365 DotU, Day 115 Would Like To Know If It Grooves You

Welcome to Nina Simone, part 2!

One of the reasons I like today’s song, “Do I Move You” (in addition to the way it works out as a sort of play among musicians and audience sometimes — it’s fun!) is the tensions on which it depends. It looks for consent while at the same time playfully threatening…something in its absence. It has the potential, in the hands of a certain kind of singer and arranger, to read as extremely threatening. Yet it is ultimately grounded in a sort of uncertainty and a desire for enthusiastic participation. I know you feel a certain way about me, the singer seems to say, and I wish you’d just admit it and run with it already. “If you like it, let me know it,” the last verse pleads, “don’t be psychic, or else you’ll blow it.”

It’s especially interesting to imagine how this song toys with masculine and feminine socialization with regard to sex and consent. This song lives in that sexual dynamic, and it explores it. How can I enlist your consent if you aren’t supposed to consent, even if you want to? How can I assert my own desires in a context in which that assertion is contested and weird and sometimes socially and/or physically and/or emotionally risky for everyone involved? The meaning of that interaction is subtly different when a masculine voice sings rather than a feminine one — the “place” of the singer in that complicated sexual dynamic changes both the nature of the plea and the nature of the implied “threat.”

This song also lives in a kind of relationship space that I suspect many of us find familiar — that place where communication is just on the edge of clarity but hasn’t quite gotten there yet. The vibe is there between us, but for some reason we aren’t clear to each other. We’ve invested something in this relationship, but are uncertain of the likelihood of the desired return on that investment. The song makes a sort of command or a threat — “The answer better be yes” — but in context, that command (the threat) can be read as a plea as well. If the answer isn’t yes, the singer seems to be saying, then I’m at a loss, because every signal I’m getting from you says it should be.

So, tl;dr — in the words of the famous Facebook relationship status update, It’s Complicated. :)

I went with the acoustic guitar on this, but I think I want to try it someday using the electric guitar and some vibey effects. It’s just a sexy, sexy little song. I’m not really much of a jazz or blues guitarist, so part of the lesson of this song for me was just learning to rock those chords that way. Whee!

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About L. M. Bernhardt

For a good long while (15 years or so), I taught philosophy at a little private university in northwest IA, and occasionally branched out into playing music, dabbling in photography, experimenting with food, and writing nonsense on my blog. The philosophy teaching part ended in 2017 (program elimination via prioritization), but never fear! I've just finished my MLIS at San Jose State University, and I'm currently on the market looking for new adventures in either philosophy or LIS. Otherwise, I labor to support my dogs in the lavish manner to which they've become accustomed.
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