Cee-Lo Green’s “Forget You,” An Existential Mandate

From Wikipedia

Forget You – Cee-Lo Green’s catchy tune, submerges the listener in a refreshing pool of motown bliss. That is evident. But what the Top 40 charts cannot disguise is the central cry of the song.

It is a call to exercise our full power of volition, to cast off social attachments, to harness the will to power and will to truth through the will to good music and literally forget anything that would stand in our path to authenticity.

The song itself speaks of a girl who will have nothing to do with the singer because the singer is not rich. The singer is not powerful. The singer is not famous. By now, the singer is probably all three of those things, but the message remains. There is an obstacle, and what the singer proposes to do to over come it is literally, to forget it.

Can there be a harsher insult, than to act and live as though the problem never existed. The entirety of the work of Albert Camus’ “The Myth of Sisyphus” could be examined in this light, where the existential hero must not only push existence up the hill forever, only to have it rolled down again, but he must push forever even forgetfulness of existence up the hill, even though life constantly gives us reminders that the great boulder is there, maybe in the form of the aforementioned ex calling to get her stuff back.

But no! We forget her.

Camus is not the only existential writer who has something to say in this matter. Miguel de Unamuno, the famed Spanish existentialist, has written in “Abel Sanchez” of the theme of envy, taking on the classic story of Cain and Abel, and the Cain character in the book finally dies bitterly, and it is a bitterness that comes as a result of not being able to forget the death of the brother who had it all. Unamuno’s Cain could not forget the object of his envy.

From Wikipedia

Thus it is that Cee-Lo Green tackles Unamuno’s existential dilema with the harsh, at once destructive and creative words: Forget you!

That is the cure the singer of Cee-Lo Green’s song proposes when he cannot overcome his competitor, the Xbox to his Atari, because the other guy has more money.

Consider also the play “No Exit” by Jean-Paul Sarte. A group of dead people are in a room which is hell. It is the very presence of other people, people judging other people, that makes hell what it is. The only relief any characters experience is in forgetfulness, as in when the dead people realize that the living have forgotten them. Yet the people in hell are not able to forget those they are with. They do not have the strength, the Nietzschean power of will, to do what the singer does when confronted with his gold digging ex: to Forget You!

To those familiar with the so-called uncensored version of the song, which switches a different “F” You for the one discussed above. Yet a clear-headed examination, as done above is that the words “Forget You” merit more censorship than the other. In one, mere contempt is expressed, in the other, a call for existential prowess deserving of the Übermensch. It is a message that one would do well not to forget.

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One response to “Cee-Lo Green’s “Forget You,” An Existential Mandate

  • Torn Halves

    Hey, this is a great start. Will there be any more? I hope so.

    If you are still around to moderate this, let me give you something to argue against. You are trying to say that some pop embodies the spirit of Camus, and you pick up on parts of a couple of lyrics. Surely, though, if we stand back from the trees and take a look at the wood for a while, we see that the function of pop is to accommodate – to re-integrate fellings of opposition so that they no longer threaten the great industrial and commercial machine. Camus is a rebel for whom not only this world but all worlds are essentially mad, and the only way to preserve our sanity is by seeing through their madness – by keeping our distance – an activity which requires the utmost sobriety. Pop does the opposite. It acknowledges that this world (at least) is crazy, and insists: “F*ck it! Let’s drink. Let’s dance. Let’s forget.” It is understood, though, that this should happen on the dancefloor, after the factory has shut, and for a few hours either side of midnight, and then we will have breakfast, we will sober up, and go back to being dutiful cogs in the machine. If there is one reason why the Arab Spring of 2011 did not spread to Europe, it is pop.

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