Ordinarily, the masses root for the underdog. Scientists have said this is because, deep inside, we all take pleasure in the misfortune of others. They call this phenomenon Schadenfreude.
This is why you prefer to see David destroy Goliath. But what happens when the masses root for the big guy instead? When you lick your lips and rub your palms at the prospect of freakishly huge Goliath obliterating that poor little shepherd boy David? That doesn’t sound or feel just, does it? Yet it’s what seems to be happening right now with the singer Blackface.
You remember Blackface? Of course you do. These days, he goes by Blackface Naija. He used to be one-third of the once sensational R&B group Plantashun Boiz. Around the middle of 2020, he re-recorded and re-released, complete with a video, the award winning song African Queen.
As a Nigerian youth, you couldn’t have missed the prolonged public blast between Blackface and Tuface, another third of the Plantashun Boiz who first recorded the song once he went solo. It was Tuface who won all the awards, including an MTV Europe Award with African Queen. All the while Blackface had contended that as the writer and composer of the song, he had never received due credit for it.
Internet fracas and a lawsuit later, Blackface has recorded his own version of the song. He’s dropped the video on YouTube. Unfortunately, the majority of the people have responded with a resounding nah. Why?
They do not care about the timbre of his voice, the narrative in his video, or the more modern production values of Blackface’s take on African Queen. To the audience, the question is: Why is Blackface trying to undo what Tuface had so excellently executed 16 years ago? They leave comments under the song like, If Blackface is such a great songwriter why can’t he move on and write another hit song?
Before we answer that question, let me reintroduce you to Skylar Grey. Before she was Skylar, her name was Holly. Holly Brook Hafermann. For years, she had struggled as a singer and songwriter, ping-ponging from one record label to another.
Then one day, while sitting in her publisher’s office, she heard Airplanes, a new single by B.o.B. At the time, Airplanes was about to tear through the airwaves and launch B.o.B. into the stratosphere—and also make him a boatload of money along the way. Holly said, “Wow, this is fantastic! Who produced this?”
The producer was Alex da Kid, a British superstar in his own right. Holly reached out. Alex dispatched a beat to Holly and she did a hook. Eminem heard the hook, he put bars on it. The result? Love the Way You Lie featuring Rihanna. The track was a monster hit. Holly was big time now.
She changed her name to Skylar Grey and went on to appear on Diddy-Dirty Money’s Coming Home. These days, there are videos of her performing Love the Way You Lie solo and on stage with Eminem.
But here’s the meat of the story. According to Rolling Stones magazine, Skylar Grey has probably made $864,500 from that one song, Love the Way You Lie.
For most songwriters, thunder doesn’t strike twice, but just one song with wings might be enough to change their lives forever.
Now back to the underdog story. Sometimes, still according to science, when people don’t cheer for the underdog, it could be because they’re more invested in the top dog.
They feel it would be more costly for everyone should the top dog lose. One Quora commenter put it this way: “If you don’t root for the underdog, you’re probably an underdog.”
In Nigeria, almost 60% of us are desperately poor. We live in the basement of the social skyscraper. When one of us finally crawls through the dirt, finds the elevator, and breaks through the superstructure, that person — who should be far removed enough to make the risk of self comparison distant — becomes our hero.
Aside from being a reason to believe that a better life is possible, perhaps what this hero now possesses can trickle down to the rest of us. If we cling to hope, someday maybe we too can be the top dog. So, why bring such a person down?
You see, what Nigerians feel for Tuface isn’t Schadenfreude. It’s reverse Schadenfreude. It’s Mitfreude.