"Talk Dirty To Me," As Interpreted By Thomas Friedman

“Talk Dirty To Me,” As Interpreted By Thomas Friedman

May 22, 2014 / by / 26 Comments

We imagined what Thomas Friedman, the three-time Pulitzer Prize-winning Foreign Affairs columnist for the New York Times, would have to say about Jason Derulo’s hit single, “Talk Dirty To Me.” Here’s what we came up with.

I’m that flight that you get on, international / First class seat on my lap girl, riding comfortable

In this opening line, Mr. Derulo makes it abundantly clear that he’s addressing the irrefutable trend of 21st century globalization. Beyond just addressing it, he is actually singing this song from the perspective of globalization. Modern globalization is the (international) flight that so much of the world has gotten on since the Berlin Wall came down in ‘89. For governments that have readily adapted to the trend by donning what I call the Golden Straitjacket — which means that they are decentralizing the federal government, privatizing robust industries, and pursuing free trade — the benefits are manifest. Verily, those governments are the ones that have had first class seats on globalization’s lap, riding comfortably into the ever-flattening geopolitical landscape.

‘Cause I know what the girl them need / New York to Haiti / I got lipstick stamps on my passport / You make it hard to leave

This line must be interpreted very carefully. When Mr. Derulo says “New York to Haiti,” he doesn’t just mean to use two locations as a way of implying a global scope. He chose these two locations very carefully, to illustrate a directional flow of capital. I call this the Electronic Herd — industries, companies, and individuals wielding a ton of (increasingly global) spending power. Think Bill Gates. New York, being the financial capital of the United States, is a standing symbol of the Electronic Herd, and Haiti, being the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, exemplifies those who stand to benefit from the Electronic Herd. If countries like Haiti can put on the Golden Straitjacket, it will be mutually beneficial to them and the Electronic Herd folks in places like New York. Guys like George Soros will be kissing their passports because of the terrific investment opportunities abroad, and cooperative governments will make it hard for those guys to leave.

Been around the world, don’t speak the language / But your booty don’t need explaining / All I really need to understand is / When you talk dirty to me / Talk dirty to me / Talk dirty to me / Talk dirty to me / Get jazzy on it

Two years ago, I took a trip to Japan to visit the changing technopolitical landscape and how it had been affected by the recent nuclear accidents. In Tokyo, I had an enlightening conversation with an octogenarian cab driver. Even though my Japanese is remedial at best (I’ve only picked up some words and phrases from having visited Japan several times), I could understand with utmost clarity what the cabby was talking about: the breathtaking technological transformation Tokyo has seen in the last fifty years. It is, of course, globalization that has presided over this change, and I didn’t even need to speak his language to know that’s what he wanted to say.

Furthermore, when Mr. Derulo says “Talk dirty to me,” he’s making another statement about the face of globalization in the modern world. You see, he doesn’t mean “dirty” in a metaphorical sense; he is literally referring to something covered in dirt. Dirt. Earth. World. The World Is Flat. The global playing field is being levelled by rapidly evolving economic and geopolitical conditions. “Talk dirty to me” is simply a poetic, albeit roundabout way of saying this.

You know the words to my songs / No habla inglés / Our conversations ain’t long / But you know what is

In my most recent book, That Used To Be: How America Fell Behind In The World It Invented And How It Can Come Back, I explore how the United States of America fell behind in the world it invented, and how it can come back. Among my many prescriptions to our country, I pointed out that America needs to embrace immigrants, as it has in the past. When Mr. Derulo says, “You know the words to my songs / No habla inglés,” he is a forward-thinking America, speaking to nearby immigrants. It’s true that conversations tend to be of shorter length with those who don’t “habla inglés,” but they do know what is long: the hegemonic reign of this country, if it adheres to my political ideologies.

I know what the girl them want / London to Taiwan / I got lipstick stamps on my passport / I think I need a new one

That to which Mr. Derulo seems to be alluding to here is my own Golden Arches Theory: the idea that in the modern era, no two countries that are both home to McDonald’s franchises have gone to war. London and Taiwan represent two ends of this spectrum, London being a time-tested Western power adapting to the new landscape, and Taiwan being a smaller Eastern country using globalization to become an increasingly important part of the world. But they are both part of the Golden Arches Theory; they both attest to the fact that corporate globalization is the fabric that holds the modern world together. People in both London and Taiwan think they need new passports, because globalization is so beneficial that neither of them can get enough of it!

Uno, met your friend in Rio / Dos, she was all on me-o / Tres, we can ménage à three though / Quatro, ooh

It’s hard to find any other explanation for this stanza than Mr. Derulo illustrating the effects of Brazilification, a term which I did not invent myself, but very well may have contributed to. Brazilification demonstrates one of the risks of globalization, a process by which a nation’s middle class fragments into a larger upper and lower class, creating a large income gap. Mr. Derulo comments on this phenomenon by pointing out how Brazilification is “all on” globalization, but offering as an alternative a “ménage à three,” with the three players being globalization, Brazilification, and the Golden Straitjacket, the latter being able to balance the other two out to work in everyone’s favor.

Dos Cadenas, close to genius / Sold out arenas, you can suck my penis / Gilbert Arenas, guns on deck / Chest to chest, tongue on neck

Toward the end of the song, the author takes the opportunity to reiterate the power of globalization. The phrase “Dos Cadenas” — referring to 2 Chainz, a colleague of Mr. Derulo’s — deliberately uses a Spanish translation to paint a picture of the open cultural and economic pathways among English- and Spanish-speaking countries in North America (to be more specific, it’s a reference to NAFTA). The Gilbert Arenas reference is also anything but accidental, seeing as Arenas left the NBA to play in China, a nation that has only come to love basketball through globalization itself. “Chest to chest / tongue on neck” is simply an allusion to the many dimensions of globalization, many of which directly correspond or interlock.

International oral sex / Every picture I take, I pose a threat / Bought a jet, what do you expect? / Her pussy’s so good I bought her a pet / Anyway, every day I’m trying to get to it / Got her saved in my phone under “Big Booty” / Anyway, every day I’m trying to get to it / Got her saved in my phone under “Big Booty”

Mr. Derulo finishes out his masterful argument by describing of the main force instigating globalization: technology. Almost every line in this refers to at least one thing we’ve only been able to have because of technological advances: digital photography, jet planes, oral sex, mobile phones. Technocapitalism is the current moving the global political oceans; it’s allowing globalization to seep into the slums of South Asia; it has enabled the precipitous rise in GDP of East Asian Tiger economies; it has brought third-world and fourth-world economies into the fold; and, most importantly, it has flattened the world.