Monday, March 26, 2018

Twelve Stalker Songs

A Facebook friend recently posted something along the lines of how she wanted a man who was rough enough to put her in her place and yet kind enough to treat her like a queen. This statement led to some robust offline conversations among some of my friends and relatives about how both men and women often want impossible and truly contradictory things from each other. The difference between romantic persistence and creepy criminal stalking can often be if someone likes the attention or not. Colin Firth's wife Livia Giuggoli accused the journalist Marco Brancaccia of stalking her. Well maybe he did, maybe he didn't. 

But what Mrs. Firth apparently left out of her original accusation was that she had had an 11 month adulterous relationship with Mr. Brancaccia, who was eager to point out the consensual and evidently voluntary nature of their relationship, if somewhat embarrassed at some of his post-breakup actions. All of this reminded me of how much of the culture, in this instance music, seems to glorify behaviors that we all say we don't like and which all of us know are neither healthy nor moral. Some of the songs I really like or at least am very familiar with are pretty much stalker anthems. And this isn't just an indictment of my musical tastes, many of these songs were quite popular in their day. I don't listen to a lot of current popular music but I would bet that the emotions and needs discussed, referenced or parodied in these songs are still expressed in many current day popular songs. Humans don't change that much or that quickly over the years.

Some of these songs are clearly not meant to be taken seriously. Others though definitely seem to be asking for a little sympathy for the stalker. Interesting stuff. I wonder sometimes why anyone would be idiotic or immoral enough to become a stalker. Some of the motivation is baked into the culture. 

This is Love

Air Traffic Controller
The narrator explains that he's got a knife and got a gun so he wants to see how fast you run. And if you ever think about telling someone well then he'll have to kill them too won't he? He has no reason to live and nothing left to give but love. You knew he was crazy anyway so that fact that you stayed means this is all your fault. The irony was this song was used for the 68 Kill soundtrack where it described the uber controlling sexy female psycho perfectly.

Delia's Gone
Johnny Cash
Delia's gone you see because the narrator shot her in the side and then shot her again so he didn't have to watch her suffer. He wasn't married to Delia and her "cheating" on him may have all been in his mind. He sounds a little sorry about it now that he's in prison and perhaps facing the hangman. Maybe.

One Way Or Another
Deborah Harry is not happy about your break up with her. She's going to drive past your house just to see who's around. She's going to follow you to the supermarket and the mall. She's going to find out who you call and possibly feed them or you rat food. One way or another you belong to her and that's that my friend. This song was inspired by Harry's unpleasant experiences with an ex who didn't want to stay ex.

I'll Be Around
Howling Wolf
Chester Arthur Burnett aka Howling Wolf was the epitome of unfettered and unapologetic masculinity. He was to some a dangerous man, to others a kindly fellow. In this song however the Mighty Wolf is making it clear to some lucky or not so lucky woman that he's coming to see her and nothing can stop him. And he hopes that her declarations of love and faithfulness were true. Because otherwise...

Don't You Want Me
Human League
The man, perhaps a Harvey Weinstein type, patiently explains to the woman that when he first met her that she was nothing more than a waitress. He did what was necessary to put her on top of the world and now he hears that she won't see him. The audacity! She should remember that he put her on top and can just as easily put her back at the bottom. She should change her mind and come back to him before they're both sorry. Besides she must be crazy not to want a man like him. The woman replies that it's true she was a cocktail waitress but her current success is not just because of the man. So beat it.

Give Me All Your Loving (Or I Will Kill You)
Macy Gray
The singer is frustrated by the fact that the handsome object of her romantic affections doesn't seem to prefer women with her particular phenotype. And despite all of her hints and overtures this man is just not getting with the program. Well what's a woman to do?
As the singer points out she's looked all over for such a man and his rejection simply can't be accepted. A gun to the head seems to end any of the man's objections. He has become a compliant and faithful lover. It's a miracle!

I Put A Spell On You
Screaming Jay Hawkins
Screaming Jay Hawkins was a classically trained pianist and would be opera singer. The conventions of his day meant that opera companies and orchestras didn't offer many such jobs to black men. Opera's loss was rock-n-roll's gain. There's no other song in which he sounded so demented (supposedly both Hawkins and the band were a little tipsy during the recording). The simple lyrics declaim the painful possessiveness of love. The singer wants his woman to know that he won't stand for any cheating. He won't accept her rejection. And whether she wants him or not he's hers and that is the end of that.

Both men and women can exhibit insane stalkerish behavior of course and in this song they both do. To be fair you could argue that the singers are not exhibiting quite the threat implied in some of the other songs. It could be more about their internal feelings. All the same though someone who is rambling on about collecting and capturing you and asking you who do they need to be to get you to sleep with them has clearly left good sense behind a long time ago. But hey, love is a kind of madness no?

Hungry Like The Wolf
Duran Duran
The video probably emphasized the underlying violent urges more than the actual song did but the lyrics are still crystal clear that the man is on the hunt. The woman's consent is not really on the singer's mind.

I'm on the hunt down I'm after you
Mouth is alive with juices like wine
And I'm hungry like the wolf
Stalked in the forest too close to hide
I'll be upon you by the moonlight side

All for Leyna
Billy Joel
The narrator may have been friend-zoned by Leyna. He may have been tricked and humiliated by Leyna. He may have had a one night stand with Leyna. It's up to the listener. What is clear is that Leyna doesn't want anything to do with the singer any more. It's obvious to the singer's friends and family that the singer needs to move on. But he can't move on, doesn't want to move on and won't move on. He sits in his room in darkness and thinks about Leyna. The fellow is rather clearly mentally rattled and probably needs to be the subject of a restraining order or involuntary commitment very soon.

The titular male narrator is not looking for a sexual relationship with a woman. Rather the sexually confused Stan is obsessed with Eminem to the point where he writes increasingly angry and explicit fan letters to Eminem that also end with claims that "we should be together" because Stan is Eminem's biggest fan. Stan is a self-mutilator who has Eminem's name tattoed on his chest. Stan's letters go unanswered. As a result of this, Stan commits suicide, killing his girlfriend in the process.

Every Breath You Take
The Police
Growing up and listening to this back in the day I initially thought it was just a romantic song, Sting's stab at softer pop-rock, a promise of fidelity, love and faithfulness. Well it may be that. But it's also the quintessential stalker anthem. Rather than two people starting a life together, the song describes someone who has been rejected by the object of his desire. He can't get over it. So he promises her that he will ALWAYS be watching her twenty four hours a day. She won't be able to make a single move without him knowing about it. And this is going to continue until she comes to her senses and realizes that she belongs to the singer. Full Stop. This may be as much pathetic as romantic but in real life when people behave like this we call the cops, arm ourselves, or move to different states.

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