Saturday, February 19, 2011

Still for Walking the Line

My apartment is known as the Bruno Mars apartment. Last semester, my roommates and I blasted his song "Just the Way You Are" so often that notes were left on our door telling us "You're amazing just the way you are." I took it as a polite way of telling us to shut up, but whatever the notes meant, it was clear that the song was an apartment favorite. One of my roommates even told several guys that the way to get a girl to marry you was to sing that song to her. I shared the song with a guy and he had different ideas about what that song was trying to get a girl to do. Basically, he disapproved.

While I can't vouch for Bruno Mars' intentions, I find the song a little more pleasing than my friend. More girls should hear that someone thinks they're amazing the way they are so you won't see me throwing a drink in the face of any guy that chooses to sing (or tell) that to me. However, there are some issues with the song that keep me from loving it:

1. Most of the things that make "the girl" amazing are physical attributes: her lips, her eyes, her hair that falls perfectly without her trying. Clearly, Bruno has never witnessed girls getting ready; even the effortless look takes effort. While the descriptions of "the girl" are vague enough to include a variety of girls, they are also vague enough to exclude the same girls. The focus on physical appearance, even if it intends to make girls feel beautiful, seems to say that a guy will only think you are amazing if he finds you physically attractive which doesn't help if you think you aren't attractive.  To be fair to Bruno, most love songs focus on the physical and it's probably difficult to write a song about a girl's intellect, sense of humor, or determination so I'll give him credit for including her laugh.

Honestly, I could overlook the focus on the physical if it wasn't inextricably tied to my next issue:

2. "If perfect's what you're looking for, then just stay same." The song is built on the premise that he doesn't want her to change. Before you get blubbery about him liking her so much he doesn't want her to change for him, remember she will change. Everyone changes. The eyes, the lips, the hair will all change with time. And if she decides to get plastic surgery, she'll still be different. The song and the sentiment attached to it are temporary things because as the title indicates, it's the way she is not who she will be. There is no guarantee that he won't trade her in for the proverbial newer model.

"Just the Way You Are" is the musical equivalent to what Claire in Elizabethtown  calls an ice cream cone: something sweet to make you happy, but melts in minutes. If you want an ice cream cone, then it's perfect. The problem comes when you expect that ice cream cone to last for a lifetime. Basically, all this has led me back to Johnny Cash singing "I Walk the Line." Still my favorite love song because it's about changing with someone which in its way is more permanent.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Birds and Empty Metaphors

An idea has been fluttering around in my head all week: bird metaphors. More specifically, I've been thinking about why we use birds to symbolize emotional freedom. This all came about after I found a song by Laura Marling, Dharohar Project, and Mumford & Sons called "Meheni Rachi." It combines Folk music with traditional Rajasthani music, which I thought was amazing, but what really stuck with me were the first English lines:
Perhaps I'll be a bird one day, if I'm good enough
And I'll get up and fly away and give up all this stuff.
I listened to it over and over. The music and words made me feel light and well, free. I could almost imagine myself as a bird, gliding, the sun warming my outstretched wings. Free as a bird . . . until I remembered I don't like birds.

For so long I accepted the bird metaphor. My ipod has at least three songs using a bird metaphor for the chorus and I can easily name a few more songs to add to the list, but why? I've never really liked birds and I admit that I'm biased--an ostrich pecking my heels and a summer of them swooping down at my head--but besides the whole flying thing, what about the bird is that appealing? I mean, do you really want to be like a bird? Molting, eating worms and other bugs, jerking your neck when you walk? Let's just say if I were an animagus, I wouldn't be the feathery kind. As far as I'm concerned, birds only represent disease and jerky movements. And that means I'm in search of a new metaphor.

 To support my point: