what’s the bizness?

Thanks to the excellent soundtrack on the terrible-yet-entertaining steamy college drama Tell Me Lies, I’ve been reminded of the weird, magical power (or “Powa”) of tUnE-yArDs. 

Though “Powa” is captivating in its own right for its mix of ukulele and guitar paired with eclectic and distinct vocals, “Biznizz” makes me jam and move so hard that I almost understand why people like Phish.   

It’s the rhythm and sound that make this one stick in my brain, but the lyrics are worth noting if you can understand what they’re saying between the soulful yelps and sing-song chants.

If I represent the one that did this to you
Then cut away the parts that represent the thing that scar you
I say get up stand up get up stand up get on with
Yes I am no longer who you thought this one would be

The song opens with a fun little loop-de-loop leading into loud vocals that immediately address a wound in some past relationship. TL;DR – the speaker wants this person to get the f*ck over it.  

Confronting the conflict at hand through these direct words that match the chaotic musical energy, everyone’s clearly working through something in this one. Each element of the song works together to underpin that feeling of tension, and power dynamic, between two people. After the speaker asks how they can get through this insurmountable hurdle (“I saw every bit of business that business could work through/I said ‘Ask me’ but oh, my wisdom departed”), we get the impression they are tired of being weighed against the past.

Early on, the call on us to “get up stand up get up stand up” mirrors the vigor of the beat. It leads to the central question of the song, the earworm on repeat: “What’s the business, yeah?”

Listening activity: Jiggle those arms and move those feet when the horns kick in. Play it loud. Maybe even scream.

Though it initially seems like the speaker is over it, we get the sense they are too engulfed in the current passionate circumstance to really let go:

I said (Ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh) I'll bleed if you ask me
(Ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh) I'll bleed if you ask me
That's when, that's when he said "No"!

Too addicted or too much a victim of love to be ready to fully split, in the end they assert: “Don’t take my life away don’t take my life away/ I’m addicted, yeah.”

Starting from the top, Merrill Garbus’s unmatchable looping vocals paired with the kick drum are convincing enough to light a fire under your ass, but it’s the horns after the 3:30 mark that really cast a spell over me. I can’t help raise my arms in the air like a fool on the street whenever I hear it. When that musical breakdown takes over, prepare to get fully lost in the sauce.

P.S. This video is iconically weird. A must watch.

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