Did They Really Just Sing That?

Music is a touchstone for me. At work or when I’m at home surfing the web or reading, writing or crafting I always have something streaming in the background, from classic rock to jazz to movie scores depending on my mood (at the moment it’s the “Mad Men: Don Stares Into His Drink” playlist on Songza) and the CD player and the Aux jack in the car tend to get a good workout on my way to and from work.

I was recently listening to “The River Driver”, a classic Newfoundland ballad made popular by Great Big Sea and I noticed something strange.  For the most part, it’s a beautiful song and I love listening to it, but one stanza struck me as rather creepy.  The stanza in question talked about the singer building a “lonesome castle” somewhere where his lady-love could just sit and watch him as he went off to the river to drive logs.

That got me to thinking about lyrics, and I realised that some of the songs I like, or liked when I was younger, are downright creepy depending on how you look at them. I’m not going to quote lyrics in this post, as I cannot for the life of me figure out how the rules of fair use apply to song lyrics (and apparently no one else can either) but if you want to find them, you can use good ol’ Mr. Google to help you out.

Case in point for creepiness – Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m On Fire”.  At the heart of it, the Boss is asking his lover, whom he addresses as “little girl”, if her daddy’s left her alone, and if he can please her like the singer can.  Given that these lyrics are about half the song, it ranks pretty high on the squick-scale.

The Boss doesn’t have the corner on the daddy-squick market, though.  George Michael’s “Father Figure” is pretty innocuous until you get to the chorus.  Up until then, it’s a pretty nice love ballad.  The chorus, however, has the singer wanting to be his love’s father-figure as well as his or her “preacher teacher”.

Then, of course, there’s everyone’s favourite stalker song – “Every Breath You Take”, by The Police.  I mean, seriously, take a look at the lyrics.  The whole song is about how no matter what the subject does, the singer will be watching them.  And at one point the singer even states that the subject “belongs” to them.

Speaking of stalker songs, what about “One Way or Another” by Blondie?  The singer goes on (and on and on) about how she’s going to “get” the subject, whom she hasn’t even met yet.  She’s going to follow the subject, find out where he or she lives, who they call, and who they hang out with.  No, that’s not creepy at all.  In fact, Deborah Harry has actually said that the song was inspired by her ex-boyfriend stalking her!

Of course, the reverse can be true too – look at the lyrics for “YMCA” by The Village People.  A song that many consider to either be a gay anthem or a piece of fluff to dance to at weddings, it’s actually a very uplifting song if you listen to the lyrics.  The singer sings about staying at the YMCA as a way to his life back on track, and offers advice to another young man going through the same thing.

And on that note, no pun intended, I think it’s time for me to go listen to something that will ease me into sleep – no creepy songs this time!



3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Tobin Elliott
    Aug 17, 2014 @ 08:28:01

    Try checking out the lyrics to The Bee Gees’ Nights on Broadway.

    Here we are
    In a room full of strangers
    Standing in the dark
    Where your eyes couldn’t see me

    Well, I had to follow you
    Though you did not want me to
    But that won’t stop my lovin’ you
    I can’t stay away

    The singer is as much of a stalker as the singer in Every Breath You Take.


  2. Andy Konecny
    Aug 17, 2014 @ 14:12:17

    Not everything is as it appears, and most everything has more out of sight than is seen, just like an iceberg.
    Alan Doyle (of GreatBigSea) even mentions how some of their songs have such darkness in them even if they are otherwise ‘Up’ as they mention in the CBC clip https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kqz6mLRYHj4

    One way to fairly use is to just link to where the content owner has the content posted like I did with that link above.

    Nice to see you back here. Keep it up.


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