I Think About This a Lot is a series dedicated to private memes: images, videos, and other random trivia we are doomed to play forever on loop in our minds.
Let me start by saying: I love Pitbull.
For years, I forced myself to listen to sad, boring music — made by despondent men in beards and sweaters who have probably never popped a bottle of Crystal or partied on a yacht in Miami in their lives — because that’s what all the guys I wanted to make out with listened to. I can now confidently say those were years wasted. Pitbull’s music fills me with a fizzy, delirious delight. His songs sound like cotton-candy flavored vodka tastes — a nauseating, technicolor flashback to when you were young and dumb and full of hope and probably nursing a nasty belly ring infection. Dale!
Because Pitbull’s music fills me with such pure, unadulterated joy, it saddens me that the song of his I find myself thinking about more than any other is one that causes me so much angst. It’s one that rears its bald, indoor-sunglass-wearing, soul-patched head in the dark of night, while I am tucked away in my bed, taking stock of all of my fears and shortcomings. It is his 2014 collaboration with Ne-Yo, “Time of Our Lives” — specifically, the first 15 seconds.
If you’re not really paying attention — which most people aren’t when they listen to Mr. Worldwide’s songs, usually because they’re at a club, or pregaming a sorority formal — it sounds like any other bop. Ne-Yo trills his falsettos, there’s a vertiginous drop, Pitbull rasps some lines about a “freaky girl,” rinse and repeat. It has everything I want in a song, and yet every time I try to listen to it, the opening lines stop me in my tracks.
“I knew my rent was gon’ be late about a week ago / I work my ass off, but I still can’t pay it though / But I got just enough / To get off in this club / Have me a good time / Before my time is up / Hey, let’s get it now.”
Ne-Yo sings these lyrics with a cheery insouciance, but without fail, they cause me to panic. I worry for the unnamed protagonist who seems to be making a profoundly irresponsible financial decision. What happens the day after they “get off” in the “club”? Where will they live if they can’t pay their rent? What does it say about our barbaric economy that even people working their asses off are still struggling to make ends meet? And why do I have a tension headache before the chorus has even started?
A few weeks ago, I started asking my friends if they were similarly concerned by these lyrics, and while they all agreed that the song was a banger, to my dismay, no one seemed to have noticed the ill-advised financial decisions being made in the opening lines. Desperate for affirmation, I turned to my peers in the YouTube comment section under the “Pitbull - Time of Our Lives (Lyric) ft. Ne-Yo” video, and found that I was not alone.
“2 rich guys telling us not to pay our rent,” said Therese.
“Worst financial advise [sic] ever,” remarked bigdigvig.
“THUMBS UP IF YOU TURNED UP THE VOLUME!!!” wrote Anthony.
I appreciated Anthony’s enthusiasm, and I had, in fact, turned up the volume, because financial tips aside, this song is a delight. But like Therese and bigdigvig, the kind of devil-may-care attitude Mr. Worldwide and Ne-Yo seemed to be espousing gave me pause. But someone named Amir had yet another take.
“People nowadays expect every song to have a message,” he wrote. “No, these type of songs just make you feel better and puts you in a better mood. You want messages/morals go listen to something else or read Shakespeare lol. Not everything in life has to be serious, or we won’t be happy or have fun.”
Amir made a great point. Pitbull’s discography does put me in a better mood, and that should be enough. I shouldn’t also expect it to dole out valuable life advice. Still, in my quiet, vulnerable moments, I notice those lyrics floating menacingly through my head and worry, — because I am the person getting off in the club even though my rent is going to be late.
I try to be frugal and responsible. I eat in, I wear my shoes and bras until they dissolve into dust on my body, I set aside money in my savings account. But once in a while, usually at a bar, usually after two and a half cocktails, I too decide to get off (spend too much money) in this club (a Brooklyn dive bar full of people in oversize denim jackets). I buy round after round of drinks for friends and strangers, I call single-person Ubers and Seamless, I consume horrendous amounts of cheese and fried carbs and then decide it’s time to buy a statement blazer online.
The next day, scrolling blearily through my bank account and realizing I transferred $100 out of my savings account at 2 a.m. so I could get a DNA testing kit for my dog, I hear Ne-Yo’s voice. I hear it when I try to make a budget for myself, and know that, as careful and conservative as I might be in my planning, I can’t account for the times, after a trying day of work, when my checking account is already skin and bones, I convince myself that a fancy top will solve all of my earthly problems. I hear it when I read people’s money diaries, and when I wonder whether I will ever be able to afford an apartment without roommates. And I hear it the most when I find myself worrying about these things, and then texting a friend to go out anyway. Hey, let’s get it now.