Dolly Parton Raps!
By Dom Sinacola· Oct 25, 2013
Sometimes I receive promotional emails that very succinctly lay out the subject of the email and then, by sheer force of truth, sell me on the concept without resorting to marketing manipulation or considering (i.e., not giving a shit about) the demographic they’re soliciting. On October 17th, the following, entitled “The Queen Latifah Show: Dolly Parton Raps!,” was sent to my inbox:
Dolly Parton busts out her hip-hop skills and does a special rap for Queen Latifah.
For the full performance, check out The Queen Latifah Show on Monday 10/21!
The email was then accompanied by this picture:
I’m not convinced that “bust” was an intended pun, given Dolly Parton’s prodigious, now-legendary assets, or that there is a way to introduce an old white woman—and iconic country music star—rapping as “special” without the connotation taking a quick, shameless turn for the gutter, but then again, since The Queen Latifah Show only premiered last month, I understand its PR team is probably just trying to build critical mass, blasting whatever low-hanging fruit they can to legitimize the concept of Queen Latifah having enough charm and content to hold up an hour-long daytime talk show in the first place. After all, if any daytime talk show is to survive, it must follow one of two possible routes: 1) the goodtime day-glo chumminess of Ellen, hosted by America’s favorite cool, single, middle-aged Aunt, or 2) the sad-fuckery of Tyra Banks’s super-serious PSA-pandering masked by “believe in yourself” diatribes. The Queen chose wisely. And I can’t fault the obvious: I mean, look at what I’m doing right now. I clearly have nothing against blasting low-hanging fruit. Just take a look at my OKCupid profile.
Granted, a format like Latifah’s, and any talk show’s for that matter—those that greet each quotidian anew—guarantee content held to a set of standards more functional than qualitative. Theirs are measured in background noise and empirical headlines. “Dolly Parton Raps!” is exactly that, shouted so you can pick it out, briefly, from all the box-fan-buzz of whatever everyday chore you should be doing anyway. Dolly Parton rapping is an idea that looks great scrawled on paper, but it doesn’t have to be anything more than that, because it doesn’t matter if it’s successfully executed or not. C’mon! Dolly Parton’s rapping!
And it’s not the first time this has happened. Latifah and Parton first exchanged genres while promoting their 2012 film Joyful Noise, and were I to do some actual research, I’d probably discover that Dolly Parton has shared the stage with any number of rappers, most likely back in the late ’90s. Fingers crossed there’s a discography out there with Ja Rule on it.
Ja Rule: What’s up, America. This is Ja Rule. I’m back. MUHHHRRRDEHHHRRRR.
Ja Rule: What’s up, Dom. This is Ja Rule.
Dom: I know what your name is.
Ja Rule: Well…do you know what’s better than picking your ears with a pen cap, dog?
Ja Rule: That song “Jolene,” son. That is a perfect song.
Dom: Yeah. That’s true. Well, you know…it’s actually pretty good to see you. I’m glad you’re OK.
I suppose what’s actually disturbing about the rappity rap song Dolly Parton raps for Queen Latifah is that Dolly Parton’s infatuation with her breasts is as comically oversized as they are. Where she once had an equally huge talent to match her silhouette, now, at 117 years old, she’s a cyborg, all synthetic, hormonally conceived approximations of what made Dolly Parton famous grafted over a shrunken imp mummy thing. She isn’t rapping so much as acting like she’s on mushrooms and just crashed a night of slam poetry, or like she’s your grandmother reading a greeting card without her glasses on. To her credit, though, she treats her spot like a playful rap cipher, the Queen her archnemesis:
Now I don’t hip, and I don’t hop
I black both eyes with this big top.
I know the Queen has got em too
But she don’t work ‘em like I do.
Look at ‘em go!
Despite the contradiction in having breasts which she says will “black both eyes” (I think she read the teleprompter incorrectly, and meant “block,” because otherwise she’s implying that she will punch you in the face with her boobs) and then commanding you to watch ‘em go, there is nowhere her ginormous honkers are going anyway, as they are undoubtedly cemented into place. No measure of hipping or hopping is up to the task of giving them a healthy jostle. (I mean, just imagine her naked. No, really, imagine her naked. Because I can’t. I think it’s impossible. Every time I try I just see the giraffe from Madagascar choking on a pumpkin he swallowed whole.) She then declares that she’s “tweaking,” again probably just misreading the teleprompter or something, eventually correcting herself so that she can say the word “twerking” on national television—thus leading into the inevitable “wrecking ball” line—and calls out Miley Cyrus, because why not.
Everyone involved in this segment is obviously hitching a good three-and-a-half minutes to the whole “watch an old lady say crazy shit” schtick—worn well to the hilt two decades ago by The Golden Girls—but with Dolly Parton looking the way she does and dressing like a Fly Girl stranded at the airport, there’s a disconnect that comes from her namechecking Miley Cyrus without seeming to even understand the implications of someone like Dolly Parton acknowledging a young woman who is also a pop star who happens to not understand what twerking truly is. But it’s fine; I don’t expect Dolly to write Miley an open letter or anything. They both seem fine.
I can get past the allusions to pipe-smoking, and afros, and Oprah, because I believe with all my heart that Dolly Parton is a warm, sweet human being, no ounce of malice or manipulation behind her sterile exoskeleton. This is what we should all believe. But what I can’t get past is the feeling I get, the silent desperation simmering between the moments when Dolly’s rapping and when she’s not rapping. When she’s saying nothing, flailing her arms around, waiting out the beat or just totally forgetting herself. When there just seems to be absolutely no fucking point to what’s going on here.