Do you ever sing a song at the top of your lungs because you relate to it so well? Perhaps you could not bring yourself to articulate exactly how you feel on a matter or on what you’re thinking, but once you hear lyrics that explain it you can’t stop singing them. Maybe instead of singing loudly, you rewind the track over and over again to hear that one bar that caught your ear and your heart. Maybe it is the whole song that just “gets you.” Don’t make fun of me or try to envision this too hard, but I used to sing Trey Songz’s “Heart Attack” so loud that my mom would come and check on me. What was that line I would rewind? Oh yeah, “Never knew love would hurt this bad The worst pain that I ever had." Eighth grade was not my year. I liked that song though. I could connect to it. When I would sing it out loud it would make me feel good for some reason.
Trey Songz is an extremely gifted R&B singer. His voice is soulful and his range is effortless. When listening to his music, it is easy to find relatable songs about love, sex and heartbreak. However, with systemic racism in the scorching spotlight of America’s reality yet again, black artists are challenged to find a way to express their emotions on this issue knowing the weight of their platform. Some have explained how they feel by talking about it in a video or by posting supportive pictures on social media. Some are on the frontlines yelling alongside protesters as we speak. As for Songz? He just dropped an anthem for the Black Lives Matter movement: “2020 Riots: How Many Times."
Organ-style instrumentals play behind Songz polished vocals as he sings woefully about the injustices taking place in America. Gospel-sound background vocals give listeners a black southern church vibe, an approach we have not experienced from Trey Songz before. This is certainly not the first time that people have rioted and protested about the killing of unarmed black people, so empathizing with Songz while listening is not at all difficult. People of all skin colors are asking “How many times?” I found that the powerful part of Songz. Referencing the different examples of these killings in the song was how easy it was putting a name and a face to the lyrics alone. This verifies the progress of the movement in remembering the names and faces of the people who have suffered these wrongdoings. Taking a step into the controversial debate over the riots, he sings: “You talking ‘bout the city on fire/ Where your rage when my people die?” He emphasizes the shallowness of people complaining about rioting, yet remaining quiet when black people are being senselessly killed.
Musically, this song articulates the fears, exhaustion and overall pain that black people all over the world are feeling. Whether you scream this song from the rooftops or you hum it in your head. Whether you rewind it five times, or you are good with one listen. Remember that this is the worst pain many have ever had. I think that this song is a shining light on Songz’s versatility as an artist and a successful contribution to a rich history of musical artists using their talents and platforms to support what they believe in. Songz has been sharing videos on Instagram of people thanking him for putting this healing track out there. I would not be surprised if this drop inspires other artists to create music targeting this issue. Knowing that we are all in this together brings hope and encouragement that change will come in the midst of tragedy.