I try to stay away from what I feel is bad music. Most of the time I’m successful. But sometimes it finds me, and there’s nothing to be done. Once in a great while, this unwanted music that finds me is so bad, I have to pause for a moment and ponder the big, universal question: “If there is a God, why would he/she allow this stuff to exist? What purpose does it serve?”
You might tell me that’s two questions instead of one. I’ll tell you it’s a two-pronged single question. Then we’ll fight over it, and Olympic scoring will lead to a controversial result.
I digress. I was unlucky enough to hear K’naan’s new single “Hurt Me Tomorrow” for the first time just now. When I say I heard the song, what I really mean to say is that I heard the first twenty seconds of it, vomited, turned off the television, and changed my clothes. Instead of listening to the rest, I did an internet search to read the lyrics. I guess it’s been a while since I was confronted with a song that shook me to my very core with its awfulness, and I was due. But man…this one sure is something.
K’naan spends most of the song trying to convince a girl not to break up with him by throwing out bad forced rhymes, most of which end with the names of famous people. I’ll just touch on one of those rhymes, and then we’ll examine the chorus, which is the real heart of the song.
I need a button I can push so we can start again,
’cause girl, you bring me to my knees…Nancy Kerrigan.
Think about this for a second. The guy is equating romantic longing with a figure skater being violently clubbed in the knee with a collapsible police baton.
First of all, Nancy was not brought to her knees. Her knee was the part of her body that was attacked. She didn’t then fall to her knees and aggravate the injury further. She sat down and cried. You don’t get shot in the stomach and then poke around inside the wound with your finger to make it worse.
So right away the comparison isn’t really on-point, because the details are wrong.
If what he’s trying to get at is the object of his affection causing him pain that’s comparable to being hit in the knee with a police baton, well, I’m sure that’s going to work out well. Telling someone they’re causing you physical pain without even touching you isn’t going to come off as desperate or self-pitying at all. In fact, being a drama queen is a great way to endear yourself to someone who’s considering leaving you, and it doesn’t give them any indication that they might be moving in the right direction by cutting you out of their life. Doing it in a way that isn’t the least bit poetic or interesting is another selling point. She’ll really appreciate that!
You know what else? Nancy Kerrigan was attacked in 1994. The girl who’s breaking up with you — how old was she when that happened? Three? Does she even know who the hell a 1994 Olympic figure skater is? I’d select my pop culture references more carefully if I were you, man. Ubiquitous as information is now with the internet at everyone’s fingertips, maybe consider dropping a name she might know without having to look it up.
As soul-stirring as that little snippet of song is, the chorus tops it.
This ain’t a good time,
but when is it ever?
I know the perfect time,
and baby that’s never.
So don’t you dare leave me now —
throw my heart on the ground —
’cause tonight ain’t the night for sorrow,
but you can hurt me tomorrow.
Awful rhymes aside, note that he isn’t asking the girl not to break up with him. He’s telling her. “Don’t you dare,” he says. That’s the kind of language you use to threaten someone. That’s the language of an abusive partner.
He says the perfect time is “never”. So, the time it’s okay to break up with him doesn’t exist. And yet, a few lines later, he says tomorrow would be okay. Just not tonight. It’s never a good time, you understand, but tomorrow would work for him.
Maybe it’s a scheduling issue?
If the girl really did throw his heart on the ground, well, there would be no tomorrow. He’d be dead. The body cannot live without the heart, and the physical damage done would be catastrophic beyond the possibility of repair. So I can understand him not wanting her to do that. But why even give her the idea? She just might get so fed up with your shitty song she decides killing you is worth her while.
If you treat the language as being allusive or metaphoric, it’s hackneyed, sophomoric, and lame beyond belief. More than that, it’s an insult to the possibilities of the English language. If you take it at face value, it’s the talk of a person who’s insane and has no concept of time, and no understanding of the workings of the human body.
Oh, pop music. You get dumber all the time.