A Man's World

In a series on technology in lyrics, Alexis Madrigal reads into James Brown's "It's a Man's, Man's Man's World":

What's fascinating here is the contrast between two versions of how society and technology interact. First, you've got the oft-repeated story of progress; cars, trains, electricity, and boats are all doing good things for us. Cars are carrying us. Trains are taking the load. Light is cast on us. And, as we hear (and know from the song title), this kind of progress -- the desire for the conquest and mastery of nature -- has historically been a very male thing. ... Then, with that tiny bit of warning, James breaks out of the control of this early verse into a soulful, screaming chorus to declare that the man's world -- the technological world, specifically -- wouldn't be nothing "without a woman or a girl."

What I love about this verse and chorus is that it posits progressive change (the electric light) will always be mashed up with human conditions (desire for love, long-standing inequality). This song is fundamentally anti-technoutopian, even as it recognizes the importance of that which tech can accomplish.