Brian McKnight, the R&B singer known for sultry songs like “Back At One,” will perform with the Duke Ellington Orchestra at the Blue Note next month, with two shows each night from May 16 to 18. For some reason, though, the press release heralding this engagement doesn’t mention the song he released this week to much fanfare—”If You’re Ready To Learn,” in which McKnight offers to show a woman how to use her genitalia to its fullest potential. The track burned up TMZ and its also-rans, which were positiviely scandalized by the idea that an R&B singer would use the word “pussy” in one of his songs. Which is making me wonder if McKnight knew exactly what he was doing when he released it! Time to break out The Trollgaze Index, in which we gauge the media-manipulation skills of today’s musical artists.
Brian McKnight, “If You’re Ready To Learn”
THE ARTIST (10 points): McKnight has a fantastic voice and a couple of straight-up indelible hits. His debut album came out 20 years ago and he still has success on the R&B charts; although the days of him crossing over to top-40 stardom are a good decade-plus behind him, some might vaguely remember his stint on the second season of The Celebrity Apprentice. In other words, he’s perfect fodder for the “OMG, this celebrity is so ka-WAZY!” attitude taken by TMZ toward anything that isn’t its own increasingly surreal self. (Seriously, have you watched the TV show lately? It’s like a Mr. Show sketch that became sentient. (10/10)
THE SONG (5 points): McKnight claimed that he was working on an “adult mixtape,” and its first entrant is a silky slow jam directed toward a woman who isn’t getting what she needs out of her sex life. It’s only made “weird” by the fact that it uses the word “pussy” instead of slathering over the concept of a woman’s anatomy with Harlequin-ready euphemisms. (4/5)
DIVISIVENESS (5 points): The “How on earth can an R&B singer use such language?” reaction is simultaneously predictable and laughable. (2/5)
VIRALITY POTENTIAL (10 points): Not only did “Learn” garner him exclamation-point-festooned attention from the blogosphere and even a few mainstream outlets, it got him an invite to perform at the AVN Awards. Although they don’t happen until next January, and a lot of cultural events can crop up between now and then. (9/10)
“FUCK THE HATERS” QUOTIENT (10 points): “What’s the definition of a publicity stunt? You do something and it gets publicity. It wasn’t what I wanted necessarily but I got it,” he said. Or: “Jeez, Internet, you all got up in arms over something that I made while I was bored out of my mind with a busted ankle. Thanks… I think? Am I really going to have to make this whole ‘adult mixtape’ now?” (5/10)
BACKLASH POTENTIAL (5 points): Sure, there’s lots of pearl-clutching from the generally incoherent, woman-hating gossipmonger set—enough that McKnight took it down from his site. But what woman in her right mind wouldn’t want to give someone so enthusiastic at least a bit of a shot at proving his claims? (2/5)
THAT EXTRA JE NE SAIS QUOI (5 points): Quick, Lloyd, reissue the dirty version of “Dedication To My Ex (Miss That)” while the iron’s hot! (5/5)
TOTAL: 37/50. Trollgaze—inadvertent, according to his claims, but that’s what happens when you try to act sort of adult about the concept of female sexuality on the Internet in 2012, right?