Saturday, September 13, 2008

Unhealthy roles models

"Johnny Get Angry" - k.d. lang:

He Hit Me (And It Felt Like a Kiss) - Hole:

These two songs were singles in 1962 and 1963, by Joanie Sommers and The Crystals. Both are good songs, although both are difficult from a modern perspective, even given the - unverified, but plausible, explanation, "Gerry Goffin and Carole King wrote the song after discovering that singer Little Eva was being regularly beaten by her boyfriend. When they inquired why she tolerated such treatment, Eva replied, with complete sincerity, that her boyfriend's actions were motivated by his love for her."

I basically like them both, but can't really defend them on any compelling level. The story, as I recall it, is that Phil Spector was convinced "He Hit Me" was a hit. I can't hear it. I mean, I really do think it's a groovy little tune, but it doesn't sound like "hit" kind of good. Now, "Johnny Get Angry" was a hit, and its not hard to tell why. That's a damn catchy little melody!

Now, as best I can tell, if Johnny really does love the narrator of the song then he really isn't doing a very good job of showing it. But then if she really loves him, she's doing an even worse job of showing that. Dysfunctional Behavior 101. But then not necessarily an implausible thought process, and while possibly the song comes too close to endorsing its view, not necessarily one that should instead be left unspoken of by the arts either.

"He Hit Me" is harder to deal with. It's a less catchy song indeed, but arguably a stronger one. The original Spector/Crystals record is impossible to forget. If its intended as a statement against the narrator's attitude, it doesn't, on the record, manage to convey that... and yet it convey's something more than what it's easily dismissed as conveying.

Honestly, I think someone should write a whole set of BDSM lyrics for the verses, which would make the chorus lines such as "He hit me, but it didn't hurt me" and "He hit me and I knew he loved me" perfectly easy for a modern audience to deal with. Leave the more complicated statements on the matter of abuse to another song altogether.

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