But ultimately, Sinatra's vulnerability is at the core of his magic. There was an operatic intensity to Frank Sinatra’s existence. His life mistakes were legion; he was, always, at the mercy of powerfully oscillating emotions. The conflicts filter into the molecules of his music. We hear, we respond.
Rap, of course, would seem to be about outer rather than inner conflict: swagger and defiance don’t just set the tone, they shout it. And yet the best rappers expose the sorrow and humanity that underlie the swagger. Eminem’s hymn to recovery “Not Afraid” is both brutally self-critical and self-transcending, reaching out to listeners who’ve been down the same addictive path.
And Jay-Z’s “Empire State of Mind,” which begins by trumpeting the rapper’s importance to the big city, modulates to sympathy for those who get lost in it: wayward girls from small towns, ball players and rap stars hooked on Ecstasy and addicted to the limelight. When a Swedish interviewer asked Jay-Z, “What is your talent?” he answered shyly. “I guess, telling the truth in rhyme..."