October 23, 2012

Songs about, or for, the free-spirited

Style Council, "Speak Like A Child":

You usually can't even tell what Paul Weller is saying, but a simple evocative phrase in the chorus is all it needs. The music and the non-linguistic part of the singing convey the feeling perfectly on their own. (It sounds more sublime on a CD.)

In our socially avoidant age, I think most people would equate "free spirit" with someone who believes they're above belonging to a group or to another person, whether because they're mousy and fearful or dismissive and haughty. But Fergie has a dead soul, not a free spirit.

In a rising-crime period, people imagine them in a Romantic way -- as someone who is willing and actively looking to bond with someone else, and who can even stay attached to that single other person, provided that they keep supplying the magic. Although not fated to be so, free spirits are thus more likely to be heartbreakers, albeit of the type who never mean for it to happen, unlike more calculating types like gold-diggers. Hey, you gotta take the good with the bad.

It's too bad they didn't have Style Council back in the Jazz Age. All those readers taken in by Fitzgerald's female characters would've loved them.


  1. So what's your take on the new rise of "couple" bands, boy/girls who seem to be romantically involved, or at least pretend to be during their songs, that give each other each an opportunity to sing. I think it's kinda goofy, seems to be derived from the emo scene, now making headway into indie, with some clear elements of feminism involved (give the woman the chance to have her say, rather than just good old misogynistic rock 'n' roll a la "Run for your life") as in Gotye's horrendous hit.

  2. Actually, even rock-'n'roll was more human than stuff made nowadays. AC-DCs "rocked me all nigh long"(don't know the official title) is more loving and tender than *anything* Rihanna has ever made. And Rihanna is supposed to be a strong paragon of thirdwave feminism!

  3. Also, I wouldn't say things have gotten more feminist. Feminism happened in the 60s and 70s, remember.

    I mentioned AC-DC, but it seems all music in the 1960-90 period was more loving. Rockers may have been horny, but I can't remember any heavy metal guy singing about how he's going to steal another man's woman, or "I'm only going to break your heart"(as modern rappers regularly do, the latter being a hit song from a few years ago).

    Its not "feminist" vs. "traditional". Its human and loving vs. dehumanized and objectifying.


  4. I can't say I've heard too many of the new couple bands. Hard to imagine an emo Sonny and Cher...

    I got you when I'm always pissed
    I got you to cut my wrist

  5. Yeah, it's more about opening up vs. closing yourself off. Remember all those power ballads? Every other song on the rock stations was like that.

    And both men and women made them. It wasn't just some servile dorky dude praising the girl, a la John Mayer, Bruno Mars, etc. It was a promise that nothing was going to break them up.

    "And they could never, tear us apart"

    "Whatever we deny or embrace, for worse or for better -- we belong"

    And on and on...

    Having to make promises is part of the free-spirit culture, where either one of them could and sometimes will feel that the magic is gone and it's time to move on. That downside showed up in pop music too --

    "You made me, promises, promises,
    You knew you'd never keep"

    When people don't play the field much, and aim for just one partner for life, they don't have to promise they won't leave.

  6. One downside of an overly monogamous system is that people become more ruthless, calculating, and objectifying because if they screw up their one big relationship, they're done for, no second chances. So don't let passion get in the way.

    That probably wasn't so much of a downside when we were monogamous hunter-gatherers, since there's not that much variation to choose from, hence not so much cold-hearted calculation.

    But in a post-industrial society with attendant inequality, not to mention all the lifestyle variation within classes, it must seem like information overload to women. In addition to our weaker emotional bonds.


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