Thursday, May 25, 2006

Seeing through Maroon-Tinted Glasses

Maroon 5 is a band that rose quickly to popularity when they first came out with "She Will Be Loved" four years ago. I remember hearing it everywhere - in shopping centres, out of car windows, on the radio, and having my cousin tell me about it online. Their sound is a very pleasing blend of funk, soul, and rock with a lounge feel that is mellow in a way that won't put you to sleep. There are so many fans of their music, people who can sing the lyrics to every song on every album in order, but I have to wonder how much they really know about the band and how much attention they really pay to its message.

The comment from my cousin was that "She Will Be Loved" is "such a beautiful song." A friend said that it reminded him of his ex-girlfriend at the time, with whom he was still in love, because he met her when she was 18, and she completely blew him away. A sister from my college Christian fellowship puts it as the background music to her webpage celebrating the close friendship, through all ups and downs, of a group of girls. A closer examination of the ballad's lyrics, however, reveals that the speaker is, in fact, describing how he wants to pick up a "girl with a broken smile," a young woman who has made the wrong choices, perhaps a prostitute or at least a woman who seeks the comfort of many men to hide her insecurity: "He was always there to help her/She always belonged to someone else." Though the nature of their relationship is unclear, we know that they have been intimate, but he wants something more: "I've had you so many times but somehow/I want more." The chorus and bridge, however, are still the most beautiful parts of the song that perhaps help so many people relate to it:
I don't mind spending every day
Out on your corner in the pouring rain
Look for the girl with the broken smile
Ask her if she wants to stay awhile
And she will be loved
She will be loved

Tap on my window knock on my door
I want to make you feel beautiful
I know I tend to get insecure
It doesn't matter anymore
Other songs are much more explicit and sexual, such as in "This Love," the second song on their debut album, "Songs About Jane." A brief scouring of the Internet reveals the reactions of many listeners, from junior high and even in their early thirties, commenting "I love this song!" "it has such a great sound," "it makes me happy," "this is the best breakup song ever!" and "I can really relate to this song." But is it a happy song? Is it even a breakup song? The first verse has the speaker describing how she "whispered goodbye and she got on a plane, never to return again," and the first three lines of the last verse say, "I'll fix these broken things, repair your broken wings, and make sure everything's all right." That's about where all tameness ends. The rest of the song describes a turbulent relationship, sexual appetite, obsession, possession, denial, and fatigue over this sick cycle:
I tried my best to feed her appetite
Keep her coming every night
So hard to keep her satisfied
Kept playing love like it was just a game
Pretending to feel the same
Then turn around and leave again
Even in the last lines of the song, he mentions, after promising to "make sure everything's all right":
My pressure on her hips
Sinking my fingertips
Into every inch of you
Cause I know that's what you want me to do
Love song? Breakup song? Happy song? What do you think?

In "Harder to Breathe," the first song of the album, the speaker describes the frustration from his lover's criticisms driving him to violence. Because she's "unncessarily critical," he has "the tendency of getting very physical/So watch your step cause if I do you'll need a miracle." And as the song progresses, he seems to be gaining power, realising that he doesn't need her, but because she wants to stay while he wants her gone, he can do anything he want with her. He sees her as scum, "not fit to funkin' tread the ground I'm walking on," and he describes the way she's trapped in the relationship as "like a little girl cries in the face of a monster that lives in her dreams/Is there anyone out there cause it's getting harder and harder to breathe." The frightening thing about this song is that the girl is unable to leave when it becomes violent, and the speaker knows that as well. He taunts her with the fact that he has gained control and, with the threat of leaving her, he ends:
Does it thrill
Does it sting
When you feel what I bring
And you wish that you had me to hold
Through a lot of very controversial topics, however, I do have to say that they're very musically talented and very skilled songwriters. Though the lack of attention to detail may be a comment on society in general, it does take some talent to turn these themes into songs that everybody seems to be singing and humming without question.

- Elizabeth Lynn Rakphongphairoj


Blogger kabloona said...

We all want to love and be loved. Even if it comes packaged with cruelty, neglect, suffering or even violence, its still way, way better than no love at all.

4:28 PM  

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