Track Review: Elon Musk “Don’t Doubt ur Vibe” – SG Phillips
May 10, 2020
“What a piece of work is a man, and how easily conscience betrays him. He listens to the voice of duty- and what he hears is the license of passion.”
-Thomas Mann, The Magic Mountain
Introduction and Epoché
A proper Phenomenological account must be taken of Elon Musk’s seminal hit “Don’t Doubt ur Vibe,” one that factors in the single’s being-in-the-world, that shows its resonance as an object of and for consciousness.
First, some clearing away: the default view taken of Musk often correlates with economic class: The working class see him as a genius guiding mankind, the bourgeoisie as a testament to hard work, the bohemian bourgeoisie as a rich moron wasting Earth’s resources on vanity projects, and the upper class as their estranged neighbor. The interpretation of his music correlates identically, and the temptation to see him through the perspective of one’s own economic shackles must be thoroughly bracketed hereon if we want to truly engage with “Don’t Doubt ur Vibe”; if we desire even a glimpse at the prismatic significations it hosts for the listener. The following analysis is a tripartite one: Lyrical, Compositional, and finally, Aural/Temporal. For the sake of clarity each section can be considered independent of the other two unless deemed absolutely necessary.
“Don’t Doubt ur Vibe” first appears as a life-affirming work, but upon further listens we find it inspires an almost hypnagogic state: the lyrics are in fact a mantra, our being is taken hold of by Musk in order for us to not doubt our vibe, and we are subject to all the sinister implications his demands may have in the future. Furthermore, we are taken hold of in a manner that gives us the calm confidence men such as him exude, and this is very serious; we are given it without the web of relations that shape his life, that have enabled his success. We are a child with a gun. Great art, truly great art, should be treated with utmost respect, approached with caution, and only truly ceded to when necessary for further investigation, with knowledge of the consequences.
It is clear that Musk’s relationship with Grimes played a significant role in the composition of “Don’t Doubt ur Vibe”: Grimes’ breakthrough album featured similar whisper-thin vocal delivery and an improvised, on the spot compositional method. It has an almost flippant feel, a flippant “vibe” if you will. In this manner it is reminiscent of a work by likes of de Montesquieu rather than the product of a possessive, soul searing task; the latter being the method writers like Bukowski invoke in their creative process. It offers a return to Poetry as plaything, to dandyism. One wonders if he will launch the OP-8 on which he likely composed this into space, alongside his next Tesla or Tesla Truck.
All music is experienced temporally. It is through time that music reveals itself to us when we listen, but it is through time that the entire piece of music affects us, our memory of it requires further silence to establish space between us and the piece to absorb, to contextualize. The clearest everyday examples of this phenomena can seen in heartbreak: a previously ignored or hated composition can authentically propriate after a breakup regardless of previous attitudes held, it leaves its impression on the listener and changes the rift-design of their entire foregrounded artifice.
As mentioned previously: “Don’t Doubt ur Vibe” is a return to poetry as plaything, it flashes brilliantly to its composer and is then abandoned for other creative tasks, returned to later for inspiration and abandoned again. Regardless of the status of the subject, be they artist or listener, each re-engagement both reveals the composition temporally and the subject’s own embedded, perspectival temporality.
Removal of Epoché
The analysis is now complete, and each bracket may be removed so that the song may truly reveal itself to us, let us listen again.
Oh my god, this is awful, an aural abomination. I only listened to half of it, once, before writing this, and it’s miraculous I could wring this many words out of the most bracketed, hyper-focused reading of my memory of it. What an absolute mess. I still cannot finish it-
So now we can see the entire piece for itself, and the subject for themselves as they experience it: The listening subject now believes that all object oriented ontologies should be illegal, the inspiration for their joke has since faded into nothingness, and gnaws at their confidence in this review which is nihilating itself, is about to be highlighted and deleted and forgotten, its rift-design veiled again, the subject thankful to fall back into the world of Das Man and more hesitant to leave it than ever before.
Heidegger, Martin. Basic Writings, “On the Origin of the Work of Art.” 1st Harper Perennial Modern Thought Edition., ed. David Farrell Krell (New York: HarperCollins, 2008).
Heidegger, Martin. Basic Writings, “The Way to Language.” 1st Harper Perennial Modern Thought Edition., ed. David Farrell Krell (New York: HarperCollins, 2008).
Heidegger, Martin (2008). Being and Time. New York: HarperPerennial.
Merleau-Ponty, Maurice (2014). Phenomenology of Perception. Milton Park: Routledge