Feenin’, the 1993 chart-topper, by the iconic R&B boy band Jodeci, which consisted of (yes!) two pairs of brothers, is IMHO, one of the best R&B songs of the 90s. And from me, that’s saying something. And the official music video, which someone who calls themselves asianboriqua kindly videotaped and transferred to YouTube in 2007 is, to say the least, bananas. The song was released when I was ten, and since my days of going to Layla Schlack’s house after school every day to watch BET didn’t start till eleven or twelve, I somehow missed this one.
There are eleven comments on the video. This is my favorite:
My understanding of the plot line of this music video is the following:
A dude (I think a member of Jodeci?) is getting tattoo, and the tattoo artist points out that he said his last tattoo would be his LAST, but the girl he is with explains that he has changed his mind, because she “got him feenin’.”
Everyone is suddenly chilling with Snoop Dog and Dre, drinking 40s that say the word “FEENIN” on them, playing cards and talking pretty problematically about women.
Now the members of Jodeci are performing a set as a kind of rock band, with their shirts off. Maybe it’s happening in a jail? There does not seem to be an audience. Whatever it is, the cops don’t like it, and they throw Jodeci in the back of a wagon, which is where we first flash to their inner thoughts, which, are, you guessed it, focused on the girl(s) they are feenin’ for.
They are now in psych ward, where at least one of them is wearing a straight jacket with “323FEENIN” printed on it, and we are made to understand that either their love for the girl is making them mentally ill, or they are in some kind of withdrawal, perhaps akin to drugs, from being away from her and instead suffering this very dramatic punishment for what seemed like a pretty harmless shirtless band rehearsal. One of them, I’m pretty sure it’s JoJo, is given electro-shock therapy, after which we see a girl climbing a spiral staircase quite sexily, which is supposed to make us understand why someone would feen for her.
Smokin hot ladies surround one of them (K-Ci I think) in a jail cell, covering him with their bodies in a way that looks kinda stressful. I think this is a fantasy, perhaps part of the withdrawal symptoms from being apart from the staircase lady.
Shirts off once again, they tear down the padded walls of the psychiatric ward cell. We are left wondering if they make it out and back to those ladies, or at least Snoop and Dre.
Another viewer rightfully points out that N’Sync’s Thinking of You (I Drive Myself Crazy) video is biting this one. That song came out four years after this one, and the video, this time official and crisp, has over five million views and almost 3,000 comments. Watching that video, I was struck by how light and airy ‘N Sync’s psychiatric ward was compared with Jodeci’s, how low the stakes seemed, the lack of violence, and also how little the video and its characters/stars seemed to understand about real romantic or physical intimacy. In Feenin,’ some part of you is convinced that they are in true peril, and also that you need this lady, bad.
In this one, though, only Justin Timberlake seems to understand the gravity of the situation; he is in a Lars von Trier film, while the other ‘N Sync members seem to be having, bless them, a pretty fun time. Many, many viewers passionately discuss how underrated Chris and JC are and how this song showcases their, um, talents. One viewer shares that he sang the song as part of what I gather was a final exam in an English language learning class, and that, when he forgot some of the words, his class joined in and helped him finish it. That story almost justifies the existence of so much love for this terrible song and its ridonkilous, I’ll agree, derivative video.
I went down this rabbit whole of psych-ward-themed boy band songs because a) Feenin’ is a song I like to listen to when I have a lot of feelings, as it really gives you a chance to dig into them, and b) I’ve had a lot of feelings lately. One of the most prominent of these feelings is, as it turns out, feenin’. Desire. Wanting. An intense craving or yearning.
Another version of Feenin’ that can be found on the interwebs is a recording of a live performance, featuring all four Jodeci members in head-to-toe shiny black pleather (and at least one without a shirt, thank goodness), on VH1 Soul. The crowd stands shoulder to shoulder on three sides of the stage, slowly swaying back and forth, clapping occasionally, donning some really great hats and sunglasses. I imagine they can smell the people next to them, maybe even the performers. When the song starts, and people recognize what it is, there are a few organic “whoops,” but otherwise the audience is somewhat subdued. When emphatically invited to sing along, they don’t, at least not audibly. But by the end, they’ve loosened up a bit. The first few rows can be seen with their arms up dancing, bumping a bit with the people next to them. K-Ci crouches down at the front of the stage and holds several hands. The people with the hands, mostly women, laugh and cry and smile wide. When they abruptly finish (the full recorded version of the song is over five minutes long), the cheers are loud. As I watched this video, over and over again, I felt something I didn’t feel in the other two; an aching, almost painful desire to be somewhere filled with people, energy, spontaneity, and emotion.
Things I have ‘feened’ for recently include the inside of a very full, noisy restaurant, even the Olive Garden; my own crowded, joyous, wedding party nine years ago, which my son likes me to recount often as if I am telling a folktale; an assembly at my kid’s school; watching any young people, for that matter, sing or dance or perform even the stupidest of plays; the Christmas feast hosted by the characters of The Princess and the Frog, featured in a Disney holiday stories anthology, to which strangers are invited last-minute in a gesture of warmth and community; the many casual and public dates that the couple in the romance novel I am currently reading go on and seem to take for granted, such as a trip to a movie theater with the good chairs and a romp at a cool bowling alley that has beer and where you stick your fingers in shared objects without concern (get your mind out of the gutter, I am talking about bowling balls); sitting in a theater at the Sundance Film Festival while the lights dim and the crowd un-parkas themselves, knowing that you are breathing the same air as both the annoying guy next to you who keep blowing his nose and wont turn his phone off and Idris Elba; eavesdropping at the nail salon; the romance novel couples’ first meeting, which takes place at a hotel bar, where they are just chilling and drinking and sexily chatting up strangers; giving my siblings shit around the island in my mother’s kitchen.
This past week, I have been, there is no other way to put it, struck down by yearnings, big and small. I have found myself almost immovable, under the weight of all this want for something different. I would like to trade this world out for another one, like exchanging a sweater with a hole in it, that you may or may not have made yourself. I want my kids to see their friend’s full faces. I want to give the speech that makes everyone realize the only thing they ever needed to do was watch out for one another. I want to sing a song to a room full of people, and have them sing along or fill in the words I can’t remember. I want a part of a strangers body to touch a part of my body in a way that is completely unexpected but not unwelcome. At this moment in time, I don’t care anymore about the lessons I learned from having to squirrel away in my hovel with my small brood, the ones I have been telling myself I would never have understood if I hadn’t been secluded and stretched so thing. I’d take it all back, the garbage with the good, in a heartbeat.
Jodeci is supposedly playing the “Oakland Arena” (RIP Oracle Center) on March 18th. Godspeed. So many things about that concert seem sad to me. For now, I’ll be grinding with myself in my living room, Jodeci on blast. If you pass by, raise up your hands, press up against the window if you want to, and let yourself miss something.
One of the many social casualties of Omicron has been the in-person component of the 2022 Sundance Film Festival, but the virtual program is a very respectable attempt at a substitute, and available to all for $20 a ticket. Film premieres, which include Q and A’s with filmmakers and stars, go from Jan 20-24, and then tons of other events and second screenings of films are available until the 30th. I’m gonna take a day off to just lie in bed and watch exciting movies no one has even seen before. It may seem overwhelming, but you can’t choose wrong, these are all fabulous films. Buy tickets now (premieres sell out fast) and tell me what you see!
Sarah, why do you have to make me cry during Friday night happy hour? (Oh, because Friday night happy hour is my son doing some shit on iReady across the disaster that is our dining room table while I drink the beer I found in the very back of our fridge and yearn for all the same things you’re yearning for.) This timeline sucks. I am so tired. Your writing is amazing. Ethan Hawke should have said, “Damn. I missed my chance.”
Reading this Feb 7th on a bench in the Park outside my house. I am feenin for another Life too. Thank you for sharing the feeniness