Holy Grail

Holy grail by thebutterfly-d6q0udv.jpg

Date Aired
October 13, 2013
Running Time
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Todd plays "Holy Grail" on the piano.

A pop song review

Todd: Hov!

Video for "Dirt Off Your Shoulder"
Jay-Z: You're now tuned in to the motherfuckin' greatest
Get. That.

Todd (VO): One thing I love about Jay-Z is that, even with how long his career has gone at this point, he clearly still cares a lot about being the biggest name in music. The only rapper still around with a career like his is [clip of...] Snoop Dogg, and Snoop gives off the impression that he's more than comfortable being a living legend who doesn't have to flex nuts 'cause he knows he got 'em.

Todd: And that's certainly impressive, but there's also something to be said for Jay-Z at his age still going out there like he's got something to prove.

Clip of Magna Carta Holy Grail commercial

Todd (VO): And Jay-Z is still very much trying to be the biggest name in the game, as evidenced by his twelfth—[album cover] yes, twelfth—studio album, Magna Carta Holy Grail, an album Jay-Z felt was so stunning, he named it after two of the most renowned, legendary artifacts of Western culture.

Todd: Who else would dare to elevate their record to this level of religious grandiosity... [promo poster for Yeezus by...] oh, of course. Don't ever change, Kanye.

Clip of Picasso Baby: A Performance Art Film

Todd (VO): And Jay-Z clearly means for this album to be perceived to be as legendary as its namesakes. Skipping the normal promotion cycle, Jay dropped his new album very suddenly and with no warning but a three-minute commercial during the NBA Finals and a six-hour performance at the New York Art Gallery. Clearly, Jay-Z means for this album to be seen as a towering masterpiece.

Todd: So let us look at this, his lead-off single from this album, featuring frequent collaborator and fellow biggest name in music, Justin Timberlake. It is entitled, "Holy Grail". Enjoy.

Video for "Holy Grail", intercut with brief clips of Todd rocking out, pretty much entirely by habit.
Justin: You take the clothes off my back
And I let you
You'd steal the food right out my mouth
And I watch you eat it
Jay-Z: Blue told me to remind you niggas
Fuck that shit y’all talkin' about
I'm the nigga
Curtains all in my window
This fame hurt
But this chain works
I think back
You asked the same person
If this is all you had to deal with
Nigga deal with
Justin: Ooh...don't know why.

Todd: Well, that sucked!

Justin: And baby, it's amazing...

Todd (VO): God, that was... what the hell kind of lead-off single was that?! That was...that was the most turgid, lifeless, boring, useless, wasted time I've ever... I legitimately expected this to be good. That was just terrible from beginning to end.

An exasperated Todd lays his head in his hand, hitting the keys with his elbow.

Todd: Um...let me see if I can explain here.

Jay-Z: Caught up in all these lights and cameras

Todd (VO): Okay, first off, "Holy Grail" is about how difficult it is to be a celebrity.

Todd: Hold on a sec, let me just roll my eyes here and groan for a good ten seconds. UUGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!

Justin: You take the clothes off my back
And I let you

Todd (VO): Okay, I admit I was a little thrown off by the chorus there for a little bit because it sounds like it's about a bad girlfriend, which has nothing to do with anything, but I guess we're supposed to understand that this crazy, awful, gold-digger girlfriend...

Todd: ...is a metaphor for that harsh mistress, fame.

Justin: Have my laundry in the streets
Dirty or clean
Give it up for fame

Todd: Does it really matter whether your laundry was washed or not?

Justin: Dirty or clean

Todd (VO): Are you...are you gonna pick your clothes off the sidewalk and go, "oh, thank God, these were already dirty."

Todd: Anyway.

Justin: Sipping from your cup
Til it runneth over
Jay-Z: Uh, uh.
Justin: Holy grail

Todd (VO): Now obviously, you see the connection between fame and the Holy Grail. [Clip from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade] At first it looks nice and shiny and wonderful, but then you drink from it and it destroys you from the inside out.

Todd: No, wait, that was the false Grail.

Grail Knight: He chose...poorly.

Todd: Actually, nothing about that made sense.

Justin: Sipping from your cup
Til it runneth over
Jay-Z: Uh, uh.
Justin: Holy grail

Todd (VO): "Cup runneth over"? Okay, 1., "cup runneth over" isn't even about the Holy Grail, that's from the...[image of 23rd Psalm] Shepherd's Prayer, I'm pretty sure.

Todd: And it means you've been blessed with more than you need.

Todd (VO): So, "drink 'til it runneth over"? Well, I mean, uh... Holy Grail as a magic cup that's always full, no matter how much you drink from it?

Todd: No, I'm thinking of something I read in a Choose Your Own Adventure book once.

Todd (VO): "Drink until your cup runneth over," that just doesn't make any sense, unless you mean, "drink 'til you spill it down your shirt like a moron."

Todd What, do you need a bib?

Todd (VO): I mean, he just says, "holy grail," at the end. Like, what?

Justin: Sipping from your cup
Til it runneth over
Jay-Z: Uh, uh.
Justin: Holy grail
Clip from Young Money - "BedRock"
Gudda Gudda: Grocery bag

Todd (VO): At least with most hashtag rap, you can just roll your eyes and move on, but "Holy Grail" tricks you into thinking it makes sense at first, like...I guess it has some relationship to the quest for stardom, as in it's a [image of Grail in the clouds] thing you seek all your life, but then it all ends with disappointment [clip of end of Monty Python and the Holy Grail] as King Arthur is arrested by the cops, and then the credits roll, and you're like, "wait, it's already over? I mean...I guess the rest of it was funny, but that's how it ends? Seriously? Okay."

Todd: So yeah, fame is a thing you seek, like the Holy Grail. But last I checked, it never hurt anybody. I think they were thinking of, like, I don't know, [painting of...] Pandora's box or [cover of The Monkey's Paw] magic monkey's paw? A white elephant? I don't know, something other than the Holy Grail!

Todd (VO): But that's not even Jay-Z's part of this, so we need to look at his to see why he's worried about the...

Todd: ...dark side of fame and success.

Jay-Z: Uh, caught up in all these lights and cameras, uh
But look what that shit did to Hammer
Goddamn it it I like it
Bright lights is enticin'
But look what it did to Tyson

Todd: Okay, you see, Jay-Z realizes that stardom can actually be a curse, and to prove this point, he references other celebrities who couldn't handle their own success, like Mike Tyson, MC Hammer, and...

Jay-Z: Kurt Cobain, I did it to myself
Jay-Z and Justin: And we all just entertainers
And we're stupid, and contagious
Now we all just entertainers

Todd: [a little shocked] Did that just happen?

Jay-Z and Justin: And we all just entertainers

Todd (VO): Yeah, I'm sure most of you are all shocked that they just destroyed "Smells Like Teen Spirit".

Todd: I would be as shocked if that was the first time I've heard that happen...this year.

Clip of Karmin - "Hello"
Amy Heidemann: Hello, hello, hello
Hello, hello
Brief clip of Nirvana - "Smells Like Teen Spirit"

Todd (VO): But you see why he brought up Kurt Cobain, right? He's another star who self-destructed, just like Tyson, just like Hammer. Jay-Z is worried he'll end up like them—he'll melt under the bright lights and burn himself out.

Bob Sheridan: ...knocked Mike Tyson down for the first time in his career!

Todd: [sighs] Let me pause for a moment to read some interesting Jay-Z facts from one of the many celebrity profiles being written about Jay-Z right now. [Opens magazine] Ahem.

Montage of Jay-Z songs

Todd (VO): "Jay-Z has been recording continuously for the past 17 years. Every single one of his studio albums has gone platinum, and except for his attempts to collaborate with a deranged R. Kelly, everything he's ever recorded has been successful, either critically or commercially or both. In addition to his music career, he has owned several businesses, including a record label, a clothing line, an entertainment company, various interests in technology and real estate, and a minority stake in the Brooklyn Nets, which he sold last month for a record-setting sum, making his total net worth estimated at around half a billion dollars. Also, as far as his personal life goes, he's happily married to one of the most beautiful women in the world, and he just witnessed the birth of his first child, a perfectly healthy and adorable baby girl."

Todd: So, uh...what I'm saying here is, Jay, Hov, my man...there, there. It's gonna be okay.

Todd (VO): Jay-Z is not going to end up like MC Hammer, and he's certainly not gonna end up like Kurt Cobain. When he says he's worried about success, I don't believe him. Now, if it was Kanye, yeah, I'd buy that. But no rapper in history has handled their fame as well as Jay-Z has.

Todd: You know what? That goes for you too, Justin.

Justin: You curse my name
In spite to put me to shame

Todd (VO): What the hell are you complaining about? You're also happily married to a beautiful woman, and you haven't had a single notable personal failure or embarrassment over the course of your entire solo career. [Poster for Runner Runner] Okay, or at least you didn't a month ago when this song came out, but...

Todd: ...you get my point.

Todd (VO): Fame, yes, is a harsh mistress for many people, but not for these two guys. For them, fame is a groveling, worshipful groupie who makes them sandwiches.

Todd: Anyway, Jay, you were saying. Why is fame so hard?

Jay-Z: Photo shoots with paparazzi
Can't even take my daughter for a walk
See 'em by the corner store

Todd: Okay, yes, that does suck. [Shot of BBC article about...] You know, Halle Berry just successfully pushed to have this law passed that will help you with that. But anyway, I'll give that one to you, yeah. Anything else?

Jay-Z: You're still alive
Still that nigga
Nigga, you survived
You still getting bigger, nigga
Living the life
Vanilla wafers in the villa
Illest nigga alive
Michael Jackson's Thriller

Todd: You know, for a guy who once complained about having 99 problems, so far, over the course of this song, he's only been able to identify one. It's not a short song either.

Todd (VO): Yeah, that's the other problem with this song. It's too damn long. For God's sakes, even just the intro lasts a minute and a half. You could eat an entire large pizza in the time it takes for this song to get started.

Todd: At least I can. I mean, I assume everyone can, right?

Todd (VO): It's just long and slow and tedious. I think even the video director understands that none of this works because he actually remixed it to try and salvage it.

Jay-Z: I feel like I'm cornered off

Todd (VO): In the video version, some lines are slowed down to give the impression of sadness that Jay-Z can't deliver himself, and it rearranges the chorus to come after the first verse instead of before it because starting your song with a minute and a half of boring intro kills the momentum before it even starts.

Todd: See, I'm not upset because they sampled "Smells Like Teen Spirit". No, given what the song's about, they used it in the correct context. No, I'm angry because [brief clip of "Smells Like Teen Spirit"] they took one of the most explosive, angry and provocative songs of my lifetime, and they made it sound like this!

Jay-Z and Justin: And we all just entertainers
And we're stupid, and contagious

Todd: [singing drearily] We're so wealthy, it's outrageous.

Todd (VO): God, if only this were stupid and contagious. It'd probably be a lot more enjoyable. I expected this big blowout number from Jay-Z's big album, and what I got was basically just [clip of...] "Lighters 2013". And speaking of, Justin Timberlake makes a terrible Bruno Mars; not that Bruno Mars makes a great Bruno Mars either.

But you know, I didn't realize until just now what a limited range Justin Timberlake has. Every one of his hits has basically had the same message—"I am cool."

Clip from "Sexyback"
Justin: I'm bringing sexy back

Todd (VO): When has he ever sounded sincere or emotional or heartfelt?

Todd: I guess there's, what, "Mirrors".

Clip of "Mirrors"
Justin: It's like you're my mirror
My mirror staring back at me

Todd (VO): And even in that, he's comparing the girl he loves so much to his own reflection.

Clip from Beauty and the Beast
Gaston: Here in town, it's only she
Who's as beautiful as me

Todd: I mean, who is this song kidding? Even Jay-Z can't keep up the pretense that his addiction to fame has caused him any real negative consequences whatsoever.

Jay-Z: ...deal with it
This shit ain't work
It's light work
You got the shit that niggas die for
Dry yours
Why you mad
Take the good with the bad
Don't throw that baby out with the bath water

Todd: Yeah, don't throw out that baby with the bath water. It turns out there's also a positive side to being incredibly wealthy and successful. What a revelation.

Todd (VO): I'll give Jay-Z this much—at least he had his epiphany. And even after that, Justin is still complaining, even harder.

Justin: You get the air out my lungs whenever you need it

Todd: Oh, my God, this is like as if "Grenade" was written about fame.

Clip of "Grenade"
Bruno: Gave you all I had
And you tossed it in the trash

Todd (VO): My God, this really is a Bruno Mars song. No wonder I don't like it.

Justin: And baby
It's amazing I'm in this maze with you
I just can't crack your code

Todd (VO): "Can't crack your code." BS. Not only have you cracked the code, you've reprogrammed it and stolen its credit card number. You're fine. And even if you aren't, you haven't made a case for it. The same reason why they worked so well together in "Suit & Tie" is the same reason they're both equally awful on "Holy Grail". This is like if George Clooney and Brad Pitt made a movie where they're a couple of broke, down on their luck losers.

Todd: I...I really wanted to like this, but...ugh! All I can say is, man, I owe Lady Gaga a huge apology.

Clip of Lady Gaga - "Applause"
Lady Gaga: I live for the applause, applause, applause

Todd (VO): Hey, Lady Gaga, you wanna sing about how awesome it is to be loved and famous?

Todd: [gives a thumbs up] I support this completely.

Todd (VO): Yeah, Jay, I don't buy this at all. I don't believe that you look at the downfall of Mike Tyson and see any potential pitfalls that could ruin you in the same way. But in the case that you do, here's some advice. Don't worry about going to jail like Tyson, don't worry about going broke like Tyson, don't worry about ending up alone like Tyson. Worry about your skills deteriorating with age like Tyson.

Bob Sheridan: Buster Douglas...

Todd: You're 43, Jay. You can't smell that teen spirit anymore.

Gets up and leaves

Justin: Don't know why

Closing tag song: Monty Python - "Knights of the Round Table"

"Holy Grail" is owned by Roc-A-Fella Records
This video is owned by me

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