Monday, October 23, 2017

You can't have it both ways, pop stars.

I don't assume song lyrics are autobiographical or factually accurate. As with most kinds of writing, they don't need to be, and whether they are doesn't really affect their quality as art. I get annoyed when people assume that every song reflects a specific situation in the singer and/or songwriter's life in documentary detail. I'm fine with rich famous musicians writing and performing from the perspective of "normal" people who worry about jobs and money and whatever else.

But! There's an exception to this! If you are explicitly stating within the lyrics that the song is about you, the rich famous person, you cannot expect us to also believe that you are worrying about money in any normal sort of way.

I am, of course, specifically thinking of current hit "Strip That Down" by Liam Payne, though he is certainly not the only offender. (Here's the video, if you haven't heard it.) I am not a particular fan but, as I said to a friend, I enjoy the song for a certain value of "enjoy"; in this case that more or less means that when it comes on the radio I'm content enough to bop along, but I don't really seek it out and I am making no claims as to its artistic worth. I'm just complaining about the lyrics, because with everything else going on in the world it's refreshing to take a break once in a while and get mad about meaningless pop song lyrics.

This song is coded as autobiographical in the clearest way possible: it literally includes the line "I used to be in 1D." (For those of you who actively avoid hearing anything about pop music: 1D = One Direction, a gigantically famous and successful boy band that is now on indefinite hiatus.) The narrator of the song is clearly Current Famous Millionaire Liam Payne. I suppose if we want to get technical about it, he could be singing this from the perspective of someone else who used to be in 1D, but still: that is five specific people and they are all rich.

So! Since the narrator of the song is, according to the text itself, a rich famous pop star, he has no business making the point in the later lyric "You know I don't need no money / when your love is beside me." ("Beside" seems an odd choice of preposition there, but that is... well. Beside the point.) He doesn't need money because he HAS LOTS OF IT. Her love is irrelevant to this question. I suppose he could be trying to claim that his money doesn't matter to him because of this, but that's easy to say when you don't have to worry about this in the first place.

Oops, my brain just leapt to an argument about how rich people pretending to deeply feel the economic concerns of not-rich people is a lot of what led us to our current mess, but NO. This was something fun and meaningless to get mad about, darn it, so I shall stop here.

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