Monday, December 05, 2005

Born to Be Mild

I’ve tried to avoid using this blog as a medium to air every thought that pops into my head or to recount the minutia of my daily life. Instead, I use it to provide a public service on issues of importance to the people of Springfield. You may recall that it was I who exposed the criminal underbelly of the Red Hat Society and who campaigned vigorously for the use of non-vulgar yet whimsically expressive swear words. Given my record of tireless work on behalf of the common good, I believe that I am entitled me to expound on a rather trivial matter that I find particularly troubling.

I was riding the elliptical trainer in my basement the other morning when the episode of Arrested Development I was watching on DVD finished before my allotted 40 minute training session had expired. I switched over to cable, stopping at VH1 to take in a video of Alanis Morissette doing a cover of Seal’s 1991 hit “Crazy.”

Mlle Morissette gives a pretty faithful recreation of the original; the only real difference is that the accompanying storyline in the video has a little twist at the end that should play well with lesbians and their admirers. She also has a much better complexion than Seal. But none of that is what I find troubling.

Listening to Alanis sing Seal’s words, it occurred to me for the first time that the song has a different message than the one that I, and perhaps you, had assumed.

Consider this line from the song:

In a world full of people, only some want to fly,
Isn't that crazy?
Here, Seal is lamenting the fact that so many people exist in a lemming-like state instead of breathing deep the wondrous and unlimited experiences that life has to offer, if only we’d spread our wings and give flight to our ambitions. “Where is the joie de vivre?” Seal seems to be asking. “Embrace the madcap now for without a degree of recklessness in our daily life we are sentenced to an existence fraught by tedium.” He goes as far as to call it “crazy”, this languid lifestyle that grounds so many. I don’t doubt that he means it.

Fair enough, but what is Seal saying to us here:

But we're never gonna survive, unless...
We get a little crazy
This sentiment, if taken on its own, would seem to affirm his message. Our future as a species, Seal is telling us, is dependent on our shaking loose of temperate and confining attitudes in favor of a more unorthodox and revolutionary approach, i.e., we need to “get a little crazy.”

But note his use of the word “crazy.” In the first instance, “crazy” describes the condition that causes people to settle for a sedentary lifestyle. So when he tells us later that survival is dependent on craziness, is he not, contrary to appearances, imploring us to retreat to that lemming-like state? Can we then assume, after a more careful listening, that rather than an anthem for the audacious, this song is merely a call for complacency? Sadly I think we can.

I’m wondering if we really ever knew Seal at all. The Gap featured him in advertisements to parlay some of his cosmopolitan appeal; little did they know that he has the mindset of a Moonie. Behind the supermodel wife and the bevy of Grammys lies a man with the heart of Stuart Smalley.

And what now to make of Alanis who chose to cover the song. Perhaps she isn’t the feisty “jagged little pill” we all came to see her as. Who knew that the provocative hellcat whose explosive jealousy caused her to over enunciate the word “theatre” in her debut single “You Ought to Know,” would someday be asking everyone to just relax and go with the flow. What’s next Lani, planning on whistling a little “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” for us.

One could argue that I'm over-analyzing this and Seal is simply ascribing two different meanings to the word "crazy," one negative and one positive. I don't happen to believe that such contrary interpretations can be accommodated in a four minute pop song. It's also lyrically lazy. Patsy Cline never made such demands on us.

I should know better than to fall for Benetton-style pop songs. It’s probably best if I don’t listen too closely to Peter Gabriel’s “Solsbury Hill” lest I discover he’s advocating for the complete resignation of personal fulfillment in exchange for universal tranquility. Serenity now, insanity later - indeed. I don’t have this problem when I listen to the Replacements.

9 comments:

Imus cocaine said...

I was going to write about how another listener is searching for meaning in the meaningless. And that at the time, and a good deal of time thereafter, that the only thing that was "Crazy" was the amount of cocaine that Seal fed into his disfigured mug.

But then I realized that I missed cocaine, and how often during the hours spent cleaning my apartment I too would listen to music, dig the lyrics sheets out their album jackets, and work myself into an enlightened user experience.

And that you, because of doing the greater good for us all, deserve to tell us how you feel about these lyrics. Even though I truly believe that 40 minutes is far too long to spend on that type of machine and that you could have easily been exhausted and quite possibly were suffering from the effects of a lack of oxygen.

Keep up the good work and keep writing about those crazy women in the red clothing.

Anonymous said...

I might be deaf, you insensitive clod!

Imus cocaine said...

Well signed, my apologies.

BlogFreeSpringfield said...

You're right Imus (are you a fan of that crusty curmudgeon, Don Imus?), I didn't factor in the effects of physical exertion into my analysis. I'm pretty sure, however, that it heightened my sensory perception in this instance and allowed me to uncover Seal's subversive message. In the name of science, I suppose I should give the song another listen with a resting heartbeat.

To Anon 9:48, I'm sorry but I don't get what you are referencing with your comment. I'm really sorry if it turns out that it is funny and I'm just too obtuse to get it.

Dan

wade said...

Mr. Cocaine,
Are you saying that Seal was/is for the most part a talentless soulless cokehead? Or was/is he a talentless soulless cokehead with excellent production?

40 minutes on the elliptical certainly may impair judgement but not so much as bit of the Peruvian Marching Powder will make you want to clean your apartment really... really well.

Listening to Seal in either state is most definitely a bad choice, however I do appreciate the research you and Dan have conducted on the matter at hand.

So... Alanis is Lebanese...

Imus cocaine said...

Wade,
To clarify, Seal is a talented soulless cokehead who seems to be trapped in the same music production quality hamster wheel that we find some of our most talented artists; who can forget Phil Collins' beautiful yet haunting theme from "Tarzan II - direct to DVD", many of which have probably experimented with being Lebanese in college or when they had too much to drink at a Festivus.

Dan simply had a lapse in judgment and was Lebanese enough to bring it up. Notice that he qualified his concern for this lapse in the first paragraph of his post and pointed out clearly that we should not expect these lapses by his reference to Arrested Development.

Is it Dan's fault that the program that he was viewing had to cut itself short in order to make room for commercial breaks? Is it Dan's fault that if had a "Season Pass" for Arrested Development saved on his TIVO, and was viewing said episode from the TIVO rather than from DVD that he wouldn't have had to switch over to VH1? And is it Dan's fault that I've spent this much time trying to be cleaver but getting nowhere?

Dan, it's kind of your fault, but again keep up the good work.

wade said...

Touche'

Clever you are friend. Unless you were really trying to be "cleaver". Flattailed aquatic rodent jokes aside: I too enjoy Dan's "ride along whilst safety pinned to my psyche" style.

For the record, Lebanese girls are invited to make a show of force at this year's Festivus, although the drama and impact of tandem riding the mechanical Surfboard will pale in comparison to that of last year's Bull.

BlogFreeSpringfield said...

Wade, I don’t think Alanis is Lebanese. I think it was just a teasing gesture aimed at those who think that Lebanese action is hot.

Imus, I do appreciate your humour, but I don’t think you appreciate the full amount of sarcasm that went into my original post. Perhaps it was applied too dryly. I’m not really a Seal fan, even before I discovered the illogic in his lyrics. He’s not quite as schlocky as Disney-era Elton Collins, but that’s no compliment. And let’s agree to call Seal a “talentless, soulless cokehead” with “a really bad complexion.” We shouldn’t forget about his pock-marked face. Although he did land Heidi Klum so I guess he does get the last laugh.

You caught the Arrested Development reference as a hint to my real taste in entertainment. I also through the Replacements in there for good measure. I appreciate the TiVo advice. I’m currently missing season three of AD because my wife works on Monday night’s and its 7:00 time slot conflicts with story time.

Thanks for your comments. Keep them coming.

Anonymous said...

Dan-

I don't know that what I said was funny. It popped into my head when I was trying to think of something to say.

I doubt you are obtuse.