I have a confession to make: I, Glenn Jackson, am a music critic. (Sure that term is a little outdated, but I much prefer it to “blogger,” so let’s stick with it for now.) As such, one might imagine that I have some sort of “superior” musical taste or an innate sense of what constitutes “good” and “bad” music. This, I’m afraid to say, is certainly not the case, and quite frankly, never has been. As a music critic, I am required to, well, critically think about music—compare and contrast records to what has come before them and consider the context in which the music exists—but I am still just as susceptible to the allure of catchy hooks, romantic syllables, guilty pleasures, and all that jazz as much as anyone else. So now, in an attempt to put “all the cards on the table” so to speak, I will begin digging through the more embarrassing points of my musical past—particularly the years in which a bespectacled, pizza-faced Glenn bounced through the halls of one Southern California high school (for the sake of specificity, we’re talking the summer of 2000 through the summer of 2004). For my first trip back, I’ve decided to take a fresh look at Nelly’s 2002 hit “Hot in Herre,” a hip-hop anthem which proved inescapable for many years following its release.
Before we even get into the music, I’d like to quickly point out the spelling of “Herre” in the song’s title. I am no grammar perfectionist, but REALLY, what were they thinking? First of all, over and over again throughout this song he says “Here” with a long “U” in the middle—as in “Hurr.” It’s hot in H-U-R-R. Now that seems like a much more appropriate spelling to me. C’mon Nelly, get it together man!
Moving on… I can no doubt see the appeal of “Hot in Herre.” Its not-so-subtle, sex-charged agenda is just the kind of thing teenagers revel in—it presents a chance for them to safely indulge in their own hormonal urges, but keeps things simple enough (and by the books enough in terms of gender roles) for them to understand exactly what’s going on. As far as innuendo goes, we’re entirely operating on an amateur level—every teenage boy knows that clothes coming off is a good thing, and fortunately for them, Nelly feels no shame in repeating the ”It’s getting hot in here, so take off all your clothes” chorus refrain over and over again. At the time, these lyrics seemed acceptable enough to me, but with over a decade of space, they are not only unmistakably simple (especially when one considers the female reply of the chorus, “I am getting so hot, I want to take my clothes off”), but they are also just plain LAZY. Of course, much of pop has been stuck in a similar rut for, well, ever, but I was blissfully unaware of this then.
Still, there is something undeniably appealing about this song. Fashioned by The Neptunes (a production duo who could really do no wrong in the early aughts) the beat has an undeniable groove—low swung, it hits on a peculiar progression that is soulful, sure, but also a bit unsettling, perhaps because it feels like it never entirely resolves. For how lazy the lyrical content of the chorus is, the melody is actually rather nice. On paper, it seems like it shouldn’t work, but it just does—and it’s just so catchy, you’re almost a robot if you don’t sing along.
So there you have it, one man taking entirely too long to analyze a song by Nelly, of all people. Still, when a party gets too hot and sticky, it’s hard to hate on a DJ with the guts and state of mind to throw down a few minutes of “Hot in Herre.” I hate to admit it, but there are moments when this song might just be too perfect. Well played Nelly, well played.
Those interested in further research are advised to head here…
Words by Glenn Jackson