It wasn’t me! Cookie Jar – Jack Johnson

It seems to be one of the most archaic behavior patterns of human history to point the finger at others: “It wasn’t me, it was Eva, the woman you gave to me”, says Adam when confronted by God for picking the fruit in paradise. “It wasn’t me”, says Eva, “the serpent gave it to me!”  Why is it so difficult to admit to mistakes and wrongdoing: Yes, it’s my fault, I did it?

When I think about Jack Johnson pictures of sun, sea and surf come to my mind – I don’t really expect very deep and meaningful messages – but, hey, looking more closely at his lyrics proved me wrong: he has got something to say!

In the innocent sounding song “Cookie Jar” (you can read the lyrics here)  he deals with exactly the above mentioned question: who is to blame?

While the era of the silent movie cast a spell on him – “It was magic at first, when they spoke without sound”- today’s TV scares him: „But now this world is gonna hurt, you better turn that thing down, turn it down.“

What follows is a sequence of scenes illustrating the question: Who is responsible – who is to blame?

Well it wasn’t me”, says the boy with the gun, “sure I pulled the trigger but it needed to be done”. The young gunman sees himself as a victim of his own socialization and upbringing: “life’s been killin’ me ever since it begun, you can’t blame me ’cause I’m too young.”

The next in line are the parents: Did they make mistakes? Did they contribute to the final drama? „I didn’t teach him to pull the trigger of the gun. It’s the killing on his TV screen.
You can’t blame me, it’s those images he sees”, the gunman’s father replies. The media, the movies he watches, the games he plays, they corrupted him, and they are to blame!

Approached on the subject, the media man defends himself: “I just point my camera what the people wanna see.“ Is that so? Music and film industry dismiss the argument by pointing out that “…it’s only entertainment and as anyone can see it’s smoke machines and make-up, man, you can’t fool me.

The state of facts certainly isn’t always clear and easy, especially in the case of a shooting rampage. Not as simple as the title might suggest: Who took the last cookie from the jar? There are often many factors contributing to a disaster like this.

But there is something shady about it if there are always others to blame, don’t you think so? It would be helpful to admit: „It was you, it was me, it was every man. We all got the blood on our hands.” What goes around, comes around. “We only receive what we demand and if we want hell then hell is what we’ll have.”

You can’t rally against nuclear power without looking at the energy consumption of your own lifestyle, for example. We are all much more involved than we can imagine or want to admit.

Maybe it would not only be more honest but also relieving and unburdening to admit from time to time: Yes, it was me, I am responsible. And besides, only then we can change things to the better… Let’s try it!

Pretty clever: Never Say Never – Justin Bieber

JUSTIN BIEBER and JADEN SMITH “Never Say Never” from ISAAC HAGY on Vimeo.

You can find the song’s lyrics here.
When I announced that I would include a Justin Bieber song in my blog my sons called out: Never! Don’t do it! Well, they obviously aren’t 12 –year-old girls, that is understandable. But they even refused to help me with some for me cryptic passages in the text – for them it is not worth their energy and time.
Opinions differ drastically on the “JB- question”. There is either hysteric admiration or profound rejection and contempt. There is not much in between. The psychological background would be well worth exploring.
But here I want to have a look at the lyrics of his latest song “Never say Never” which is also featured in the new movie “Karate Kid”  with Jaden Smith (2010).
“Never Say Never” – this is not a very original song title. Many artists have a song with this title in their repertoire – Jennifer Rush, Alias, Kim Wilde, The Fray among them. And who wouldn’t remember the James Bond movie with Sean Connery…
Never say never – this is a maxim that many of us would certainly support. Whatever you might think about Justin Bieber as an artist or a commercial product – the story of his young life seems to illustrate his own song title.
His message: You can do it! Don’t let yourself get discouraged by others! You are strong! „See, I never thought that I could walk through fire. I never thought that I could take the burn.” That’s what teenagers love to hear, what they need to hear. “I never thought I could feel this power. I never thought that I could feel this free. I’m strong enough to climb the highest tower and I’m fast enough to run across the sea.”
And it’s good to encourage them this way rather than saying: you won’t make it, you will fail! This is what modern pedagogic demands from parents and teachers nowadays.
Jaden Smith accompanies Bieber in this song and I am sure many kids recognize their own experiences in his words: „Now he’s bigger than me, taller than me. And he’s older than me and stronger than me. And his arms a little bit longer than me.” But Jaden is lucky, he’s got Justin on his side –„but he ain’t on a JB song with me!” This gives him unforeseen power comparing him to Luke Skywalker (the Force is with him!) and basketball star Kobe Bryant, yes even biblical history is used to describe the power: “Like Luke with the force, when push comes to shove. Like Kobe with the 4th, ice water with blood…like David and Goliath, I conquered the giant.“
In the course of the song Jaden Smith sings: „No pun intended, was raised by the power of Will…. I was born from two stars, so the moon’s where I land.” Quite a self-confident kid he is, which is not surprising being the son of two celebrities like Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith. No wonder he is sure he will land on the moon one day…
I gotta be the best, and yes, we’re the flyest… I will never say never! (I will fight) I will fight till forever! (make it right).” This sounds like hard work and is certainly not an easy life. That’s what stars are made of. But then again, these are expectations many don’t live up to. What if the dream doesn’t come true? What if I am not a celebrity child (as most of us…)? What if I will always be mediocre? Can’t I be happy nevertheless and find my own way?
Allow yourself to fall, to be weak, to make mistakes. Maybe that is something young Justin Bieber still has to learn. Maybe in the future he will find words and song lyrics for this kind of experience, too.
I would never have thought that I would deal with Justin Bieber for more than an hour – but there you are – pretty clever: “Never Say Never”! 😉

Who is to blame? The Flood – Katie Melua

Katie Melua – The Flood from Dramatico on Vimeo.  You can read the lyrics here.

It is strange. Lately, I didn’t have many problems choosing a song for my blog. Things happened – and the songs came to me. Now terrible things have happened in Japan. An earthquake of magnitude 9.0, a Tsunami which sent pictures onto our TV screens that seem to have come straight from a Hollywood movie. And now there is the possibility of a nuclear catastrophe as well.

Katie Melua’s song „The Flood” was  released back  in 2010. In the chorus she comes up with a question that has often been raised in relation to natural catastrophes: Who is to blame? It is very embarrassing for me as a Christian when  religious groups suggest that these catastrophes are kind of a divine revenge for human misbehavior. At least I haven’t heard anything like that in the context of the Japanese drama.

In the chorus of her song Katie Melua sings: „No one is to blame. As natural as the rain that falls – here comes the flood again.” Floods, earthquakes, tsunamis, they are not man-made, nobody is to blame for them – they are acts of nature beyond control. In the face of these disasters we feel completely helpless because we can’t blame anybody. We cannot exploit the situation politically. We can’t really help directly. Hollywood blockbusters suddenly become reality and we are torn between compassion and sensationalism.

Even if the earthquake is far away from my European home the soil beneath my feet is teetering, at least for a moment: „What I thought was my way home wasn’t the place I know… Certain, nothing’s certain.” We cling to our belongings, to the things that make up our daily life: “What we own becomes our prison …My possessions will be gone, back to where they came from.” At the sight of the Japanese people who lost everything they owned, we ask ourselves: what do we really need, what do we set our hearts on? What if WE lost everything?

Melua even ponders the possibility that it might be a valuable experience to “sometimes be thrown off the pathways.

What do we hold on to? What gives us support – also in critical times? “See the rock that you hold onto. Is it gonna save you when the earth begins to crumble?”  We have to decide for ourselves what this could be: a belief, an ideology, other people, an assignment…?

On the other hand – sometimes it might be good to „flush away the weight that pulls you down, light the ways that freed from the dust. Why’d you feel you have to hold on?  Imagine if you let go…” The more we cling to something, the more we have to lose.

Would this be a comfort for you… „that you can leave your prison…?” What exactly is my prison, what are my fears?

The important message is: „No one is to blame“. Sometimes chaos just descends upon us. Nature has its own laws: „feel the ancient rhythm… don’t trust your eyes.” The soil beneath our feet is only seemingly secure. In fact the earth’s crust is only a thin layer of rock upon liquid fire.

By the way: the problem with the Japanese nuclear power plants (and all the other nuclear power plants in the world) is definitely made by man and NOT a natural catastrophe. This means: there are people to blame, we are responsible. There are alternatives. These catastrophes are avoidable, if we only want to…

Here’s to the girls: You’re „F**king Perfect” – Pink

Today is International Women’s Day. The perfect day for a song like this: sung by a woman,  telling a woman’s story and the history of a girl’s childhood. You can read the lyrics here.

The official video  accompanying the song delivers quite drastic pictures and scenes – so drastic that there is obviously a “clean version” circulating especially in the US…

The song is about a woman, her destructive self-image and lack of self-confidence. „You’re so mean, when you talk about yourself, you were wrong Filled with so much hatred…such a tired game”. This self-hatred often leads to the acts of self-harm and destruction shown in the movie: bulimia, anorexia, cutting and, as a last remedy: suicide.Mistreated, misplaced, misunderstood“. That’s how these girls and young women feel – and there is often a long history behind these feelings starting in early childhood. The girl in the movie is mobbed in kindergarten – and gets told off when she makes a stand against the bully. Growing older she has to bear her mother’s permanent nagging. As a teenager she engages in a cat fight competing with the other girls about who is the slimmest and most beautiful.

Pink has a message for these girls: “Oh, pretty pretty please, don’t you ever ever feel like you’re less than f**kin’ perfect. Pretty pretty please, if you ever ever feel like you’re nothing: You’re f**kin’ perfect to me.”

Allegedly she has gone through the same sort of experience: “Made a wrong turn, once or twice. Dug my way out, blood and fire. Bad decisions, that’s alright – welcome to my silly life.

So, it’s not about doing everything perfectly well or pleasing the critics, because you never will: “Done looking for the critics, cause they’re everywhere
They don’t like my jeans, they don’t get my hair. Exchange ourselves and we do it all the time. Why do we do that? Why do I do that?
” Yes, why can’t we just be ourselves?

It’s enough! I’ve done all I can think of, chased down all my demons”. It is kind of an obsession and many girls won’t cope with it on their own. For some it might be enough to hear: „You are perfect“. Others might be able to discover their talents like the girl in the video who becomes a paintress. Most of them will need a therapy to deal with their anxieties: “The whole world’s scared, so I swallow the fear”. Swallowing the fear won’t do the job – the vicious cycle will continue. The young woman in the video breaks the cycle. The frame story shows her sitting at her daughter’s bed mouthing the words: „You are perfect to me“ – a sentence she had obviously not heard as a child.

This is a very catchy song, although it might not be very challenging in musical terms. The lyric’s message is important, though. Look for your strengths and talents. You have been given life, that’s why you are lovable – and perfect just the way you are! Of course this also applies to the boys. They need encouragement, too – maybe even more in these times when girls and women are getting stronger and more self-confident. What do you think?

But today is International Women’s Day – so here’t to the girls: You are perfect!