Warning: This post references morally reprehensible things like adultery and murder. For the record, For Alsan…and the Volunteer State is opposed to both murder and adultery.
Video killed the radio star…at least someone said that once. Yes, our culture is a visual one that assigns celebrity to untalented people like the entire cast of Jersey Shore.
Yet, the radio is not dead. Music still speaks to everyone. Jacques Barzun said, “Music is intended and designed for sentient beings that have hopes and purposes and emotions.” I think there is something to that. Musicians are our modern day poets. I don’t think it is true that video killed the radio star, but it may well be that radio killed the poetry star. Poets are no longer those that give voice to the human experience, it is the musicians. True, many (if not most all) popular musicians are increasingly shallow in their thoughts (example: Lady Gaga and her ‘born this way’ argument). Yet, truth is still found in almost every artistic expression.
As the title above indicates, I want to talk a little bit about adultery, murder, and music. In the days of my grandparents people sang of innocent things like Cape Cod and such. Somewhere along the way, people began to sing about real life. Nowadays no topic is faux pas. Even if people lambast Eminem for rapping about beating women, his albums still sell by the millions (and Chrysler uses him as a spokesperson).
I don’t want to discuss the broader theme of morality in music. I have no plans of writing a thesis on the subject. I was inspired to write this post by listening to my iPod. While listening to my iPod on shuffle a while back, I realized that I have several songs about murder. There are Johnny Cash murder ballads, and songs about people being shot in the Old West from Kernal Garner and Corb Lund. If you listen to any country music, there is eventually going to be a song involving the shooting death of someone. Yet, what troubled me was the discovery that I have two songs that share a common plot line of the singer discovering his girlfriend/wife/lover lady with another man and murdering that man. These two songs are: “I Killed Sally’s Lover” by the Avett Brothers and “Wake Up Call” by Maroon 5. These are both really catchy songs, even though they address an incredibly tragic situation Adultery absolutely ruins lives. This scenario is far too common, so it is not surprising that it makes it into mainstream media. Yet, can one write a song about such ruin and not trivialize it? Let’s look at these two songs and make some evaluations.
I Killed Sally’s Lover
This song is upbeat and fun. But it’s about adultery and murder. That doesn’t seem to compute. Based on the broader spectrum of Avett Brothers songs, I take this song as more of a satire. If Eminem rapped about getting a pocket blade and a shotgun, it might be believable. The Avett Brothers, on the other hand, are not the murdering kind. I consider this song to be a tongue-in-cheek homage to redneck rage. I think the song is fittingly summed up in the line: “But it ain’t worth the trouble, the suffering or the grief. A bleeding heart is better than the penitentiary.” Yes it is fellas. Thank ya’ll for coming out against murder.
Wake Up Call
This song just has a different feel (and I don’t just mean musically). Considering the fact that almost every single Maroon 5 song is about sexual immorality, this song seems pretty congruent with their repertoire. Granted, I don’t see Adam Levine shooting someone…ever. There is, however, a markedly different attitude in this song from “I Killed Sally’s Lover.” This song really captures the anger of betrayal, but unlike the Avett Brothers, the murder is not denounced per se. This song is summed up by the line: “I don’t feel so bad.”
So, are these songs evil? Maybe, maybe not. They definitely discuss a very evil situation; however, I don’t think either the Avett Brothers or Maroon 5 intend to support spousal murder. Do they approach the issue with enough gravitas? Maybe not. They do, however, capture certain emotional aspects of a heartbreaking (and anger-inducing) situation. What do you think? Does your conscience allow you to listen to these songs?
Until later friends…