You can read the lyrics to the song, Umbrella, here. You can watch the JayZ -Rihanna YouTube music video gone wildly viral since Casual Vacancy’s publication here. You can review Rowling’s comments about the importance of the song here. In brief, it’s to be understood ironically — Krystall doesn’t understand she doesn’t have an umbrella to offer anyone nor is she is likely to be offered the protection of anyone else’s when the storm comes.
Rowling says the song is “just perfect” for the book because of the rap by Jay Z, which describes a person who is “shockproof.” A girl in The Casual Vacancy uses the words, but she does not understand them.
Rowling says, “There’s this rap that Jay Z does at the beginning of the song and it’s actually a very celebratory rap. It’s saying, ‘I’m shockproof …I’m famous, I have money, let the Dow Jones fall, I’m OK,’ and it’s said in the book by a girl who doesn’t really understand the words and who is not OK. It’s very poignant to me that this girl doesn’t understand.”
Rowling’s selection of which lyrics to read is definitely not inclusive — she cites two of the song’s many verses and repeats the same ones each time to the very end.
We’ve got her thoughts about the place of this rap soundtrack into the novel. Please share your musings on this borrowed poetry device. Does it work? What is it supposed to be doing? Outside of Barry Fairbrother’s supposed bemusement, are there any other clues that the girls just don’t understand what they’re singing? Why do the girls of the Crew team insist that it be sung at the funeral?