The Anti-Culture Press

The Brian Mcknight Algorithm Error

Posted in Music, Popular culture by bellidor54 on April 4, 2009

There’s this local auto body shop where I used to live and the owner’s name is Juan. My friend Dawn and I would usually go there to get my car fixed because of its convenient location. If you know me and my friend Dawn well enough, you’d probably know why we can’t stop singing the song “Back At One” by Brian Mcknight. It’s a good song, it’s just that we can’t help sing “Juan…you’re like a dream come true. Two, just wanna be with you…” HAHA.

Anyways, being an aspiring Computer Scientist that I am, I can’t help but think about the algorithm that Brian sings in this song.

Let me start off by giving a little background in Computer Programming.

Joke: “Why did the Computer Scientist die in the washroom/bathroom?”
“Because he/she saw the instructions on the box of soap. LATHER. RINSE. REPEAT.”

For anyone who doesn’t get this joke, the computer scientist died in the washroom lathering and rinsing the soap over and over again, because the instructions on the box of soap never told the user to stop repeating.

In computer science, this is what we call an Infinite Loop (in an algorithm). An Infinite Loop is exactly what you think it is, a loop that keeps going on and on. So in an algorithm (a set of instructions), an Infinite Loop is a set of instructions that gets repeated over and over again (infinitely).

Maybe some people have already noticed this, but in Brian Mcknight’s song “Back At One,” there’s an infinite loop. Here’s the lyrics of where exactly this occurs:

“One, you’re like a dream come true
Two, just wanna be with you
Three, girl it’s plain to see
That you’re the only one for me and
Four, repeat steps one through three
Five, make you fall in love with me
If ever I believe my work is done
Then I’ll start back at one”

Brian sings this song beautifully, but algorithmically, it’s terrible. Let’s go through the song algorithmically.

So we have now sung the first verse and now we are going to sing this part.

“One, you’re like a dream come true
Two, just wanna be with you
Three, girl it’s plain to see
That you’re the only one for me and”

But at “Four, repeat steps one through three,” the algorithm tells us to go back to

“One, you’re like a dream come true
Two, just wanna be with you
Three, girl it’s plain to see
That you’re the only one for me and…”

But what do we do after the last line? Well, we just sing this line again, “Four, repeat steps one through three,” and so on and so on.

This is exactly like the Computer Scientist Joke. If Brian were to sing this song algorithmically, he would keep singing those lines over and over again and he wouldn’t be able to get through the whole song.

Now don’t get me wrong, I think this is one of the best R&B songs of all time. It’s just that if Brian was a computer scientist he probably would’ve never made this song the way it is. And the song he makes if he were, may or may not be even good as it is now. Good thing Brian Mcknight wasn’t a computer scientist though, otherwise, couples would have one less of a good wedding song to think about.

Back at one...again?

Back at one...again?

Side Note: There’s more than one occurrence of an infinite loop in this song of course. There’s actually a total of two in the lyrics that I showed you. I’m not going to talk about it, because I just wanted to point out that if someone were to follow this song algorithmically, he/she would fail. Also, my claim makes the assumption that for all of the statements in the lyrics, ALL are true. So for example, the statement,

“Four, repeat steps one through three”

is true no matter what, but there’s no reason for it to be false as well. In that case, there wouldn’t actually be a loop in that part that I described. Same applies for the rest of the lyrics. Thanks to the people who pointed these out. Oh, and thanks for reading.



Milla Jovovich’s Music and Mass Entertainment

Posted in Music by The Anti-Culture on March 5, 2009
Milla Jovovich from a Damiani photoshoot.

Milla Jovovich from a Damiani photoshoot.

Today coming home from a lecture at school, I stumbled upon the official website of Milla Jovovich, supermodel turned Hollywood actress, while I was randomly searching the tubes for anything to keep me entertained before I headed off to work. What was interesting is that on one of the drop down menus, she had a list of pieces of music that she had written, composed, and sung by herself. Mostly unpublished demo pieces, she lets her site viewers download them for free, so I figured why the hell not and started downloading all her demo pieces.

It was my first time every hearing music by her, and honestly, I liked it, and I’ll tell you why.

In our current situation today, in terms of mass popular culture, we are nothing more than consuming the capitalist ventures of the entertainment industry. As my professor in one of my lectures in my communications studies class said “there is a now a mixing of ‘high’ culture and ‘mass’ culture where you see 30 second commercials of the Mona Lisa side by side with night cream,” so there is now a certain uncertainty with what constitutes art. What I’m trying to say is, in terms of music, we cannot just value music purely in its form anymore such as the complexity of notation, technique, and the skill of the artist. Of course, I’m not saying that critiquing musical skill and technique should be let go for a more socioanalytical approach to understanding music, but merely to add the sociocultural approach to the whole of the artist.

Milla Jovovich’s Music

When I first encountered Jovovich’s music, I couldn’t quite pin the genre that she presents herself in. In tracks like “Beat on Ice,” she mixes a certain Deep House feel with the looped back beat that signifies most Deep House music tracks. In “Remedy” she uses a melodic acoustic riff as the main motif and then switches to a more harder sound. This ambiguity in genre and her mixing of styles mixed with the dreamy and moody sound she portrays in most of her tracks made me liken her to artists such as Scandanavians, Stina Nordenstam and Bjork, who constantly show a certain ambiguity in their music due to their experimentation in styles.

Now with her being a fashion model, film actor, and musician, what does this tell us about herself as an artist? what the problems this gives in my reading of Jovovich’s music is that her ability to sell her art in these three sectors of mass entertainment problematizes her viability as the “ideal” musician; of doing it for art’s sake by pushing the boundaries to how you can portray a certain emotion or concept through song and not just for the financial profit. However, on the intrinsic side of things, her music portrays a sense of that ideal by experimenting with different styles and techniques. So now the question is, is being an experimental artist being marketed as mass popular culture? Unfortunately, we can only go so far with understanding this as we can safely assume that many different individuals listen to Milla Jovovich and other artists themselves.

This leads me to a point where not all mass popular culture is for the profit it generates in the capitalistic society we live in. In our post modern era, institutions such as art galleries, publishing houses, music studios, and film studios are not the only ones who decide for us what constitutes “good” or “bad” piece of entertainment, but the listeners themselves. Going back to a most often heard of concept in culture studies that comes from the study of semiotics (the study of what is a sign of something), in the postmodern world we cannot safely assume that a piece of music is good or bad because the artist conveys the meaning of her message whether implicitly or explicitly at a superficial or intellectually substantial level. As well, with many different individuals listening to different kinds of music we can assume that we are all not  homogenous and mindless consumers of capitalistic culture. Not everyone will interpret Milla Jovovich the same way, nor will anyone with artists like 50 cent.

So if we can’t rely on other people to tell us what is artistic, and we can’t let artists interpret for us, what do we do?

We simply explain it to ourselves why it is art.

I can only go so far with explaining what Milla Jovovich brings to our society with her music as I can only use her as an example of what art does to culture itself, but what I can say is my own personal opinion to why I like her music and why it is art.

I like it because she seems to enjoy what shes doing. By releasing demo singles on her site, she’s letting the world know that she likes doing it merely because she isn’t selling them off on itunes or Napster like most artists nowadays do with every new track they come out with. On some of the headings of each track she lists on her site, she has little personal anecdotes explaining where the song comes from and why shes doing it. “For fun,” she says for one of her tracks. It is art in my opinion, because she engages in it.

Thanks for reading,