Question of the Week: February 9th, 2016

Are you ever bothered by music lyrics?

I recently had the misfortune of listening to the pop currently on the radio.  I think if I liked it, I would overlook the lyrics, but since I don’t like it, I can’t help but be critical.  I would say the thing that bothers me most is not the coy metaphors for sex, but rather, the straight male anxieties, particularly about dating.  Okay, straight men, I get it, you don’t want to appear sexist, and you’re insecure about your masculinity.  I don’t need to hear about it anymore.

About Siggy

Siggy is an ace activist based in the U.S. He is gay gray-A, and has a Ph.D. in physics. He has another blog where he also talks about math, philosophy, godlessness, and social criticism. His other hobbies include board games and origami.
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22 Responses to Question of the Week: February 9th, 2016

  1. queenieofaces says:

    A lot, actually. PTSD has definitely made it worse, to the extent that I have a separate set of music I listen to when PTSD is acting up. (It’s not just lyrics…it can be really benign things like heavy breathing that sets off the “oh god no” in my brain. Also, most metal makes me really anxious for some reason, which is kind of a problem because literally the only thing my girlfriend listens to is metal. :’D) I used to listen to the radio a lot in my teens, but now I don’t at all.

    • Siggy says:

      Most of the metal I listen to is things like Earth, so my first thought was “metal… with lyrics??”

      • queenieofaces says:

        Haha, actually, we’ve tried metal without lyrics too, and that’s equally bad. I got through approximately 30 seconds of doom metal before I had to turn it off. I think it’s something about the composition style (it’s a lot all at once and very loud, whereas a lot of what I listen to is very…minimalist).

  2. elainexe says:

    Most of the time I think I’m…disappointed? Because I’m not a very words-minded person. Anything to do with words….it’s not my thing. Often it takes a while of listening to a song before I ever hear what they’re saying. So if I like the sound of the song…..and then I finally realize what it’s about…it can be pretty disappointing.
    Example: It took me a few months of listening to Take Me to Church on the radio to realize HEY WAIT A MINUTE THAT GUY’S NOT GOING TO CHURCH
    Recently I’ve been hearing Ex’s & Oh’s. I looked that one up. This one I was bothered some in addition to the disappointment, due to the ideas of female empowerment. It didn’t SAY it was about that, but it just seems to fall in line with, how are women powerful? Why, by doing what too many men do: date/sleep with many men and treat them as disposable/trash.

    • TreePeony says:

      The modern idea of female empowerment is basically forcing us women to behave in the same way that “manly men” have always been expected to behave: be hypersexual, be violent, rude and inconsiderate, never show emotion, care only about how to dominate people (sexually and otherwise), and, voilà! You’re a strong woman! I really can’t fathom how denouncing femininity and embracing masculinity as the only powerful and dignified way to behave, regardless of your biological sex, can ever be considered female empowerment, but society is unreasonable in this as it is in everything else (big surprise!)

      As for the original question: it’s weird, but while I find the overly sexual and/or romantic lyrics found in 99% of the songs out there annoying, I listen to the radio primarily for the music and general rhythm of the singing, so my discomfiture is minor enough to be negligible; I simply ignore the meaning of the lyrics. Though obviously, not everyone can/would want to do that.

    • Siggy says:

      I remember being very disappointed that “Somebody told me” (by The Killers) was not nearly as trans-friendly as I imagined, and is in fact about… straight male dating anxieties.

      • PWH says:

        … Wait, what?? D: What the heck is it supposed to mean, then? I always took it as referencing a trans person as well. How the heck… how… I can’t even understand how that line could be about straight male dating anxiety… You… are concerned… that the new boyfriend is pretty? But wait, what about that other line… Okay, can someone please explain this to me? :/ Or maybe you shouldn’t and I can continue to see it the way I always have… Nope. I need to understand this because I just don’t get at all how that works.

        • Siggy says:

          As I understand them, the lyrics are about how the singer is hot and bothered about how he heard his current girlfriend is cheating on him with an ex-girlfriend, who is now a guy. It’s understandable that he’s upset by the cheating, but I think it’s also playing to the idea that cheating is somehow worse when LGBT people are involved.

          • luvtheheaven says:

            I always interpreted the song as not being about cheating, but rather the singer (a heterosexual guy) is interested in a girl and then he’s crushed to learn that she’s already got a boyfriend, but at least he thinks he’s still got potential, because the boyfriend “looks like a girlfriend he once had” (meaning looks like a girl), probably is trans, therefore in the very bigoted, anti-trans mentality isn’t “really” a guy at all, and if his crush’s current boyfriend is not “really” a guy, then the singer thinks he still has a chance. I’ve heard the song countless times, my brother’s a huge The Killers fan and that’s a very catchy song, but the song has always struck me as transphobic/anti-trans and therefore those lyrics made me uncomfortable.

          • queenieofaces says:

            See, I always assumed that it was more of a jab at the new boyfriend’s masculinity (you’re dating a boy who looks like a girl) rather than an implication that the new boyfriend IS actually the singer’s ex-girlfriend.

      • Sennkestra says:

        Huh…you know, I never actually thought about the trans thing, but in retrospect that actually makes so much more sense.

        I had always interpreted it as a random observation about two strangers who just happened to look kinda similar, which always seemed like a strangely insignificant thing to write a song about.

        So, to answer the main question, I guess I’m not usually too bothered by the lyrics of songs since I’m not usually giving them too much thought anyway. (I also a listen to a lot of songs by foreign artists that are in languages I don’t understand and/or in gratuitous english word salad that the artists barely understand, so I guess I’m used to focusing on aspects other than the lyrics.)

  3. luvtheheaven says:

    I think I’m a bit disappointed when my Googling results in realizing certain lyrics are about various drugs, or other subcultures I do not understand nor relate to. Heteronormativity in songs can be a little annoying, and songs that are openly bigoted toward trans people really bother me… they seem more common than a lot of other types of bigotry in songs. Oh and actually as an atheist one of the most frustrating thing to me is when I like a song, but it’s very pro-God/Christianity/the existence of Heaven/etc. There are pretty much no emotional songs about the death of someone you care about, about grief, etc, that do not include references to Heaven and that really bothers me. I can embrace the fact that a lot of people believe and enjoy the music but sometimes I just want a song that I can fully relate to. 😛

    But in general the songs that I love I usually love partially because I love the lyrics. I’m a huge fan of paying attention to lyrics because in my fandom life I am a vidder, and I always think “would this song fit any of the 5 million TV shows I could vid?” when I hear new music, and often a way I hear new music is through watching other fanvideos.

    • queenieofaces says:

      FUN FACT with regards to Googling lyrics: I spent several months of my life convinced that David Archuleta’s “Angels” was about a dude who was in love with a ninja (I misheard “I’m loving angels instead” as “I’m loving ninjas instead”). It actually took me going to a friend and being like, “What’s with that song about the dude who’s in love with a ninja?” for me to realize my mistake.

      (By the way, if you want songs about grief that don’t invoke God/heaven, might I recommend Frank Turner? “Long Live the Queen” is about coping with the death of a friend: He even has an atheist anthem called “Glory Hallelujah”:

    • Sara K. says:

      Another song with great lyrics about death/grief which does not contain any references to God/Heaven is “Fear No More the Heat o’ the Sun” (to be fair, the lyrics do refer to exorcism, witchcraft, and ghosts, but nothing specific to any particular religion)

  4. I’m aromantic as well as asexual so, yes, I’m often bothered by lyrics. There are several days a week where I’m just done with music and will drive to work in silence with the radio off. Lyrics don’t bother me all the time, but I do find myself more drawn to music with topics not related to romance. During the period where I was trying to figure out my labels and identity I felt like I was overly sensitive and overwhelmed by the number of love songs. Songs I had listened to since I was a kid suddenly made me feel like I was broken and under attack. Just shortly after identifying as asexual (but before identifying as aromantic) “If it Don’t Come Easy” by Tanya Tucker came on the radio and I was horrified by what the song was saying. “If it don’t come easy, better let it go”? I’m aro/aro so I should just give up? How invalidating is that?

  5. Seth says:

    This usually isn’t a big problem for me, because I tend to avoid the radio and just listen to my own library, and my favorite bands tend to be ones that deviate from the usual sex, drugs, and rock & roll themes, or at least approach them in a less than straightforward manner. Still, occasionally, a band I otherwise like does sing something atrocious. The worst offender is easily Blue Öyster Cult’s “Mommy”, which, apart from being uncharacteristically blunt and crude, is just pure, undisguised misogyny. It’s so bad that nobody even bothered mixing it for three decades after it was recorded, and I don’t understand why they bothered even then.

    Second prize goes to Paul McCartney’s lyric, “this ever-changing world in which we live in”.

  6. Silvermoon says:

    So much!
    Like, I’m not a huge music person, but I’ve done various kinds of dance all my like, so I do like songs with a strong beat for, say, Jazz dance. And I get so frustrated because so many of that type of song are about sex, no matter how much I try and ignore it.
    Or that time that we did a routine to “this is what makes us girls” in contemporary. It’s such a gross message as to what girls are supposed to be.

  7. teenbutch says:

    Without music my life would be so boring AND YET there is some seriously bad lyrics out there. Especially because the music on the radio seems to always be about sex and asses- why is that such an obsession?!

  8. Sennkestra says:

    Lyrics almost never bother me in music while I’m listening to it, since I’m usually not paying too much attention/don’t care about offensive stuff as long as it’s catchy.

    Otoh, it does bother me when it comes to things like singing along out loud or playing it for friends. Like, there are a couple songs that I absolutely love, but that have like one or two kinda problematic lines which make them really awkward to share.

  9. Carmilla DeWinter says:

    Oh yes. I fell out of love with “Subway to Sally” a few years ago, because when their then new album came out, the songs were either about heteronormative relationships or some struggle with Christianity that I had, by then, resolved for myself. So: Wonderful music with waay to boring stuff in it to listen to.
    Also annoying: Everyday sexism in what feels like 80% of what male singers on the radio have to offer. I once also ranted at my ex-trainer for bellydance because she’d picked some “shake ya booty, sexy thing” song for the kiddies (ages 8 to 13, little to no grasp of English) to dance to. Because, oi, girls/women are persons, not things.
    I actually love Linkin Park, because apart from the music, they have no (coy) sexual references and very little romance.

  10. Pingback: Question of the Week: March 8th, 2016 | The Asexual Agenda

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