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  • Writer's pictureBenjamin Kassel

I appreciate "Day 'n' Nite" now more than I ever did before

I only came around to hip hop a few years ago, but more recent developments make it resonate with me even more now.

It's strange how my musical memory works, especially in terms of how it relates to my tastes. There are certain songs I remember from the first decade and a half of of my life that didn't resonate with me at the time, but have become favorites in the past few years.

I think what this shift comes down to is my willingness to branch out and be more receptive to more kinds of music now as opposed to my middle and early high school years. It wasn't until my junior year or so that I gained an appreciation for hip hop, and once I did I looked back on the artists and tracks I had either missed out on entirely and/or not given the chance they deserved. A plethora of tracks stood out to me during that lengthy "catch-up" period, but since I can only focus on one for today, I've decided to dive into Kid Cudi's debut single, "Day 'n' Nite." It was clear from this track that Kid Cudi is someone who's willing and able to push hip hop's boundaries. There's clearly a pop-sensible angle to "Day 'n' Nite," but there's also a clear psychedelic flavor in its synth backing that really intrigues me — and also helps it serve its place on Kid Cudi's dream-based concept debut album, Man on the Moon: The End of the Day.

Let's start at the beginning: "Day 'n' Nite" has one of the catchiest openings of any 2000s track. The relationship between the steady eighth-note synth line and the syncopated kick drum is really compelling for me to listen to. To me, there's a clear primacy of melody in the way popular music is discussed, but this main rhythm to "Day 'n' Nite" seems to flip this relevance in my mind, especially as it progresses and the rhythm is added to. The synth melody is a constant, straight rhythm, while the drum beat has a push and pull in its syncopation that makes it the more prominent element to me as soon as I recognize what song I'm hearing. The later addition of other synths only further reduces the importance of the eighth-note line to me. I'm really interested in how other people think of these different elements and what they pay attention to or feel the most as they listen casually — any comments or feedback would be quite insightful.

The other elements beyond this initial rhythm serve the song's narrative backdrop very well. The layered synths that emerge during the choruses accent the psychedelic feeling I described earlier, and this makes a lot of sense when considering Kid Cudi singing about how "[t]he lonely stoner seems to free his mind at night." Through drugs, Cudi finds greater release from the stressors of the world than he would otherwise... for better or worse, considering both real-life implications and the mental states he displays during the rest of Man on the Moon. I can't really resonate with that, but I do connect to the song's second line: "I toss and turn, I keep stressing my mind, mind." Especially on nights where I've had a lot of work to do or where I'm butting up against deadlines, I have a really hard time sleeping. Even calming music often doesn't do the trick — when I do end up sleeping, it's because I eventually burn myself out from thinking too much at some ungodly hour. Listening to "Day 'n' Nite" on a night like that (tonight) really put my struggle into perspective.

I didn't go into choosing this track thinking it would impact me the way it did, but voilà, here we are. It just goes to show how I think about music, as well as how much music can impact our way of thinking. Bravo, Cudi and collaborator Dot da Genius, for making a piece that has that kind of effect on me.


Postscript — a remix and a cover: Aside from Kid Cudi's original, there are two other interpretations of "Day 'n' Nite" that fascinate me, each for very different reasons. The first is Italian DJ duo Crookers' house remix from 2009, which apparently became a staple in the San Jose Sharks' warm-up playlist for the next few years (thanks to my brother for reminding me of that). It's a very different feeling from the original, to say the least; it's ultra-club-friendly to the point of seemingly celebrating of the "free[ing of] his mind at night." ...There are... clear problems with that, but that's nothing new to club culture, nor is it the big point of this post.

The second is a much more recent interpretation of the song, by none other than Coldplay in their Spotify Singles session released on February 22. I did not expect to like this cover nearly as much as I did, but it ended up really being a great fit for the band, with a sound profile that borrows from their albums Ghost Stories (2014) and Everyday Life (2019). Oh, and happy 45th birthday, Chris Martin!


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