Monday, June 7, 2010

Did You Actually Listen To The Lyrics?

Every once in a while I run into a situation where someone is, well, misusing a song. Perhaps the most amusing of these was Kelly Clarkson's "Because Of You", which I heard played at - I kid you not - a wedding reception. I can only assume that they chose it based on the title, since you only have to get to about the second line to figure out that it's not exactly a song about a happy couple in love. ("I will not make the same mistakes that you did. / I will not let myself cause my heart so much misery.") So, yeah, that one was funny.

The one that really drove me up the wall, though, was Bette Midler's "From A Distance". This was years ago, but you probably remember it: it got a lot of airplay, and a lot of people seemed to find it hopeful and inspiring. And every time I heard it, or every time someone mentioned it, I just thought: Did you actually listen to what it's saying?

Here's a sample:
"From a distance we all have enough,
and no one is in need.
And there are no guns, no bombs, and no disease,
no hungry mouths to feed."

And I'm sure that makes all the war orphans, perpetually hungry, and poverty-stricken people of the world feel better.

A bit later in the song:
"From a distance there is harmony,
and it echoes through the land.
And it's the hope of hopes, it's the love of loves,
it's the heart of every man."

Yes, it's only when you look closely that you see all the pain and strife and neglect in the world.

And finally, the uplifting conclusion:
"God is watching us from a distance."

So, basically, all these horrible things happen because the Almighty isn't paying close enough attention? And you find this inspiring? I don't care how stirring the melodies are, that's a horrible attempt at theodicy. Please, try again... or better yet, don't.

Feel free to contribute your own examples of misused/abused songs in the comments.


  1. Sister Hazel's Champagne High was used at a lot of weddings.

    > I wasn't looking for a lifetime with you
    > And I never thought it would hurt just to hear
    > "I do" and "I do"
    > And I do a number on myself
    > And all that I thought to be
    > And you'll be the one
    > That just left me undone
    > By my own, hesitation

    If you read carefully, the writer is a guest at a former love interest's wedding. (Of course, it helps to know that the songwriter stated exactly that)

    Of course, hey! It's wedding themed, so it must be good, right?

  2. A friend of mine attended his cousin's wedding where the DJ played Meat Loaf's "Paradise by the Dashboard Lights" at the wedding reception.


  3. Oh, I remembered a couple other ones.

    A friend of a friend once told me that she liked The Fray's "How to Save a Life" because it was played at a friends funeral.

    I always remember two distinct U2-based gaffes at InterVarsity conferences in college. It's hard to decide which was worse:
    1. The video chroncling/montaging (is montaging even a word?) the hunger, sickness, and strife in Africa with U2's "Beautiful Day" playing in the background
    2. Or the video encouraging you to come to a special conference to become an official InterVarsity full-on ministry type. The background track? "Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For".

  4. Okay, those are all hilariously inappropriate for their settings.

    It occurs to me that I also forgot the classic example: politicans who come strutting onstage to Bruce Springstein's "Born in the U.S.A." Sounds inspiring, until you actually listen to it...

  5. The one that gets me is the things people play for kids. It seems like there's a stereotype that classic country is wholesome and clean and good.

    So that's what they've got playing at these kids' basketball practice. People who want to outlaw homosexuality so they won't have to explain it to the kids.....and they're playing Conway Twitty's 'Tight Fittin Jeans'? About a woman who always wanted to slip out on her rich husband and have an affair with a cowboy. People who pretend to their kids that sex doesn't exist, that 'God puts babies in mommys' tummys', and there are their kids, listening to a song about an affair in a bar.

    Don't get me wrong- I have no problem with the song. But that and similar, played by people who would never expose their kids to the same theme's just weird to me.

  6. I once went to a wedding where the bride and groom sang 'You've lost that loving feeling' to each other at the reception - all I could think was "Blimey, that was quick!"

  7. Maybe the country songs count as tribal markers, and therefore pass under the radar? I dunno.

    @ supepome - ::snerk:: I can just picture that.


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