Thursday, August 16, 2012

(But) it has a great beat and you can dance to it

I remember reading, years ago, that Sting was annoyed that people completely misunderstood the lyrics to "Every Breath You Take" and celebrated it as a love song at weddings, proms, and parties when your parents are not around. The song, simply put, is about stalking, and not the good kind. But people took from it what they wanted and that was intellectually lazy of them. Granted, Sting didn't use the phrase intellectually lazy, but I understood what he meant.

I have become more and more annoyed at people who take songs and completely misunderstand their meaning or intention and celebrate them in all the wrong ways. "Freebird" is about being unable to commit. "Living on a Prayer" is not about spirituality but about living with failure, "Born in the USA" is NOT a celebration of America but a condemnation of it. Stop dancing to "We Are Young"! It is about drugs and domestic abuse. Don't wave your fist to "Won't Get Fooled Again" idiot. It is about the inevitability of getting fooled again.

Remember, I'm not talking about songs that have double entendres and people ignore them (or focus solely on them and forget that sometimes, a cigar is just a cigar)or songs which wear their hearts on their sleeves and let you know exactly how depressing they are (I'm looking at you, Billy Joel's discography). I'm also not talking about songs whose lyrics we mishear. These words are crystal clear and we just ignore what they are saying because the music is so upbeat or compelling. I am talking about the songs we dance to, or hum to, or feel revved up by, which are actually meant to tell us something quite different. Songs whose point we collectively miss.

So don't stop enjoying your music. But please, don't try to get me to sing along to "Lola." That's just sick.

[I invite your input as to what songs might go on a list such as this]


  1. Good point, but you can't totally ignore the music and only focus on the lyrics. Born in the USA is a good example. In the version on Tracks the music fits the lyrics, in the Born in the USA (album) version it doesn't. Also, most rock lyrics are partially heard- except the chorus. Understandably, people only consider the chorus.

  2. Wasn't it Sting who sang, "I can't, I can't, I can't stand music..."

    Oh wait, that was your dad...

    Maybe the lyrics are not so important...



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