Are song lyrics literature?
I remember the first English class I attended in university... it was all about poetry. I've always had a thing for poetry. Somehow a poem can sum up so much in just a few eloquently placed words. It is the exact opposite of me - I'm one of those people who tend to write over the word limit in any assignment. My professor introduced us to poetry by claiming that song lyrics are the modern day equivalent of Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales, Shakespeare's Sonnets, or Donne's The Flea. Since that class I've looked at song lyrics as another literary outlet... a much less wordy and more poetic one.
Which takes me to today...
While I was driving to the hospital this afternoon the new Eminem and Rihanna song came on the radio. It's called Love the Way You Lie (You can hear it here). You know what I 'love'? The way this song is so completely messed up. I 'love' it so much that I just have to write about it.
The song has some very prime lyrics. It glorifies domestic abuse. And I know I'm not the only one who thinks of Chris Brown when they hear Rihanna's "I like the way it hurts[,]... hear me cry... because I love the way you lie." Eminem continues this charade by discussing an on-again-of-again relationship that involves him physically attacking ("push, pull each other's hair, scratch, claw, bite, throw, and pin") his partner who continues to say she loves what he's doing to her. Ohh, not to mention his claim that "if she ever tries to fucking leave again, I'mma tie her to the bed, and set the house on fire."
Where does this leave us as the audience? With a first glance at the lyrics it seems like the grand message here is the condoning of physical abuse.
The song shows the psychological turmoil that exists within relationships that involve abuse... the fact that the partners' want to be together but hate each other, he doesn't want to hurt her but he does, and she's upset and hurt but she loves him. Even if the song is illustrating psychological turmoil, it still promotes a very negative relationship dynamic.
Furthermore, our current society tends to blame the victims of abuse. A woman undergoing a court case to charge her rapist will have her own clothing brought under question - as if how she dressed signified she was game to be sexually assaulted. And, alike to this song, women experiencing physical abuse in relationships are often blamed for staying in that relationship. Rihanna's lyrics reinforce this idea - it becomes easy to blame her for her abuse because she keeps on going back. So, instead of a song discussing domestic abuse in a new and more thoughtful light, we have Eminem and Rihanna reinstating stereotypes that prevent those experiencing abuse to acquire needed assistance and recognition in society.
On the plus side, it is refreshing that Eminem admits he is also experiencing physical abuse even if it is only having his hair pulled. Men very rarely comment on their experiences as victims of domestic abuse. At least the song begins to address this version of domestic abuse in today's society. However, Eminem's 'victimization' is a very very small segment in a song that concentrates on a female saying she enjoys being repeatedly abused by her lover.
I find it saddening that a song like this has become so popular in a society that has large rates of domestic abuse. Eminem and Rihanna's Love the Way You Lie merely promotes violence and unhealthy relationships... and yet somehow this song has made it to the Canadian Top 20... number 17 to be exact. Honestly, out of all the songs playing in Canada this somehow reached number 17?
***** As a side note... earlier this year one of my professors sent my Family Sociology class this video of Keira Knightley and domestic abuse. Thought I'd pass it along.