[OT] Bouncy Wake-Up Music I Don’t Understand

B.A.: Maybe it’s just me, or maybe this 1997 song just didn’t age well, or maybe it’s a generational thing (I was in my second year of nursery school when it was released)… but I listen to this and I hear a song about an emotionally abusive relationship. Nothing ambiguous about it. I would tell Shania to kick his ass to the curb before she becomes a police statistic.

37 Comments

  1. That’s a good example of a song where the tune is great and I wish I could un-hear the lyrics. “Blurred Lines” is another one like that.

  2. Been there, did the kicking out. BUT . . . what do Irish dancers in water have to do with any of it (maybe they symbolize that she IS going to kick him out, or at least stomp on him)? I agree – catchy tune, bad lyrics (and I only listened for a few seconds ’cause I knew EXACTLY where it was going).

  3. Touchy subject, but, she’s singing about it, not advocating it. I’d consider it a clumsy or immature attempt at making people aware that this problem exists.

  4. Andrea — it’s a music video. I’m from the era where a music video about dating someone who is going to leave in a day or two is about getting sucked into a black-and-white comic book while in a diner, and a song about wanting someone to admit that the relationship is over, so please leave them alone, is about Alice in Wonderland being turned into cake and eaten.

    A bunch of Irish clog dancers as backup dancers for a bouncy country tune (during the time that Riverdance was a thing) doesn’t even register.

  5. A great upbeat song with laughter and energetic trumpets and oomph and pizzazz yet very dodgy lyrics* is “Delilah”…. in this Glastonbury Festival rendition by Tom Jones (in the Sunday afternoon Legends spot, where other oldies like Shirley Bassey, Neil Diamond, Dolly Parton and Lionel Richie have strutted their stuff in other years) everyone is having a great time. Including, at around 1:52, weird-beardie Somerset dairy farmer and founder of the Glastonbury Festival Michael Eavis. who was born in 1935 in the village the festival is held (Pilton; not Glastonbury, which is a town five miles away).

    *I mean, the protagonist stabs Delilah to death:
    “She stood there laughing [audience: ah ha ha ha!]
    I felt the knife in my hand and she laughed no more”

  6. I have no idea what the specific issue in this song is; I only listened to a few seconds after she started singing, just to confirm that it was the voice that I expected. I don’t like any of her songs, and besides, they all sound exactly the same. Regrettably, my wife owns a couple of her CDs, but thankfully, they almost never get played.

  7. After Andrea commented about not being sure what clog dancers had to do with abusive controlling boyfriends, I and my wife started thinking about videos with far, far greater lyrics/video mismatches. The Eighties, when I was in high school, were the greatest time for this.
    “Please accept that this relationship is over, and leave me alone” –> “Alice in Wonderland being turned into cake and eaten.”

    “How about a couple dates with a guy who’s only going to be around for a couple days?” –> “getting sucked into a comic book you were reading in a diner.”

    “Dating in high school” –> “a far future science-fictional Aztec-influenced human sacrifice ceremony.”

    “It’s about 3:34 or 3:35 in the morning, and I am trying to figure out lyrics to write for a song” –> “trying to strike a blow against the fascist rulers of the society who are using your high school to brainwash you, in the dystopian far-future world of 2036.”

    “Hooking up with someone you met at a nightclub or whatever” –> “being a Rosie the Riveter in a factory in WWII, but imagining that you’re a pilot and commando leading a strike team blowing up a Nazi headquarters” — but at least, with that one, you can see how “running with the shadows of the night” can apply to both.

    And then there are ones which I argue DO kind of match, if you squint:

    “You have to work really hard to survive, but hope that you can achieve your dreams someday” –> “lead a slave uprising against the alien monsters who enslaved humanity.”

    “We really do need human contact” –> “we really do need human contact, even if we’ve been placed in suspended animation until the far-future year of 2016 and accidentally awakened by radiation mutants.”

  8. It has seemed to me for decades that the visuals of music videos more often than not have nothing in common with the lyric themes. When I still used to watch MTV/VH1/V66 I there were videos where the visual story was so compelling (for lack of a better word) that I couldn’t recall the song it belonged to afterward.

    Wikipedia has this to say about the video in question:

    “…The video is set on a stage that is covered in water, and Twain is accompanied by backup Irish dancers following the Riverdance trend of the time and children playing fiddles. By the end of the video, the sprinklers come on, and everyone, including Twain and the Riverdancers, are soaked. “Don’t Be Stupid” won the Video of the Year award at the 1998 Canadian Country Music Awards.” It went on to say there were three versions of the video.

    Wikipedia also had this to say regarding the song:

    “Billboard magazine called the single a “weak song,” though predicted it would do well commercially nonetheless.[3] The magazine criticized the immaturity of the song’s lyrics and said the production was subpar.”

    So your assessment of the song itself isn’t far off from others’ opinions it would seem.

  9. Olivier, I don’t think she’s advocating anything as much as just accepting this sort of thing as normal and even endearing behavior. Which it isn’t.

    I realize that the disconnect between the song and the video doesn’t do my point any favors.

  10. And yet, she’s considered a feminist. So, maybe a problem of context: it might feel less problematic heard with the rest of the album.
    I’m playing devil’s advocate here: I don’t like Twain’s kind of music very much in the first place and mostly know ‘Man! I feel like a woman’ and ‘That don’t impress me much’ which used to be all other the radio 20 years ago.

  11. Olivier, I’m sure she was and is a bona fide feminist — but sometimes work doesn’t age the way you expect it to: John Ball’s “In the Heat of the Night” novels were considered very progressive. Read them today, and the condescension might make you cringe.

    Will Eisner, had the best of intentions when he made Ebony White the Spirit’s sidekick. By most accounts he had trouble believing, decades later, that people now had issues with the way he was depicted.

    Regarding B.A.’s point, when I was with CJA, I had a psychologist write up a list of signs of an emotionally abusive relationship (as a sidebar to an article about a man who did physically attack his wife), and this song ticks off a lot of the boxes (constant questions, reading of mail, monitoring phone calls, alienating her from friends…)

  12. There are foreign language songs I’ve really liked, then had the misfortune to actually learn the lyrics. I’m sure I’m far from alone here.

  13. I think there’s a difference between some dark songs and this “Don’t Be Stupid (You Know I Love You)” song and songs like “Delilah”. In DBS(YKILY), She describes behaviour that should raise some red flags (especially that there seem to be many instances and triggers). As an aside, calling her partner “stupid” does suggest their may be abuse going both ways, but that’s neither here nor there. “Delilah” very much seems in the vein of telling a story and I think few would see the singer as advocating or considering that behaviour as acceptable. It’s like an old horror story told round a campfire. Of course, women are wicked too, as we see here:

    “Excitable Boy”, but Warren Zevon, is a song about a bad person but certainlty doesn’t advocate that bad behaviour:

    On the other hand, the notorious “Maybe I Mean Yes”, on the other hand, seems to be advocating bad behaviour for both women and men:

    Now, “Jailbait”, but Motörhead, there are some blurred lines there. Just telling a story?

  14. I see the line “don’t be stupid” not as being abusive as much as saying “you silly goose, you know you don’t have to worry about me (so you don’t have to keep doing things that a quarter century from now people will find less amusing than horrific)”

  15. I had to watch it a second time to even listen to the lyrics. Between the upbeat tune, the Irish dancers in a couple inches of water and those poor fiddles being played under a fire sprinkler I was completely distracted from the narrative. But I do agree with Bill’s take on it.

  16. CIDU Bill, I’m sure that’s the way they intend the song to be taken. But then, they also intended it to be a bouncy little bit of comedy too. It is important to remember that men experience domestic violence as well.
    “According to the CDC, 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men will experience physical violence by their intimate partner at some point during their lifetimes. About 1 in 3 women and nearly 1 in 6 men experience some form of sexual violence during their lifetimes. Intimate partner violence, sexual violence, and stalking are high, with intimate partner violence occurring in over 10 million people each year.”
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK499891/

    What exacerbates the problem is that they feel they have nowhere to turn and are often not believed. So, if we’re going to read the lyrics that way, that’s a possibility too.

  17. “How about a couple dates with a guy who’s only going to be around for a couple days?” –> “getting sucked into a comic book you were reading in a diner.”

    Just last night, oddly enough, I was discussing with somebody whether — absent that great video — “Take on Me” would even be remembered 35 years later.

  18. Re: Shania as a feminist. The song in question was written by her now ex-husband, “Mutt” Lange, as were (I believe) all her other songs. Maybe it didn’t seem so problematic the way he ‘splained it to her at the time…which was before he cheated on her with her best friend.

  19. Bill: data point for your discussion – I know the Aha song well, and I don’t know the video at all, such that I was in the dark with the descriptions given above. I may have seen it (probably saw it?) back in the day, but if I did, it did not stick in any way in my mind, and there is no association between that song and the video as described for me. So, yes, at least one person would remember the song without the video. (He goes up like two octaves in the refrain, for goodness sake…)

  20. “(He goes up like two octaves in the refrain, for goodness sake…)”

    That induced me to watch the video, at least ’til he’s done that.

    I was also thinking about songs that describe what is happening to the singer (such as the one that started this thread) opposed to songs that tell a story about what may (or may not) have happened (such as the aforementioned Delilah). The latter immediately brought to mind: Mack the Knife; Tom Waits’ Romeo is Bleeding and $29.00 (and an Alligator Purse); Hang Down Your Head, Tom Dooley and, of course, Bohemian Rhapsody.

  21. “Please accept that this relationship is over, and leave me alone” –> “Alice in Wonderland being turned into cake and eaten.”

    “How about a couple dates with a guy who’s only going to be around for a couple days?” –> “getting sucked into a comic book you were reading in a diner.”

    “Dating in high school” –> “a far future science-fictional Aztec-influenced human sacrifice ceremony.”

    “It’s about 3:34 or 3:35 in the morning, and I am trying to figure out lyrics to write for a song” –> “trying to strike a blow against the fascist rulers of the society who are using your high school to brainwash you, in the dystopian far-future world of 2036.”

    “Hooking up with someone you met at a nightclub or whatever” –> “being a Rosie the Riveter in a factory in WWII, but imagining that you’re a pilot and commando leading a strike team blowing up a Nazi headquarters” — but at least, with that one, you can see how “running with the shadows of the night” can apply to both.

    “You have to work really hard to survive, but hope that you can achieve your dreams someday” –> “lead a slave uprising against the alien monsters who enslaved humanity.”

    “We really do need human contact” –> “we really do need human contact, even if we’ve been placed in suspended animation until the far-future year of 2016 and accidentally awakened by radiation mutants.”

  22. Reply to LazarusJohn included links, and went into moderation; let’s see if this simpler post doesn’t:
    Tom Waits: “Don’t Come Around Here No More”; aha, “Take On Me”; Hall and Oates, “Adult Education”; Chicago, “25 or 6 to 4”, although their official channel shows a live version rather than the video, so you have to hunt for the music video; Pat Benatar, “Shadows of the Night”; Rick Springfield, “Bop ‘Til You Drop”; Rick Springfield, “Human Touch”.

  23. I’d gotten all excited, thinking there was a Waits song I hadn’t heard, but I hadn’t gotten around to searching for it just yet. Thanks for the correction.

  24. I still remember Aha because when I was 10, we played their album after having figured how to play and fast forward at the same time on my best friend’s cassette player.

  25. The “Take On Me” video inspired what may have been the first “literal video” (where the lyrics of the song are changed to describe what is happening in the video). It’s pretty neat.

    I also like the one for “Total Eclipse of the Heart”, which was a pretty trippy song to begin with.

    There are more literal videos out there but I didn’t find any of the others to be so good.

  26. I’d seen both of those, but to me Total Eclipse is way better. “Fonzie’s been cloned!”

  27. Agreed, but Take On Me is usually acknowledged as the first. And it’s the segue for this tangent. 🙂

  28. Personally, I’m worried about the safety of the gymnasts. It’s all fun and games until somebody loses and eye.

  29. Grawlix – and in Three Penny Opera Mack the Knife is sung as a much darker song than the pop version – as is the entire play. (Cleaning up the spare bedroom – aka the teddys room – recently I found the poster from the 1976 Raul Julia production of same still in its plastic wrapper.)

  30. Meryl A: Yes, and I still wonder why McDonald’s would choose a song about a robber who murdered his victims with a knife to advertise their hamburger chain. But at least it wasn’t the Kanonensong.

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