First Hit #1: June 14, 1997
It can’t help but feel mercenary when a song comes out in tribute to a very recently deceased artist. No matter how heartfelt, no matter how well meaning, it still feels a bit like cashing in on the recently deceased. Puff Daddy did lose a friend and collaborator in The Notorious B.I.G., Faith Evans lost a husband, so it should feel like some people honestly mourning someone they cared about very deeply. Unfortunately, given that it was written and recorded so quickly, it doesn’t work as intended. Most of the lyrics are empty platitudes rather than feeling personal, and the chorus is simply a weaker variation on Every Breath You Take. But then, because it was put together so quickly, the publishing rights actually belong to Sting – the curse of an unclear sample – and many of the decisions feel like fumbling through grief rather than deliberately trying to make a song for a sad nation. It’s not a great song, to be honest, or a really fitting tribute. It’s a mediocre rap ballad that was elevated in posture because it was well meaning, at least, and has enough generalized nonsense about grieving to be a bit universal. To give everyone the benefit of the doubt, sometimes it’s harder to get your feelings out there than you want to admit, and I’ll Be Missing You feels like an attempt to get those feelings out there without really being able to translate those feelings into a decent song.
Note, this isn’t the only tribute song I’ll be crapping all over, no disrespect intended for the people who they were written about.