See You Again
July 17, 2015
Todd plays "See You Again" on the piano.
WIZ KHALIFA ft. CHARLIE PUTH - SEE YOU AGAIN
A pop song review
Todd: On November 30th, 2013,...
- News footage of...
Todd (VO): ...the world saw the tragic death of the famous Hollywood actor, Paul Walker, at the too-young age of 40. Walker was best known as the star of the popular car-racing movie franchise, The Fast and the Furious. Ironically, Walker himself was killed in a horrible car crash, which is kinda funny...
Todd: ...if you're a horrible asshole. A man died.
- Clip of trailer for...
Todd (VO): A year and a half later, Universal Pictures released what would be his last film project—the seventh and final movie in the Fast and the Furious series. As it was still being filmed at the time of his death, the movie was reconfigured to be a sendoff to its late star. The entire marketing campaign was even designed around it, with Furious 7 being trumpeted as "the last ride."
Todd: They...seriously hammered this point home.
Todd (VO): Minor spoilers here—the movie ends with a ten-minute montage tribute to Walker set to a theme song specifically written to memorialize the man. And while they did try to be appropriately reverent about this real-life tragedy, let's...
Todd: ...face it. Furious 7 is not a movie about loss and sadness; it's a movie where...
Todd (VO): ...Vin Diesel drives a car out of a skyscraper into another skyscraper, and then out of that skyscraper into a third skyscraper. It's a dumb movie about racing cars. So this solemn turn at the end, it's awkward.
Todd: These movies were not built for that level of emotion.
- Clip of reworked trailer
Todd (VO); 2 Tragic, 2 Respectfully Mournful!
Todd: So, yeah, it's a weird fit, but...then again, the whole franchise is weird.
- Various clips from the series
Todd (VO): I've seen all of them, and they...they don't go in chronological order; they've radically reinvented the series about four times, then retconned them all to be connected; it's got, like, fifty different characters, they kill off a bunch of them at random, and they bring some of them back, but they have amnesia. It took superhero comics fifty years to reach this level of convolutedness, so a turn of the sappy at the end of the final movie, why the hell not? We got everything else.
Todd: And, to be fair, it's not completely out of nowhere. These movies might be stupid...very stupid...
- Clips from 2 Fast 2 Furious...
Todd (VO): ...and, in my opinion, took a nosedive in quality around 2 and didn't recover until 6. [...and from Fast Five] But towards the end there, it had developed a heart, even if it didn't have much of a brain. All the characters care a lot about each other, Vin Diesel talks all the time about how they're a family, so a big sendoff to a character whose actor died in real life, it's not completely crazy.
Todd: What is crazy is that it's gotten so big outside of the movie.
- Video for "See You Again"
- Charlie Puth: It's been a long day without you, my friend
- And I'll tell you all about it when I see you again
Todd (VO): "See You Again", the song chosen to commemorate the life of Paul Walker, has become a humongous hit. This song has been so successful, it was actually able to knock out [brief clip of "Bad Blood" by...] Taylor Swift from the top spot. One does not claim victory over her majesty Taylor Swift without reprisal, so I would definitely watch my back if I were these guys.
Todd: I guess that's so weird to me because I can...
Todd (VO): ...only think of this song as the Paul Walker song. I didn't expect a tribute to Paul Walker to catch on so big 'cause...
Todd: ...well, let's face it, Paul Walker wasn't exactly [pictures of memorials to] Princess Di...or even Dale Earnhardt.
Todd (VO): He wasn't, like, an icon.
Todd: According to most, he wasn't even a very good actor. [apologetic whisper] Sorry.
Todd (VO): I mean, you can find small pockets of superfans who made a lot of [two tributes to Walker, the latter superimposing his head on Anakin Skywalker's body] bizarre memorial fan art, but I'm gonna guess that's...
Todd: ...a small percentage of this song's listeners.
Todd (VO): But you know, I guess everyone likes a good tearjerker, even if you're not a Paul Walker obsessive who watched [poster of] Eight Below a dozen times.
Todd (VO): You can still appreciate this song for what it is. But who best to wring every drop of sadness and catharsis to say goodbye to a fallen friend?
Todd: Who? Who's the best man for the job?
- Clip of Maroon 5 - "Payphone" featuring...
- Wiz Khalifa: Man, fuck that shit
- Clip of "Work Hard Play Hard"
- Wiz: Diamonds all on my ring, nigga
Todd (VO): This, you might recall, is Wiz Khalifa, the scrawny, tattooed rapper from Pittsburgh.
Todd: And yeah, he was a terrible choice.
Todd (VO): I don't like the song mainly because of him. And there are a lot of reasons for that, but here's the main reason, and I realize it's just gonna be conjecture, just a theory, but I think it's a hypothesis that deserves consideration.
Todd: I don't think Wiz Khalifa cared all that much about Paul Walker.
Todd (VO): I mean, prove me wrong. Let me hear it. I mean, Paul Walker was a real guy with a family and a kid and he died far too young. What more inspiration do you need?
Todd: Express as much grief as you possibly can.
- Wiz: Uhh.
Todd: Good. Good, perfect, cut, print.
Todd (VO): Uh, those of you who want something more meaningful than that, trust me, that's the best you're gonna get out of this doofus.
Todd: See, I do actually know why they picked him for this song—it's because he was on...
- Clip of 2 Chainz and Wiz Khalifa - "We Own It (Fast & Furious)"
Todd (VO): the soundtrack for the last Fast and Furious movie, and at the time, it made perfect sense. Wiz Khalifa likes cars.
Clip of "Black and Yellow"
- Wiz: No keys, push to start
Todd (VO): He's basically the car guy of popular music, the same way the Beach Boys and ZZ Top were, so that made sense. But him trying to convey sadness?
Todd: He don't know how to do that.
Clip of "We Dem Boyz"
Todd (VO): All Wiz Khalifa knows is that he likes cars and pot and bitches, in that order. He's clearly out of his depth when trying to talk about...
Todd: ...anything else.
- Wiz: Damn, who knew
- Wiz: Who knew
- All the planes we flew
Todd (VO): And all the planes we drove cars out of, planes we crashed, vehicles we drove head on out of planes.
- Wiz: That I'll be standing right here talking to you
- 'Bout another path
- I know we loved to hit the road and laugh
Todd (VO): What different path are you talking about, being alive?! That's an idiotic way to put that. Oh,...
Todd: ...our paths diverge, you know. I decided to keep breathing, but that's not for everyone, you know.
- Wiz: Had to switch up
- Look at things different, see the bigger picture
- Those were the days (Those were blah blah blah)
- Hard work forever pays (Something something whatever)
Todd (VO): Look, Wiz Khalifa doesn't care about Paul Walker. Why would he? He didn't know the guy.
Todd: If only there was someone who did know him. Someone [pictures of Walker with Ludacris] musical, someone who was a famous rapper who worked with him, and probably felt an almost ludicrous amount of sadness when he died who could've written a song for him. [It comes to him] Duh! [Picture of Walker with...] The Rock!
- Clip of Wyclef Jean ft. The Rock - "It Doesn't Matter"
- Wyclef: I just won the bingo, bought a crib in Rio
- The Rock: It doesn't matter!
Todd (VO): I guaran-damn-tee you that The Rock would have written [brief clip of The Rock performing an acoustic song on WWE Raw] a great tribute song, almost as good as Hulk Hogan's classic [album cover of Hulk Hogan and the Wrestling Boot Band - Hulk Rules] "Hulkamaniac in Heaven". Yeah, look up...
Todd: ...that one next time you need to induce vomiting.
Todd (VO): To be fair, Wiz Khalifa's second verse is a little better.
- Wiz: And what's small turn to a friendship
A friendship turn to a bond And that bond will never be broken
Todd (VO): But I still have one serious problem with it, one that clarifies that ridiculous "different path" line in the first verse.
Todd: He's not rapping about the actor.
Todd (VO): He's clearly trying to write about the character from the movie. You can tell because it's all about friendship, and there's not anything about dying, as opposed to the chorus, which is definitely about the actor, or at least someone who actually died.
Todd: It's clearly about seeing someone again in the afterlife.
- Charlie: And I'll tell you all about it when I see you again
Todd (VO): It's like the chorus was written for an entirely different song, or even a different film. I can only assume there was a mix-up at some point, and some sad movie somewhere got a Fast and Furious theme.
- Clip from Philadelphia with sad score, immediately cut off by TI ft. Lil Wayne - "Ball"
- TI: Hoppin' out of Lambos and Ferraris in this bitch
Poppin' bottles with a thick red super model bitch
Todd (VO): Quite honestly, even though Wiz is certainly not great on this...
Todd: ...I think I dislike the other guy on this track even more.
- Charlie: It's been a long day
Todd (VO): Okay, this guy is...
Todd: ...okay, he's got a name that sounds wrong to me, no matter how I try to pronounce it.
- Album cover of Some Type of Love EP
Todd (VO): He's Charlie...Puth [sounding like pus] Puth? Charlie [sounding like push] Puth? [Tweet from Charlie: "my last name is pronounced 'poo-th'"] Puth. Okay, Puth. Charlie Puth.
Todd: I still sound like Sylvester the Cat whenever I say it.
- Charlie: Hold every memory as it goes
Todd (VO): He wrote the chorus, inspired by a friend of his, who also died in a car accident. So yeah, that's pretty real, right? That should be something there.
Todd: But I just don't hear it.
Todd (VO): In fact, it's not like he wrote a song about it because he wanted to or anything. He was one of about fifty staffed songwriters asked to submit something for Furious 7, and once they picked Charlie, the studio hacks took his chorus and went about hammering whatever life it had out of it for months. That's literally how this song was made, and God Almighty, does it sound like it. I've been doing this job for a long time now, and I've made peace with the fact that...
Todd: ...most music that gets played on the radio isn't there to make people dance or make them happy or sad or provoke any emotional response at all. Some do, but most of the songs you hear are meant [shot of Spotify Hot 100 chart] to fill airtime. That's why so much of it is easily forgotten. It's just catchy enough that it won't make you change the station immediately, just, you know, something that's pleasant enough. White noise.
And this is especially true for big, mainstream, crossover rap singles. The studio acquires the chorus to say...
- Clip of Flo Rida - "Right Round"
Todd (VO): ..."You Spin Me (Right Round)", they tested it, say, "yep, this focus-grouped well. Hey, Flo Rida, rap some gibberish over this, let's print some money." This is pretty much entirely how all of it works. [Clip of Lupe Fiasco - "The Show Goes On"] If you're lucky, sometimes the song comes out kinda decent, the single plays, and hopefully the album does well.
Todd: But other times, you wind up with crap like, uh...what's a good example here? "Airplanes".
- Clip of B.o.B feat. Hayley Williams - "Airplanes"
- Hayley: Can we pretend that airplanes in the night sky are like shooting stars
Todd (VO): You know, a song with a good, strong, compelling chorus, but a rapper who draws absolutely no inspiration from it, yet has to do the song anyway 'cause the album needs a single.
- B.o.B: Yeah, yeah, somebody take me back to the days
- Before this was a job, before I got paid
Todd (VO): B.o.B didn't need a wish at all. He had nothing to feel sad or desperate about, nothing weighing him down except...
Todd: ..."gosh, being a rapper for a living is hard work." Boo hoo, cry me a river.
- B.o.B: And back when I was rappin' for the hell of it
- But nowadays we rappin' to stay relevant
Todd (VO): Yeah, well...don't worry, pal. Staying relevant is not...
Todd: ...something you'll have to worry about much longer.
Todd (VO): "See You Again", by virtue of being overtly a corporate tie-in, exposes this problem even more clearly than most. And "See You Again" is even worse because the chorus isn't great either. On "Airplanes", you at least had Hayley Williams, who has one of those voices that demands that you listen to it. But Puth belongs to that Sam Smith school of being technically perfect, but emotionally tedious. But more than that, I hate the production.
Todd: See, I grew up in the '90s. To me, this is what a sad song commemorating fallen homeys is supposed to be.
- Clip of Bone Thugs N Harmony - "Tha Crossroads"
- Bone Thugs: See you at the crossroads, crossroads, crossroads
- So you won't be lonely
- See you at the crossroads, crossroads, crossroads
- So you won't be lonely
Todd (VO): Yeah, that's what sadness sounds like.
Todd: No, no, let's go even bigger than this.
- Clip of Mariah Carey and Boyz II Men - "One Sweet Day"
- Mariah and Boyz: And I know you're shining down on me from Heaven
Todd: Yeah. Yeah, now throw it over the top!
- Clip from 1997 MTV VMAs of Puff Daddy performing "I'll Be Missing You" with Faith Evans and Sting et al
- Choir: Every step I take
- Every move I make
Todd (VO): Yes, even Puff Daddy's constantly mocked, horribly awkward tribute to Biggie Smalls is a better song than "See You Again". That gospel choir there? That, at least, is the kind of emotion I want to go out on. When I die, that's how you send me off. No, get Puff Daddy to deliver it personally. That will be my funeral.
Todd: But this?
- Charlie: Oh!
Todd: I'll be honest, this sounds like a car commercial.
- Song plays over car commercial
- Charlie: Oh!
- Announcer: Introducing the new Elantra GT from Hyundai.
Todd: Here, do another.
- Song plays over promo for Game 7 of the NBA Finals
- Charlie: Oh!
- Announcer: NBA Finals climactic conclusion, tonight on ABC.
Todd: See? That shouldn't fit so well.
- Clip of Third Eye Blind's...
Todd (VO): You're not gonna hear someone use "Jumper" to sell iPads.
Todd: So yeah, I don't like "See You Again"...
Todd (VO): ...at all. It's not a good tribute to Paul Walker or...a good tribute to anybody. I can only see it as an ad jingle that somehow topped the charts for ten weeks.
Todd: But even if I don't like it in practice, I guess I can still appreciate the song in theory.
Todd (VO): You know, the thought's what counts and all that. Paul Walker still mattered enough to people that he got a song written for him. I doubt the spirit of Paul Walker is sitting around in the afterlife going, [still shot of Walker] "man, I can't believe you dishonored my memory with this shitty song. Way to desecrate my grave, you guys."
Todd: Yeah, I'm sure he's fine with it.
Todd (VO): So while I don't like listening to it, I guess there is some small part of me that likes the idea of it. I mean, it's how the movie ends, it's how the series ends. And, you know, as the ending of a saga that was...deservedly popular and entertained a lot of people, on that level, I guess I can at least appreciate it.
Todd: Very rarely does a series get to go out on a grace note as touching as that one.
- Wiz: Uh! Uh!
- Charlie: When I see you again
Todd: Oh, wait, [news article: 'Furious 8' to debut April 14, 2017] they're making another one. Okay, screw you, too.
Closing tag song: Vera Lynn - "We'll Meet Again"
"See You Again" is owned by Atlantic Records
This video is owned by me
THANK YOU TO THE LOYAL PATRONS!