Humans with ears, are you ready for an anthem that's going to send your whole world spinning? Then please be so kind as to a) immediately stop whatever you're doing and b) hit play on the video below. You're so very welcome. This new song is a low-key dance floor banger that's going to insinuate itself into your brain for weeks to come, but what do Missy Elliott's "I'm Better" lyrics? Because, when you listen to the words, the song lacks a clear narrative arc. "Call Me Maybe" it ain't.
But what the song lacks in story, it makes up for in life tips. The track acts as a tribute to self-belief, taking life one day at a time and keeping on working, no matter how tough things are. While I doubt Missy Elliott's 2017 offering is intended to be an explicitly political song, for me personally it seems like the perfect anthem to jam to every morning during this post-Trump period. It's a great song to inspire activists to continue resisting.
Besides which, it's just really damn catchy. This is the sort of song you're going to be rapping along to in 10 years' time, trust me. So let's break this thing down verse by verse.
I'mma start it from the bottom
Show you how to flip a dollar
I got food in my dining room
I'm better, I'm better, I'm better
It's another day, another chance
I wake up, I wanna dance
So as long as I got my friends...
I'm better, I'm better, I'm better
Lamb outlines the song's themes, that old chestnut of working your way up to the top from the bottom and being grateful for what you have. Besides which, knowing that even if you've only got the basics covered ("I got food in my dining room... So as long as I got my friends"), life's good and each day you're going to be on the up.
Verse One (Missy Elliott)
He say I'm hot, I'm so fuego
Pull up on him in my vehicle
He say I'm pretty, I'm pretty
You must be from Brazil, it must be from Me-hico
Roll up on him in my Lambo
Jump out like skrrrt, yeah bro
You need a chick like me to make you wanna leave them other broads
So here's where Missy does what she does best: giving it some bravado. The guy says she's hot, but she already knows she's fuego (why else would she have already pulled up on him in her vehicle?). And have you noticed the fun reversal of the usual gender stuff? She's the one driving up to him; she's the high-earner.
Yeah he got bands in the Bando
Missy got dudes in Orlando
Plus I got cars that he paying for
Man I be too much to handle
Watch what I do, when I get up on you
Pop potential in my room and zoom in the poom
He watching my body like he watching Scandal
But I'm just here, with my girls
Well, OK. So maybe Missy Elliott lets a guy pay for her car — but it doesn't mean that she's not making her own money. She's so hot that she's got multiple boyfriends but it's not just about aesthetics. It's also about how she moves that beautiful body ("Watch what I do, when I get up on you... He watching my body like he watching Scandal"). But it's not all about the heat of a sexual connection, but also about having fun with your friends on the dance floor ("But I'm just here, with my girls").
This bridge is repeated twice more and gets some minor changes — but they're probably not extensive enough to dissect this part all over again. My favorite addition comes in the final repetition, when Missy lets us know that her dudes in Orlando are "buying me bags and new shoes and new cars." Please, someone book me the next flight out to Orlando. It's second Christmas time, courtesy of my new multiple Orlando-based lovers. Floridian men are peculiarly generous.
Verse Two (Missy Elliott)
Missy so hot, I'm from VA
The car that I drive be Ferr-ar-i
My clique is so thick and the broads be hollin' and whistlin'
That be like damn bae
Man I'm 3000, I'm André
Yo Missy talk big, I'm so grande
Bruce Lee on the beat, I don't compete with none of these geeks
I just rant like I'm Kanye
She takes the bragging up a notch; she's a living legend, just like all of the famous names she mentions here. She's André 3000, she's as agile when creating music as Bruce Lee is during a fight and she's full of passion, just like Kanye on a Twitter rant.
Verse Three (Missy Elliott)
Brand new flow when I rap
DJ, bring that back
You ain't ever heard a track like that
Shit might slap, booty go clap
Roll up in the Benz
Looking like a ten, stack
When I rock, make it bop, in my car
And it bang-bang-bang like (tune-out noise) go blap-blap-blap
And some more of that self-belief stuff. It's infectious, right? You get to the end of this verse, and, as a listener, you become convinced that you too are the absolute best when it comes to your creative talent, you look like a ten, etc.
So basically, Missy Elliott thinks she's fire and she's not wrong. The reiteration of Lamb's hook makes it more than just "Respect" for the digital age, though. It suggests that even when things seem dark, as long as you've got the basics covered and you believe in yourself, you'll be on the up. And that seems like the message we all need right now.