I’m straying from a strictly theatre post today, but I hope to bring it all around in the end so stay with me. There’s this song that’s driving me crazy. It’s in my head, it’s on the radio, it’s everywhere I go. The worst part? I like it. The song I’m talking about is “We Are Young” from the band Fun. I do not want to like this song, but at this point I have so much vested interest in it I don’t know if I have a choice. Let me explain….
I first heard this song a few months back. I’m scared of new music and so I typically change the station if something I’m unfamiliar with pops up. But this song kept popping up wherever I turned, I couldn’t escape it. It didn’t take long for the song to completely offend me. It’s in the first couple of lines, and it goes like this:
“My lover she’s waiting for me just across the bar
My seat’s been taken by some sunglasses asking ‘bout a scar, and
I know I gave it to you months ago
I know you’re trying to forget
But between the drinks and subtle things
The holes in my apologies, you know
I’m trying hard to take it back”
Correct me if I’m wrong… But he’s talking about giving his girlfriend a scar of some kind, yes? Now this could be a metaphorically scar, not a physical one, I’ll admit that. But it doesn’t feel that way to me. It feels like they’re glossing over domestic abuse, and with the super catchy and up-beat nature of the song I find myself singing cheerfully along with this guy who gives women scars… Or sings about giving women scars anyway. It feels odd to me, perverse. It reminds me a bit of something I’ve been working out for THE FANTASY CLUB. I got a note that one of the character’s fantasies should be more intense because he’s an intense guy and this would cue the audience in on this. So, I made his fantasy where he shoots another character in order to get the women he wants. Creepy, yes? I thought it crossed the line, I even considered toning it down. But I thought let’s see how it goes at the reading. I clenched up when the scene came up, but everybody laughed. The audience went along and ate it up. Why? because it was presented in a funny, up-beat way like they do in the song. Violence is fine, as long as we’re cheerful about it.
The second thing about this song, and this actually isn’t the song’s fault at all, but the radio stations in San Diego’s. I was visiting my family in San Diego, where I grew up, and this song came on the radio and it was censored. It doesn’t have swear words, and I was incredibly surprised at what they bleeped out, and what they didn’t bleep out.
“Give me a second I,
I need to get my story straight
My friends are in the bathroom getting higher than the Empire State”
On a station in San Diego, they bleeped out the word “higher” from the lyrics directly above. It’s like they think that if the population down there even hears about someone doing drugs they won’t be able to help from becoming heroin addicts. Completely ridiculous. What’s worse, is that they didn’t bleep out the part that I mentioned earlier. They left in the part about the scar. Because, in case you were wondering, adults consensually doing drugs is worse than a man hurting a woman.
Then there’s the chorus:
“So if by the time the bar closes
And you feel like falling down
I’ll carry you home”
I bring this up because my four year old daughter has memorized it and sings it at full volume throughout the day. And she is as bad a singer as she is loud. It’s like she’s my tell-tale-heart, reminding me how terrible I am for enjoying the song. Plus she’s four and talking about bars and people getting so out of control drunk they need to be carried home, but for some reason that doesn’t bother me so much. I’m not sure what I’ll do if she learns the whole song… Or if she asks me about the lyrics mentioning the scar. Knowing her she’ll be asking me any day.
As you can see I’ve put a lot of thought into this song. This short little three minute song that wormed it’s way into my life. When writing plays I only hope that people are investing as much in them, as I find myself with this song. I think that’s a pretty insane goal, considering plays don’t typically get on the radio 100 times a day, but I stand by it. Because what it comes down to in the end, whether he’s glorifying domestic violence or not, it got me thinking. And that’s all we can ask for. To get people to think about our work.