In The Ones of the ’10s, I’m reviewing every single that hit #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the 2010s and working my way up into the present.
Flo Rida- “Whistle”
HIT #1: August 25, 2012
STAYED AT #1: 2 weeks
2012 is often remembered as an exciting year for pop music. A year defined by major cultural defining hits and shifts. All of a sudden acts that had existed either underground or outside the mainstream from EDM DJs to indie bands were now bonafide stars enjoying the biggest hits of their careers. These acts helped to bring new energy to the charts taking power away from the flashy club centric electropop acts that had been running things for the past few years. Who would have imagined before 2012 that songs like “We Are Young,” “Somebody That I Used To Know,” and “Call Me Maybe” could get big and dominate the year?
These shifts also coincided with the rise of virality to push a song into popularity. Without larger cultural forces, some of these songs and trends would probably not have gotten as big as they did. Billboard didn’t account for online and streaming activity yet but you can see these factors trickling into our big hits.
With all this, you would think the charts wouldn’t be hospitable to an act as faceless and forgettable as Flo Rida, the rapper who was a clear holdover from the electropop days netting hit after hit of catchy club rap jams utterly devoid of any personality. He should have easily been washed away but of course, things rarely change that drastically. After nine weeks of “Call Me Maybe” at #1, American listeners decided to go crazy over “Whistle,” Flo Rida’s clumsy attempt at describing a blowjob which wound up as his third and final #1 hit.
Flo Rida is the type of artist that doesn’t need attention to be big. (The #1 song the week of Flo Rida’s birth: The Knack’s “My Sharona”) After spending years working his way up in the rap game, Flo Rida made his big breakthrough with the T-Pain collaboration classic “Low,” Billboard’s biggest-single for 2008. (It’s a 6.) Soon enough, he became a reliable hitmaker getting back to #1 a year later with “Right Round.” (It’s a 3. Kesha, an artist who’s already been in this column and will appear in it again, sings uncredited backing vocals on the track.)
In the three years between “Right Round” and “Whistle,” Flo Rida netted four Top 10 hits with one of those singles, 2011’s “Good Feeling,” getting as high as #3. (It’s a 6.) He wasn’t starving for hits by the time of “Whistle” which came from his 2012 album Wild Ones and featured two more Top 10 hits, the title track with Sia and “I Cry.” (“Wild Ones” peaked at #5. It’s a 5. Sia will eventually appear in this column. “I Cry” peaked at #6. It’s another 5.) From all accounts, “Whistle” seemed to more business as usual.
Flo Rida was involved in the writing of “Whistle” along with five other songwriters that included producers DJ Frank E and Glass, Marcus Killian, Breyan Issac, and Antonio Mobley. In an interview with Songwriter Universe, Isaac said it was Glass who came up with the idea whistling the song’s main hook and the song quickly developed from there, “He also had this cool beat. And I came in the room, just as they were playing the beginning of the idea to Flo (Rida), and the magic just happened so quickly on that song. It came together in one session, and within a day or two, the majority of the song was done.”
As I’ve already mentioned, “Whistle” is about a blowjob. On the chorus, Flo Rida sings to this girl to blow his whistle while also demonstrating to her how to do it. Right away, this is stupid. How does Flo Rida show his girl how to blow his whistle? Is he able to suck his own dick? Does he use something to demonstrate a blowjob with? Someone wasn’t thinking clearly which goes for the rest of the song. I don’t get the impression that there was any thought or cohesion put into the lyrics of “Whistle.”
I could talk about the other lyrics and what they mean but does anyone care about Flo Rida lyrics. The main appeal of Flo Rida songs is the catchy hooks with everything else treated as an afterthought. The verses are supposedly Flo Rida bragging about himself but the lines don’t connect to the hook. The only one that stands out is “I bet you I’m guilty, your honor/That’s just how we live in my genre” for the sheer laugh ability of that line.
Talking to MTV News, Flo Rida admitted to the double entendre in “Whistle” while also saying he tried to keep it as clean as possible, “It’s definitely for referees. Well, put your own swing on it, but for the most part, I keep it clean, but if you listen to it, you can take it another way as well.” That disconnect shows a lot. The music sounds like a kid’s song while Flo Rida sounds excited to be teaching this girl how to give him a blowjob. As Todd in the Shadows said, Flo Rida comes across as air humping with his tongue hanging out of his mouth doing everything to drain the entendre out. For a sex song, this is completely unsexy and the whistling noises aren’t helping matters.
Despite the infamous reputation “Whistle” gets from critics, I’m not one to join in the hatred. “Whistle” is bad but in a hilarious way. Hearing Flo Rida singing about being excited to have a girl blow his whistle hide over sunny production just makes me laugh that I can’t give too much hate to it. And musically, it sounds fine anchored by a four-chord acoustic riff and other electropop style productions that give the song a summer beach feel as shown by its music video set in Acapulco, Mexico.
It’s not bad it but doesn’t stand out enough to make much of an impact outside of the lyrics. And considering 2012 being a year full of hits that dominated popular culture, the success of “Whistle” is a weird anomaly. I don’t remember hearing it at the time and has been forgotten for the most part.
As songwriters and producers, Breyan Isaac and DJ Frank E will be back in this column but Flo Rida will not. Flo Rida stuck around for a few more years on the charts. He’s had three Top 10 hits since “Whistle” with “I Cry” along with 2015’s War sampling “GDFR” and 2016’s “My House.” (“GDFR” peaked at #8. It’s a 4. “My House” peaked at #4. It’s a 5.) Flo Rida’s still out there and he’s apparently planning on releasing his new album, his first since Wild Ones, pretty soon so we’ll see if he can continue his consistent success.
BONUS BEATS: Here’s the cast of Glee performing their take on “Whistle” on a 2012 episode of Glee:
(The Glee cast’s highest-charting single is their 2009 version of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’,” which peaked at #4. It’s a 4.)
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