I know a woman who "feels" words. To her, some words are ugly to the point of discomfort. Others are beautiful. Not coincidentally, she is verbally gifted. It made me wonder if genius can be defined by the degree to which something intellectual can be felt as a physical experience.

For example, most people feel something when they listen to music. But I suspect gifted musicians feel it in an entirely different way than I do. I could never memorize all the notes in a song because for me it would be an exercise in rote memorization. For someone gifted in music, memorizing a song is easier because such a person would remember how each part felt. Feelings create memories more easily than intellectual experiences. The stronger the feeling, the easier the memory.

Most of the people reading this blog are gifted in one way or another. Think about the field in which you excel the most, then ask yourself if you operate by feel more in that area than in others.

I was thinking of this the other day when I heard a new song by Kanye West, called Love Lockdown. I have never been a big fan of his music. I thought he was a bit of a manufactured celebrity. That changed when I heard this song, after I confirmed that he wrote it. The performance itself is brilliant in about five different ways. I especially like the heartbeat-beat. Perhaps he had help with the music and performance parts of the song. But the words: Genius.

Now I realize I am going to get lots of howls about this post. If you don't like this genre of music, fine. But try to suspend that for a minute to listen to the song then look at the lyrics, in that order. (Links below.)

The genius of the lyrics is how they feel as words themselves, second as a flow, and third for their meaning. In my opinion, this is the work of genius.





Rank Up Rank Down Votes:  +3
  • Print
  • Share


Sort By:
Sep 14, 2009
kanye is not so popular at the moment though!
Dec 14, 2008
Dec 14, 2008
Scott - you're not the first comedian to say Kanye is a genius - but the first with a straight face. That's a straight face right?
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Dec 4, 2008
Hey Scott,

When you first posted this entry, I thought "I like Kanye, but I haven't heard this song. I'll have to give it a try." Then, I gave the song a listen (and the benefit of the doubt) and ultimately decided that you were just taking us all for a ride.

Nevertheless, here I am a month later, discovering a different song by Kanye, and I can't help but think all of the same things about that song that you first mentioned about this one. Everything I didn't see in "Love Lockdown" I see in "Flashing Lights": the words themselves, their flow, their meaning - you name it. It all screams "Genius!"

Give it a look and a listen: http://www.mtvmusic.com/west_kanye/videos/209370/flashing_lights.jhtml

And while we're on the subject of posts embarrassingly old to be commenting on, I should point out to you an ad by Samsung in this week's Economist. It advertises tongue-in-cheek a product "available in the near future" - a product that looks exactly like the PDA-with-a-readable-pull-out-flex-screen that you described and drew for us several months back. Maybe someone over at Samsung R&D is among the faithful?

All the best.
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Nov 22, 2008
What I find really irritating about the song is the random clapping in the chorus. What's that about??
Nov 16, 2008
Catchy tune from Kanye alright but if you're looking for real genius then point your thing in this direction

Nov 14, 2008
I assigned personality to numbers when I was in grade school.

1 is male, simple, stands straight. Not very subtle, and easily manipulated.

2 is female, curvy in a sophisticated way, and very cooperative. She can be added or multiplied with ease; dividing is a little trickier, as she doesn't like to be pulling large number families apart.

3 is young (a child), and misbehaves a lot. She's kind of a jerk. She makes fun of you for being stupid when you try to involve her in any math, but especially multiplication. When you learn her tricks, she's easier to manipulate.

4 is male, in his '20's, friendly and cooperative.

5 is of male, of ambiguous gender role, but he quite cooperative at both multiplying and dividing, because of his special relationship with 10 and 2 (10 basically has the same personality as 1).

6 is female, and a mother (doesn't she look pregnant?). As a matter of fact, she's 3's mother. She's helpful in her way, and tries to make it easier to deal with 3.

7 is male, and VERY uncooperative. I think he's like a spy: hard to figure out, hard to manipulate, and of uncertain loyalties.

8 is female, hot, and hard to handle. She doesn't see the need to cooperate because she's so good looking. I like her a lot, but wish sometimes she were a little easier to deal with.

9 is male, always staring at you with that big eye of his. He's very intimidating, but his poor social skills are because he's misunderstood, rather than evil (as he first seems to be). After you get to know him, he's a rewarding friend.

0 is, even in my head, just a place holder.

I went into physics, by the way....
Nov 13, 2008

The reason I couldn't hear the song was cause I was at office and didn't want my colleagues to get jiggy, you know ....

For a complete understanding of the point Scott was making I should have listened to the son but I wasn't off the mark by a huge extent. He uses the word genius for words only. "But the words: genius".

Anyway after commenting I got to read Chenlambec's comment and then Icediadem's after which I am convinced as much as I can be ( I am never 100% convinced) that this is an example of dance monkey dance.

Thanks, Chenlambec and Icediadem.

0 Rank Up Rank Down
Nov 13, 2008
wow there is a lot of hatred towards kanye west in these comments. For the record Scott I do like this song and although I don't know if I see the genius in the lyrics, I appreciate what you see in it.
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Nov 13, 2008
First thing you need to do, before telling someone they are wrong, is to follow the steps that they followed to come to that conclusion. You just looked at the lyrics, when Scott clearly asked you to listen to the music first, then read the lyrics. Unless you have done that, you have no right to tell him he is wrong.

Keeping that in mind, I did follow those steps, and I really do not see the "genius" in this song or its creator. The beat had no feeling to it, the lyrics were repetitive, and the voice was mostly monotone. Unless the genius wanted to hypnotize his listeners, this is far from what you are saying it is.

However, Genius is defined differently for different people. Maybe he is a genius to you, but not to me.
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Nov 12, 2008
i bet you missed me :)
me too, but i read the blog from time to time, just dropped reading comments and comment
i wonder where's patti, d. mented, the crazy grandma her handle i forgot and many other guys
but i'm glad that mokkery and jakesdad are still around
congratulations with your voice recovery!
Nov 11, 2008
This song is a terrible example of "genius".

I have only read the lyrics and find them so simplistic that there is nothing worth commenting; except this is the best example of manufactured lyrics. If i were to be mean and disgruntled I'd say this is Obamatime and time for you to discover the inner brother, right :) ha ha

I guess you want to discover some new genius before others do. So I won't mention Eminem, Chuck Berry, "Where have all the cowboys gone", but do check out lyrics of song "All I want is you" By Barry Louis Polisar ( featured in "Juno"). Link -> http://www.stlyrics.com/lyrics/juno/alliwantisyou.htm

Nov 11, 2008
When I was a child, I use to "smell" colors. I still remember what they smelled like to this day, but I don't smell them anymore, and I still don't know what those smells were. I also see days and weeks and months and years and decades, etc... in a strange flow. I've tried to describe it, but I can't. I'm a bit obsessed with time, actually. I'm always comparing hours and minutes and seconds to other things in life, and using that as a springboard to adjust how my mind views the passage of time. It can make a long time go by so quickly.

Some people would call that genius, some would call that freak. I'll let you choose... :)
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Nov 10, 2008

You wondered how physical sensation is intricately interwoven with our intellectual experience: please allow me to open the flood-gate for a minute.

I had been neglecting your blog for the past few weeks, and I need to elucidate how alarmed I was when I happened to choose this moment to catch up. Moments ago, I closed the last chapter of a book about learning methods of the F. M. Alexander Technique -- "Body Learning" by Michael J. Gelb.

I am a musician, studying for my Masters in percussion....I've been playing piano since I was five years old, so naturally, music is one of the most deeply-ingrained activities through which I approach the world. I can't think of very many things (besides walking, reading, and peeing) that have been with me longer than that. I'll tie that in in a moment.

(Let me interject that I have also begun taking private lessons in the Alexander technique, as well as a class at my school....this has been a buildup of thought that didn't just originate from a single book.)

Alexander Technique, briefly, focuses on how we use ourselves, and how our whole body carries the negative neurological imprint of habits we have developed over time and misuse. This ranges from things as simple as standing up from a chair to performing a concerto in front of a thousand people. There are a few great books on the subject, and many incredible teachers -- the important thing to note is that this practice has been increasingly supported by experts in science, philosophy, medicine, neurology and education for more than half a century: it's not some crazy mystic fad.

F.M. Alexander was an actor who found that his ability to perform was affected by habits that had been ingrained into him by subtle misuse of his body -- he would lose his voice when he performed, and through persistent observation of himself in a mirror, he discovered that it had to do with the unconscious physical preparation that the act of speaking triggered in him. Ultimately, through years of work, he discovered that carrying out activities effortlessly requires a release of unnecessary tension in the neck, allowing the head to float freely and the spine to decompress and lengthen. To understand that fully, you might have to take a few lessons -- I definitely had to...it's difficult to describe.

The point of this is that his principle can be applied to the very act of thinking -- to the very approach to everything we do. Since I began studying it, I have applied it to the physical act of playing my instruments, dealing with a bad breakup and subsequently trying to approach girls at bars, as well as writing, speaking, standing, juggling, and teaching class. In the book I mentioned above, Gelb has a couple of chapters about how he applied it to running, swimming, juggling, teaching, public speaking, and becoming a black belt in aikido. It's simple, but often incredibly difficult to put into practice. We get in our own way most of the time, whenever we do anything, and most of the time we have no idea that it is happening and we attribute it to some god-given lack of talent. When we stop ("inhibit") our programmed reactions to things that occur, and give ourselves a moment to consciously choose to perform our activities from this state of poise, balance and relaxation, we can achieve true spontaneity and a deep awareness of what we are ACTUALLY doing.

I applied it to sight-reading music, something that I've been TERRIBLE at, and something that I haven't been able to correct despite 15 years of studying music. Now, when I don't get in my own way (this being the operative criterion), I have found that I can sight-read music previously far too complicated to even attempt, and I can do it without making 'mistakes'. I simply thought I was bad at it -- but when I stopped focusing on the end result and relaxed enough to begin to understand the PROCESS of doing it, I actually frightened myself with how quickly it came to me. How? When I read new music, I focus on the effortless feeling of standing upright with a lengthened spine, a floating head, and feeling no unnecessary tension in any of my body. Then my mind can't be startled by the act of plowing through something unfamiliar, and my fingers, sticks or mallets. When I improvise from this same space, the music is sublime -- a few weeks ago, in our improvisation seminar, I was part of an ensemble that made such beautiful music that the rest of the class was crying when we were done (in the good way).

This takes a lot of work with an Alexander teacher, and a lot of focus and self-observation.....and I'm trying to summarize months of understanding in a single run-on blog comment, so forgive me if this is all a little obtuse.

Also, I don't claim to be a teacher -- I'm merely trying to describe the kinaesthetic sensation that I am now beginning to attach to what I thought was previously unattainable.

I'm not claiming to be a genius -- I am merely trying to say that I believe you hit the nail dead-on, perhaps without even realizing it: I think that genius itself is merely a feeling....perhaps even a kinaesthetic one! And it is something that any of us can achieve.

That feeling of genius is the feeling of performing something effortlessly, without the sensation of "trying", and without the learned psycho-physical compression of our bodies and minds that more often than not stifles our results. The woman you spoke of simply lacks the unconscious tension in her mind that most of us carry when we are dealing with words -- in fact, it is so effortless to her that she is connected with them on a deeper emotional level than many of us are (habitually) capable of imagining. I know artists of all kinds that speak or hint of similar sensations. Just read Cummings, or any of the Romantic poets.

I apologize for the long post....but your post intrigued me to the point where I felt like I would be remiss if I didn't organize my thoughts and try to share them somehow....thank you!
Nov 10, 2008
Looking through the comments, no one seems to associate this with your song project from a while back. Perhaps the genius you're referring to is the somewhat random nature of the lyrics that communicate a feeling without actually saying anything? I didn't look at the video (not a good idea at work) but heard the song and read the lyrics and, while interesting, not going on my playlist.
Nov 10, 2008
Your comic today (Nov 10th) tickled my funny bone more than usual.
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Nov 10, 2008
Dear Scott,

Are you insane?


Rocky, who considered a longer response but decided this was "genius".

Nov 10, 2008
Or maybe the experiment is the other way, to see how many people would disagree with him, just for the sake of disagreeing...
Nov 10, 2008
@ Icediadem:

You ruined the experiment! I myself almost found myself agreeing with Scott's statement until I realized the song is a steaming pile of manure. Then I read your comment and I was even more convinced. If anyone was swayed by Scott's endoresment then you've tampered with the results! GOOD DAY TO YOU SIR!
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Nov 10, 2008
- Howl alert -

After you've told us that you can't dance, now you reveal that you have no taste in music. (Your taste = different then mine = no taste).

This song is really awful. It has no melody to speak of, same thing goes for the harmony, the sound is not original, and that is enough for me to not be able to appreciate the words. Maybe the words are genius, but the song itself just ticks me off so much that I can't listen to them.

Allow me to link to something that I think is musical genius, (Zimerman plays Schubert):

Get the new Dilbert app!
Old Dilbert Blog