrest

Todd (VO): ...that there's a reason why Top 40 radio seems to be so stuck right now. Todd: Because of COVID, everything is locked down, [picture of board meeting] including all of radio's market research departments, [clip of radio DJ] so they have no real way of gauging what's good enough to put in their playlists. [back to Todd] If only there was some other way to find out which songs could bear being played over and over again for a captive audience.

Clip of Bloomberg Technology Emily Chang: We're seeing platforms like TikTok take off even more than it has been...

Todd (VO): [Clip of Zach King TikTok video] Enter TikTok. And possibly [shot of headline: U.S. Military Branches Block Access to TikTok App Amid Pentagon Warning] exit TikTok, it's been endangered since about the same time the lockdown started, and it may be deleted from the country by the time I upload this video. But in the meantime it's proven indispensable to the popular music ecosystem. [clip of Lil Nas X ft. Billy Ray Cyrus's...] If it was a proven force after "Old Town Road", it basically controls everything now.


Todd: Like, Jesus fucking Christ, if it does get banned, that'd be like deleting television. It's where the music comes from.

Clips of SAINT jHN - "Roses (Imanbek Remix)", surf mesa ft. Emilee - "ily (i love you baby)" and StaySolidRocky - "Party Girl"

Todd (VO): And since the major labels, try as they might, don't really control what gets big on there, a whole bunch of artists who otherwise might not ever get a look are not only topping the charts, it seems like even radio is desperate enough to let a whole lot more of them cross over.


Todd: One of the big beneficiaries of this is...


Clip of home performance of "death bed (coffee for your head)"


Todd (VO): ...Powfu, a lo-fi emo rapper on SoundCloud who was probably not otherwise destined for fame, judging by the fact that he chose the rap name "Powfu". [clip of "death bed"] Powfu's song "death bed" was a TikTok hit early in the lockdown ages ago, and then jumped to radio a few months after that. It's in heavy rotation in pop radio and alternative radio.

Todd: Not so much hip-hop radio, which we'll get to.

Clip of Powfu Genius interview

Todd (VO): But yeah, even if it's not anything you'd think of as a world-conquering smash hit, it's had real legs. It just kept rising and then it just didn't seem to go away.

Clip of "death bed" Powfu: Wish it could be me but I won't make it out this bed

Todd (VO): So, the first time I heard this song, I thought it was merely a whiny emo song about being depressed and not wanting to get out of bed.


Todd: That... [shot of person in bed holding pillow over their face with text "me apr-jun 2020"] ...may have been projection. [back to Todd] But now it's clear to me the title is a lot more literal.

Powfu: I don't wanna fall asleep, I don't wanna pass away

Todd (VO): I'm sure a lot of depressed emo kids are listening to it, but the actual song itself is about...

Todd: ...dying in a much less "please come take me" kind of way.

Todd (VO): I mean, I guess it could still be depression, but it sounds a lot more like an illness. This sounds like it's from someone who would rather keep living.


Powfu: I've been praying for forgiveness, you've been praying for my health

Todd: Okay, I'm aware that we live in morbid times. We keep hearing about the rising death toll, seems like another beloved celebrity dies every week. [the Pop Smoke and Juice WRLD memorial images from earlier] Two of the biggest charting stars in music right now are, in fact, deceased.

Todd (VO): So in that regard, I can certainly imagine why a song about literally getting sick and dying would be resonant during this awful moment in history.

Todd: But I'm not sure that's actually why it caught on.

Clip of TikToks featuring "death bed" in the background Beabadoobee: Don't stay awake for too long

Todd (VO): TikTok videos are short, like, a minute long. The clips I've seen on TikTok use only the first minute of the song, which leads with the hook. And they mostly use it for cute shit, "Oh, like, my girlfriend did something sweet for me", "Look at this adorable duck". Like, I think it's quite possible that a lot of people took this song not knowing what it's about. Todd: Well, I know what it's about and let me say, I think this hook, this sample, is amazing.

Clip of "death bed"

Beabadoobee: Don't stay awake for too long

Don't go to bed

Todd (VO): It's from a song called "Coffee" by [live clip of...] indie singer Beabadoobee. And I don't usually like this kind of twee, ukulele girl shit but... Todd: ...I think this is catchy and wistful enough to really capture something, I, I like it a lot.

Powfu and Beabadoobee: I'll make a cup of coffee for your head I'll get you up and going out of bed



Todd: So there you go. I like the part of the song that Powfu didn't write. [thumbs up]

Todd (VO): That's a solid burn, go me. But I actually think Powfu deserves a lot of credit too for finding the sample and just how he uses it. [clip of "Coffee"] The original song is just about this girl kindly tending to your hangover, but [back to "death bed"] here it's meant as more of a distant memory, like he's drifting away to happier times as he dies. It's a radical recontextualization, [clip of...] like what Eminem did with that Dido sample on "Stan". [back to "death bed"] It really works, especially when he starts singing along, it's just heartbreaking.

Beabadoobee: Don't stay awake Beabadoobee and Powfu: For too long

Todd (VO): It's just a great idea for a song, and I think he deserves all the credit for that.

Todd: Ah, that felt good to say. See, I can say nice things, I'm not negative all the time. Ah. Alright, well, let's get into it. Powfu may be the worst fucking rapper in history.

Clip of TikTok of puppy with "death bed" in the background

Todd (VO): TikTok has been a lot better for music on the whole than Vine ever was, 'cause TikTok uses a lot more of the song. But TikTok videos still don't use the whole song, and the drawback of that is really clear.

Clip of "death bed (coffee for your head)"

Would this song have caught on if the verses had been more prominent? I hope not! Todd: They're so bad.

Powfu: I tried to do my best, but you know that I'm not perfect

Todd (VO): Powfu is technically a rapper, and this is technically a rap song. It's constructed like a rap song, it uses samples, the lyrics are rapped...

Todd: ...but if this is rap then the word barely means anything anymore.

Todd (VO): There's a reason it's not on hip-hop radio. Powfu writes rhymes like he's never heard a hip-hop song in his life.

Powfu: ...happy that you're here with me, I'm sorry if I tear up

When me and you were younger you would always make me tear up

Todd (VO): This is...

Todd: ...just, like, the lamest, whitest rap since [shot of logo for...] Epic Rap Battles of History. [back to Todd] He seems to have stolen his flow from Dr. Seuss.

Todd (VO): All the lines end in the exact same spot, the rhyme scheme never changes.

Powfu: Sundays went to church, and Mondays watched a movie

Soon you'll be alone, sorry that you have to lose me

Todd (VO): It sounds like something from the mid-80s when [clip of Tom Hanks and Dan Aykroyd - "City of Crime"] white people first heard rap music and were like "Oh, you don't even have to sing? Anyone can do that!" Todd: Tell me that this...

Powfu: I don't wanna fall asleep, I don't wanna pass away

I've been thinking of our future 'cause I'll never see those days

Todd: ...has any more skills than this:

Clip of Crash Test Dummies PSA

Vince and Larry: We are the dummies, crashin' on through

Bustin' our heads, just for you

Vince: [brief clip of Todd dancing] My name is Vince, this job makes me sore

If you'd buckle up, I wouldn't do it no more

Todd: What I'm saying is that Powfu raps like [shot of album cover for...] Rappin' Rodney.

Clip of Rodney Dangerfield - "Rappin' Rodney"

Todd (VO): Except Rodney had a lot more pathos.

Rodney: Death, where is thy sting?

Todd: Like, it's not just the pre-school flow.

Clip of "death bed" Powfu: I hope I go to heaven so I see you once again

Todd (VO): Like, he's trying to write about the most horrible of tragedies.


Todd: He makes it sound like his buddy Dave's pool party got cancelled!

Powfu: My life was kinda short, but I got so many blessings

Happy you are mine, It sucks that it's all ending

Todd: [rapping] Dying young is bad, makes me really sad.

Todd (VO): I think the second verse is somehow worse.

Todd: Like, this one is all about the happy memories he's leaving behind.

Powfu: Taking goofy videos and walking through the park You would jump into my arms every time you heard a bark

Todd: She's scared of barks in the distance? [clip of Scooby Doo jumping into Shaggy's arms] Is she a cartoon character?

Powfu: Cuddle in your sheets, sing me sound asleep Then sneak out through your kitchen at exactly 1:03

Todd (VO): What, what does that detail add? Why exactly 1:03? [clip of woman navigating laser security system] Is there a specially timed lock that required a precision-timed jailbreak?

Todd: Like, no, no, I'm not even bothered by the bizarre logic. I'm bothered by the forced cutesy-poo contrivance of it.

Todd (VO): I've heard people defend these verses by comparing it to [clip of Plain White T's -...] "Hey There Delilah", where the clumsiness is supposed to be part of the charm, you know, it makes it sound sincere. [back to "death bed"] But that "exactly 1:03" thing, it's just so random and weird and obviously made up. It doesn't sound sincere, it sounds phoney.

Todd: Look, if you don't like the chorus, you find it a little too cutesy, I get it, but I like it.

Todd (VO): But these verses, man. Like, I don't have to hear about the better times, the hook did all that without even mentioning it.

Todd: It makes sense that a lot of this song is about happier, younger memories, 'cause a 20-year-old wrote it.


Clip of home performance of "death bed (coffee for your head)"


Todd (VO): This song is literally a teenager who doesn't know a thing about the world trying to write about the worst thing that could possibly happen to someone. Surprise, he can't pull it off!

Clip of "death bed" Powfu: Yeah we still young, there's so much we haven't done

Todd: He only seems to have the fuzziest grasp of what this character is losing, all the things he'll never see, all the responsibilities he'll never be able to fulfil.

Todd (VO): The best he can do is capture the small details of his life beforehand and he sucks at that too!

Todd: I respect the ambition, but it-it's okay to write what you know, bro. Instead of a song like this, you could write a song about... getting new shoes. It'd be called "Hey, Check Out My New Shoes". Or if you wanna keep writing sad songs, it could be about how someone scuffed your new shoes. You know, just, know your wheelhouse.

Todd (VO): And he is so inept at it, that I started to wonder if, maybe...

Todd: ...hip-hop is just the wrong vehicle for this.

Todd (VO): O-Okay, yeah, no, that's-that's obviously wrong. It's not hip-hop's fault that this kid sucks. [clip of NFL game] That's like me trying to say the NFL is bad 'cause I'm a Giants fan.

Todd: It-it was a real dumb thought, [clip of Lil Uzi Vert - "XO Tour Llif3"] you know, there are plenty of sad hip-hop songs about depressing topics. [back to Todd] But still, you know, maybe this particular lo-fi song can't bear the weight of Powfu rapping.

Clip of Post Malone - "Circles"

Todd (VO): It's at least noteworthy that the two biggest sad rappers, Post Malone [clip of "Lucid Dreams" by...] and Juice WRLD, rest in peace, they tended to sing their saddest songs instead of rap them. [clip of Jack Harlow ft. DaBaby, Tory Lanez & Lil Wayne - "WHATS POPPIN"] Hip-hop is a wordy genre. A lot of rap songs will spit out as many words as "American Pie" in half the time, and that's something you have to know how to deal with.

Clip of "death bed"

When I listen to this song, all I think is that there are just too many words in it. This song is buried in words and stupid details where simplicity is what it needs.

Todd: The whole thing feels malformed and unfinished in a way that a lot of these TikTok hits are.

Todd (VO): Only about a third of it is good because people have only listened to a third of it. The title is unwieldy. And that's another thing with these TikTok hits, they catch on that people don't know how to find them, so [shots of Spotify page for surf mesa ft. Emilee - "ily (i love you baby)" and YouTube page for Millie B - "M to the B (Soph Aspin Send)"] they have to smash a lyric in parentheses at the end so people can search for it.

Todd: Like, a TikTok hit can be an extremely mixed blessing.

Clip of Lil Nas X - "Panini"

Todd (VO): Lil Nas X is turning out to be the exception in that he got people interested in beyond the one song. And to do that he had to make the most [clip of "Old Town Road"] successful song in history. Most other TikTok artists aren't that lucky.

Clip of Arizona Zervas - "Roxanne"

Like, look at Arizona Zervas, whose song "Roxanne" was super big in December, and crossed over to radio. It lasted long enough for him to get signed and make a music video and then he disappeared off the face of the earth. That's the pattern.


Todd: And that's what I expect here. I really hope the kids aren't listening to this song and thinking "man, I wanna listen to more Powfu".

Live clip of Beabadoobee

Todd (VO): If anyone gets famous off of this it should be Beabadoobee, and I think she is 'cause she was already a rising star in the indie world.


Todd: Institutional support helps.

Live clip of Powfu

Todd (VO): I don't think anyone on his label has any real long-term plans for him. If they did, they'd have picked a lead single that makes him seem more talented, or at least they'd have given him a cooler name.


Todd: What I'm saying is that [shot of various thumbnails of One Hit Wonderland videos] if I'm still doing One Hit Wonderlands in 10 years, [shot of headline "TikTok Breaks Big Hits, But It's Still Struggling to Break Big Stars"] I'm gonna have a lot of material. [back to Todd giving thumbs up] Thanks, TikTok. And see you in 2030, Powfu. Let me say this before I go...

Clip of "death bed"

Todd (VO): ...I've talked a lot of shit about your rapping, but I'll give you this. You wrote a song about dying, and when you rap on that song... Todd: ...you do indeed sound like something dying. Congrats.

"death bed" video ends

Closing Tag Song: Folgers - "The Best Part of Waking Up"

THE END

"death bed (coffee for your head)" is owned by Columbia Records

This video is owned by me

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