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Double Down: Bounce, Bounce, Bounce, Bounce, Bounce

Ten years ago this week, R. Kelly’s Ignition (Remix) was released as a single. It didn’t skyrocket to the top of the charts, though it was certainly successful. It didn’t take over the radio, though it was certainly in heavy rotation. It didn’t rule the television, though its video was dressed for success.

What Ignition (Remix) did do was stand the test of time. It’s the instant singalong song. It’s the cure for your otherwise banal party playlist. It’s the secret sauce you play to perk up your road trip. It’s the chorus that never fails to turns a sour mood. And it’s universal.

It isn’t just odd ducks making the case — standing in R.’s corner.
The song has been touted as a classic by Rolling Stone, by Pitchfork, by the Onion’s A.V. Club, and — perhaps most compellingly — by Jogolev:

Not all of the praise for R.’s premature Remix has come with time. Not six months after the single’s release Mountain Goats songwriter-in-chief and future United States Poet Laureate John Darnielle attempted to compile a list of “100 reasons Why “Ignition – Remix” Is So Damned Great.” He got pretty far. Here’s a best of:

1. The rhythm is really insistent without being hard – it’s got this sort of bossanova groove, just bubbling under the song, easing it gently but irresistably (sp) across

2. Writing a good “weekend” song is hard to pull off. I fear that the guy who prompted me to begin this thread will say “Nonsense! Anybody can write a good ‘weekend’ song!” When I see his “weekend” song on the charts, I will concede his point. Until then, I’ll note that many, many “weekend” songs are released each year, but very few of them actually poke their heads above the surface. This is because most of them sound forced. R Kelly’s greatest gift is his ability to sound natural; engaged; genuine. Even when he’s singing in a very mannered fashion.

3. How is this song in particular a good “weekend” song? For starters, there’s the delay in mentioning the weekend. Note a shitty “weekend” song, Loverboy’s “Working for the Weekend,” for purposes of comparison, which shoots its entire wad in the chorus’s first line & then has nothing compelling to say.

4. Not so “Ignition – Remix.” R Kelly delays the song’s moment of revelation until the chorus’s second to last line:
This is the remix to ignition
Hot and fresh out the kitchen
Mama rollin that body
Got evey man in her wishin
Sippin on coke and rum
I’m like so what I’m drunk
It’s the freakin weekend baby
I’m about to have me some fun

7. But to return to the lyric – what could be funnier than R Kelly’s ongoing project of writing new lyrics in which to identify that the version you’re hearing is a remix? Think R Kelly doesn’t know that that’s funny? Where the hell’s my boy Trife, he knows what that kind of thinking is called: “racism.”

8. Of course Kelly knows that it’s funny to lead of a chorus with a line like “this is the remix to ignition.” Kelly’s whole persona, aside from his public/non-album one which has gotten completley (sp) away from him, is a greatly controlled, beautifully constructed thing. It’s the good-time-lovin’/deep-thoughts-thinkin’/survived-it-and-came-to-tell-you-how-it-looks-from -the-mountaintop friend from your own neighborhood, assuming that your neighborhood was a poor neighborhood in the midwest. He knows his audience, and his audience wants him to keep it light when he’s making a party song. That’s what this is about.

10. Therefore, R Kelly has won and the terrorists have lost.

11. The extra beat! The extra m*therfu*king BEAT! It’s a held chord, is what it is, but it’s the last thing you’d expect – right on the line “Bouncin’ on 24s,” right when you’d expect it to either go back to the tonic or jump into the chorus, and it just

14. And then we enter into the levels of reference again, which is where I get completely dizzy “Rollin’ on 24s/while they say on the radio”: what do they say? Oh, good God, they say what critical theory thought they’d say: “This is the remix to igntion (sp)”

15. which is to say that the song describes a party where they’re listening to the radio play a song describing a party where they’re listening to the radio playing a a song describing a party where they’re listening to the radio playing a song describing a party and well you get the general idea

30. “I don’ normally do this but, uh…”

31. When in fact he does normally do this – unless there’s some Ignition Mega-Mix 12″ coming (we should all be so fortunate), Kelly is claiming that he doesn’t normally release the remix at all, then saying he’ll let you hear a little of it, and then just playing it.

32. And, well – precisely: this is more of that quality Kelly brings to the table that has enabled him to stay strong at the cash register longer than many: it’s the dreaded “A” word, you know, “authenticity,” all the baggage that carries.

34. I’m like, so what, I’m drunk.

54. There’s the sudden change in vocal tone in the chorus, right at “mama rollin’ that body” – where R Kelly reveals himself to be not just a consummate soul singer, but a pretty clued-in one. Loop that damned line. “Mama rollin’ that body”: who’s that? It’s not Kelly. I mean it is him singing, but whose moves is he copping?

65. and let’s further posit that R Kelly is that guy, which is a lot more probable than the “oh-but-he’s-do-dumb” crowd would like to admit, but all the disparate elements in his style suggest either the happiest accident of all time or a remarkable keen ear for when to put what where

70. So we’ve got the feeling of lots of reggae that most Americans have sadly missed just ripping across the front of the track, and this dumb weekend lyric that’s not actually dumb, hitting-on-a-dozen-points vocals flexing so effortless that you might be forgiven for thinking it was guileless

83. the vibrato, the misplaced depth of feeling, the totality of it: “bounce bounce bounce bounce”

84. (of course it’s fundamental, it’s a pop song, every line is fundamental)

85. (especially the ones in the chorus)

87. but beyond the pop joy of “bounce bounce” it’s the sound of beleaguered R Kelly, whose troubles are known to even a casual pop listener but are known well by exactly the people who he’d rather knew nothing about them: people like me, the people who bought TP-2.com even though it had one of the worst album titles of all time

95. the shameful video & the rejected-by-Chicago-radio business & his sudden unwanted transition from known-but-not-huge pop star to universally-known-and-laregly (sp)-shunned tabloid coverboy, he’s pushing that all to the side and taking aim

134) and where, exactly, are we just thuggin’ this out? oh yeah: “on the reeeeemix”

(Read the entire list-cum-thread here.)

The list is far more exhaustive than it has to be, and includes a fair amount of honest and message boardy debate, and yet it sill manages to overlook an obvious reason this song is one of the greatest of our time: the transition.

The Ignition (Remix) is — first and foremost — a remix of Ignition — the song that precedes it on Kells’ absurdly, beyond-bravely titled Chocolate Factory. Ignition is a substantial song in its own right, but where Kells works his magic is in the utterly seamless transition from the source material to the remix. The cadence never shifts, the tone simply turns upbeat while masterfully maintaining that simple guitar loop. It’s a thing of beauty that far too many a lover of the Ignition (Remix) has never experienced. That is, we hope, until now: