Though the Cardi B and Bruno Mars collaboration, “Finesse,” a remix of a song already featured on the odious 24K Magic–the 2016 album that wouldn’t die–is ascending the charts at an alarming rate, one has to wonder, simply: why? So kids who didn’t grow up in the 90s can feel like they’re being exposed to something new and authentic, the same way Iggy Azalea treated them to her innovative “Fancy” video? Or so they can feel as though they’re experiencing the time in exactly the same way their predecessors did? Whatever the driving force behind the auditory and optical “concept” behind “Finesse,” there can be no amount of explaining the existence of this “90s throwback”–as there’s nothing throwback about completely grafting.
With the combined look of MTV’s Lip Service and Nickelodeon’s Round House, Cardi and Bruno then feel the need to further take their neon sign of ripping people off to even more literal levels by putting the banner In Living Color over themselves at the conclusion of the video. In between, Cardi does her best vocal imitation of Left Eye from TLC, with the entire sartorial vibe channeling a slightly more polished version of “What About Your Friends.”
And as the duo spray paints the screen away (unfortunately not leaving it painted over so we don’t have to see the abomination that is their impersonation of the 90s), those who have actually watched legitimate videos of the era will cringe over the fact that Bruno and Cardi aren’t merely borrowing from so much as straight up copying shot for shot what was already executed many times over in popular TV shows (including the aforementioned ones) of the decade. While Bruno might surely be getting more of a boost to his career, which seems to be stalled at album number three in his discography, Cardi could certainly do well to carve out a place for herself that is slightly more, well, original. Even “Bodak Yellow” was gleaned from Kodak Black and the flow of his track, “No Flockin.” If she continues down this path of carbon copying, she’s soon to hear about it from someone who’s actually deigned to collaborate with her on Migos’ “Motorsport,” Nicki Minaj, always known for calling out “rap bitches” she’s “put on the map again.”
Of course, with the encouragement of the public’s unnecessarily overzealous reaction to the track, why would Cardi strive for anything better or more innovative? The saturated in 90s vibe could just as easily be traded in for an early 00s “homage” to hip hop when the time is right for whatever Cardi’s next collab is. And even if The New York Times might have billed “Finesse” as “taking the leap from 1984 to ’88, with crackling drum machine production,” it is, without question, more 90s than any 90s video in its practical parody of the time period–which almost leads one to wonder how the 2010s–already a caricature of human existence–could possibly be parodied by later musicians totally out of ideas on how to show reverence for a decade as opposed to despoiling it.
While the trend of pillaging all visuals and sounds from the 90s seems to be increasingly popular as indicated by Lana Del Rey, at least she understands the nuance of the Oscar Wilde adage that pertains to “borrowing” versus stealing. And somehow that lands her a lawsuit whereas “Finesse” is slapped with baffling accolades in the shape of chart success.