Turn Down for What

Turn Down for What by krin.jpg

Date Aired
May 19, 2014
Running Time
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Todd plays "Turn Down for What" on the piano

A pop song review

Todd: Welcome to part 2 of Todd's coming to terms with the growing EDM onslaught.

Clip of Tiesto - "Red Lights"

Todd (VO): Now, to clarify, this doesn't just mean every pop song meant to be danced to and made of studio electronics; that's practically everything. I mean music where the producer is the main artist and the actual vocal performer is subsumed to the point of anonymity, [clip of Calvin Harris ft. Ayah Marar - "Thinking About You"] and which is meant to be played in the club, uses pounding blip-bloop synth lines as the main hook, and often doesn't even follow the standard verse-chorus-verse lyrical structure of your average pop song. That kind of thing.

Todd: And unfortunately, I'm kind of a boring traditionalist. I prefer more basic, more normal sounding stuff over newer, more modern genres. Remember, you can't spell "manure" without "newer."

Todd (VO): So I have difficulty decoding this kind of music, I don't really listen to it. I mean, I'm a huge fan of [brief clip of "Get Lucky" by...] Daft Punk obviously, but they're...they're different. They...like, they transcend the boundaries that...

Todd: ...other techno acts are...more... I feel like the racist kid in [clip from...] Do the Right Thing talking about Michael Jordan.

Pino (John Turturro): They're not really black, I mean, they're black but they're not really black, they're more than black.

Todd: Now I made my first baby steps into understanding this genre in my last review,...

Clip of..."

Todd (VO): ...the faux-viral novelty club song "#selfie", but that only briefly dipped in the Top 20 before dropping precipitously. It's just a minor blip on the pop culture radar, and no one's listening to that one. Now that I've gotten a taste, I need to get my hands on a real hit.

Todd: So instead, this week, we'll be looking at a bona fide smash, in the Top 10 right now and rising, and spawning a massive catchphrase that will probably stick around for a while. That would be...

Video for...

Todd (VO): "Turn Down for What"—the first hit single for French producer DJ Snake. Yes, that one I said I wouldn't review in the last video; I changed my mind. But before we discuss it, one caveat.

Todd: It will be impossible to talk about the song without the video overshadowing it, so... if you haven't seen it, before we continue, I need you to pause this review and go watch that video. I'll wait. Go on.

While we're waiting for everyone else to come back, you seen that new Godzilla movie yet? I'm looking forward to it.

Okay, now that you're all back...

Todd (VO): ...wasn't that the greatest thing you've seen in your life?!

Todd: And for the lazy people out there who didn't watch, the highlights.

Video plays with "O Fortuna" playing over

Todd (VO): You know what isn't awesome about this? Nothing. Not a goddamn thing.

Should I be censoring this? I feel like I should. Ah, too much effort.

Todd: Unfortunately, there's also a song that comes with the video...

Todd (VO): ...which we do have to talk about. And also unfortunately, it's a little hard to talk about. Now, [clip of...] "#selfie", that was different. It had more ambition than your average techno song. It wanted to do more than just make you get up and dance. It ended up doing a lot less than that, but you can tell it was trying, what with the possessing actual words and everything.

Todd: "Turn Down for What" is the exact opposite because it is not about anything.

Todd (VO): It's just pure aggro screaming and noise. Not only does this not deserve analysis, it might not even be analyzable. Before I heard it, people were telling me it was the stupidest song that ever existed, if you could even call it a song, and I agree. I have very rarely in my life heard anything dumber than this.

Todd: [pause] I kinda like it.

Todd (VO): Swerve! Yeah, you heard me, I kinda enjoy it, I do. Not my favorite thing ever or anything, but at the very least, I get it in a way I don't usually get techno. Why is that? I think a good part of it is that it reintroduces us to someone...

Todd: ...the pop world has badly missed.

Clip of Usher ft. Ludacris and Lil Jon - "Yeah!"
Lil Jon: Yeah! OK!

Todd: Oh, friend, it's been too long.

Lil Jon: Turn down for what!

Todd (VO): Yes, folks, the triumphant return of the original king of crunk—Lil Jon. [Clip of "Get Low"] You know, I'll admit, when he first came out ten years ago, it took me a little bit to get into the guy. I mean, he was so loud and gross.

Todd: I didn't get it at first. At first, I was like, "WHAT?!" But then I was like, "OKAY!" And then I was like, "YEAH!"

Todd (VO): That- that first big hit, "Get Low" was monstrous. I mean it, they literally sounded like monsters. That song is disgusting, reprehensible even, that's what made it so great.

Todd: But it was hard to find Lil Jon edgy and dangerous for very long.

Clip of Nivea - "Okay"

Todd (VO): Pretty quickly, he started seeming fun and cuddly, like a kids' show host or a crazy uncle. And obviously, a lot of his softer image [clip of...] was the result of the famous Dave Chappelle skit.

Lil Jon (Chappelle): [to ticket lady] WHAT?! WHAT?!

Todd (VO): We all saw it and we laughed, but then we were all, like, "hey, wait...

Todd: "...that is all he says."

'Clip of "What You Gon'do"
Lil Jon: What! What!

Todd (VO): Once we realized that, we were all kinda like, "well, wait a second. Why do we have him around in the first place? The guy isn't even a rapper; he's a guy who shouts one of his many catchphrases, like [pics of...] Steve Urkel crossed with Animal from the Muppets."

Todd: "Do we really need a guy who only shouts three words?"

Clips of "Snap Yo Fingers"...

Todd (VO): And so, Lil Jon's magical goblet seemed to run low pretty quickly, even as he tried to introduce new and better catchphrases.

Lil Jon: Snap yo fingers
..."Let's Go"...
Lil Jon: Let's go
Lil Jon: Girlfight!

Todd (VO): Most of them didn't really catch on.

...and Pitbull's...
Lil Jon: WHAT?!

Todd (VO): Especially that one. [Clips of Jay Sean - "Do You Remember?"...] But even without chart success, he left such an impression that we all eventually realized we couldn't really just let him fade away. [...and LMFAO - "Shots"] So Lil Jon just managed to stick around in the margins waiting for the day he would have his big comeback.

Todd: And now, here it is, YEAH!

Video for...
Lil Jon: Turn down for what

Todd (VO): But Lil Jon is only half of the song. The other half is French producer [picture of...] DJ Snake, a rising star of a new genre called...

Todd: ...trap music.

Clip of Young Jeezy ft. Akon - "Soul Survivor"

Todd (VO): Now, trap music was originally the name of a hip-hop style of mostly Southern rappers who wanted to take all the bling and wealth and bejeweled goblets out of rap music and bring it back to the down-and-dirty street level. [clip of EDM live performance ] And in the past year or so, it spawned a new, aggressive EDM genre, I assume based off the logic that the beats of these songs were so good, they didn't even need rappers.

Todd: I'm not sure I agree with that, but hey, [brief clip of...] no song was ever damned by having less Rick Ross.

Todd (VO): Now, at this point, the two genres have basically nothing to do with each other anymore, but confusingly, they still have the same name.

Todd: So I guess you could presumably download a trap music mix tape expecting to hear TI or Young Jeezy, and instead find out...

Clip from Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi
Admiral Ackbar: It's a trap!

Todd: Hah!

Todd (VO): Now you may think you've never listened to any trap EDM, but in fact, you probably have. Trap music had its first major hit last year, and that would of course [clip of Baauer's...] be the baffling, unexplained phenomenon that was "Harlem Shake". So between this and "Turn Down for What", trap EDM will probably go down in history as the genre mostly known for deranged, uncontrolled humping.

Baauer: Harlem shake

Todd (VO): Now I didn't get the big deal about "Harlem Shake" at all, but even though "Turn Down for What" is not that different musically, I do kind of feel this one. And the difference for me, at least, is obviously Lil Jon.

Lil Jon: Turn down for what

Todd: I may not understand techno, but I do understand Lil Jon.

Lil Jon: Fire up your loud
Another round of shots
Fire up your loud
Another round of shots

Todd (VO): And when I say I understand Lil Jon, I mean on a deep, primal level, you know.

Todd: I mean I don't understand Lil Jon.

Lil Jon: Fire up that loud
Another round of shots
Turn down for what

Todd (VO): What the hell does "turn down for what" even mean? You...you need a reason to turn it down?

Todd: I'll tell you what, I can think of many reasons to turn this down, especially at [looking up] two in the morning! [pause] It's these college kids that live upstairs.

Lil Jon: Fire up your loud (BAAAAAA DABLAAAOOOWWW)
Another round of shots (ZUWACHAWADA SHOTS!!)

Todd (VO): How can this be so hard to decipher? 'Cause this is it. That's all the words. All the lyrics. There's no more.

Todd: The song has, like, maybe ten words. I should be able to understand at least half of them.

Lil Jon: Turn down for what

Todd (VO): I get that there are basically two lines, both of them end with one of Lil Jon's catchphrases.

Lil Jon: Shots
Brief clip of LMFAO - "Shots", intercut with YoungBloodZ - "Damn!"
Lil Jon: Shots, shots, shots, shots, shots
Shots, shots, shots, shots, shots, shots

Todd: But beyond that, I'm lost.

Lil Jon: Fire up your loud
Another round of shots
Turn down for what

Todd: Okay, that's what he's saying. That...

Todd (VO): ...only makes slightly more sense. You know what? Just for fun,...

Todd: ...let's see if we'd lose anything at all if we take out all of Lil Jon's parts and then replace them with [picture of...] the Tasmanian Devil.

Song plays under repeated clip from Bedevilled Rabbit, with Taz blabbering. Ends with end of opening credits of Taz-Mania, with Taz blowing out his tongue. Back to video

I think this is more understandable, actually. Another round of shots, but no water 'cause [clip from Taz-Mania] TAZ HATE WATER!

Lil Jon: Turn down for what

Todd (VO): Okay, I just looked it up, and I do understand what "turn down for what" means now.

Todd: Okay, so getting [pic reading...] "turnt up" means to get crazy and drunk, or "crunk," as we used to say in Lil Jon's day. So naturally...

Todd (VO): ..."turning down" would be to do the opposite, and become [motivational poster reading "keep calm and sober up"] less crazy and drunk, or...

Todd: ..."uncrunk."

Todd (VO): So "turn down for what" roughly translates to...

Todd: [haughtily] "For what possible reason would I dare heed your suggestion that I enjoy my revelry any less than I am currently so doing?! What a ridiculous notion, sir. Off with you now, before I...

Todd (VO): ...smash you with my groin."

Lil Jon: Turn down for what

Todd (VO): I'm not even sure who he's talking to. Lil Jon never seemed beset with critics or haters. I mean, he's certainly aggressive, but he's not fighting anything or anyone, 'cause he just plods through the world like an uncontrollable crunknado.

Todd: Who the hell would actually tell him to party less? No one's that dumb.

Todd (VO): So that's about as much description for "Turn Down for What" as I can muster. There's not much to say about it. It goes up and it goes down, the way techno songs do, and that's their idea of stretching out two synth riffs for a single song. I'm not sure it bears listening to for more than a minute, which, to be fair, [clip of...] is about fifty seconds longer than I can listen to "Harlem Shake".

Todd: So with all that in mind, how can I justify not hating this song? Well, I get it.

Todd (VO): I like that it's in your face. I only have a very limited frame of reference because I don't listen to enough techno, but I get this.

Todd: This isn't EDM, it's drum and bass.

Clip of The Prodigy - "Smack My Bitch Up"
Keith Flint: Smack my bitch up

Todd (VO): It's the "Smack My Bitch Up" of 2014, and there's nothing wrong with that. [Clip of performance at Coachella] EDM is supposed to be exciting, but I just don't feel that most of the time. It all sounds like the same cliched synth lines and drops and beats. But this? This is a breath of fresh air.

Lil Jon: Turn down for what

Todd: In the sense that being punched in the face is a breath of fresh air. And even though the video doesn't have Lil Jon in it, it gets across the idea of Lil Jon better than anything else ever has. He's just an unstoppable force rampaging through the world without a care for the destruction he leaves in his wake, like a demented hip-hop Kool-Aid Man.

Clip of Kool-Aid commercial
Kool-Aid Man: [bursting through fence, Lil Jon's voice] YEAH!

Todd: So yeah, I like it because...

Todd (VO): ...it's aggressive, in your face, and it doesn't bore me. DJ Snake says one of his influences is [brief clip of live performance by...] Metallica, and if this is the closest thing to metal we're gonna get nowadays, I'll take it. I can't imagine how you'd dance to this, but I do get how you could mosh to it; it's music to headbang to.

Todd: And so what if it has less words than...

Todd (VO): ...most songs have in their opening line. You like James Brown, right?

Todd: The answer is yes, you like James Brown. Well, could you honestly say that you...

Clip of James Brown performance

Todd (VO): ...really understood what the heck he was saying?

James Brown: Too funky in here
Gimme some air

Todd (VO): No, it doesn't matter. It's about the groove—either you feel it, or you don't. And I feel this. No, it's not something I'd want to listen to on a regular basis. But when our alternatives are John Legend or Calvin Harris, hell yes, I'll take this. Give me something with some energy. I wanna melt some faces right now! Come on, everybody, sing it with me.


Todd thrusts his groin into the piano, and doubles over in pain. He limps away.

Video ends

Closing tag song: Macklemore & Ryan Lewis ft. Wanz - "Thrift Shop"

"Turn Down the What" is owned by Columbia Records
This video is owned by me

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