Tuesday, January 18, 2011

How to Diss an Ex-Lover as a Rock Star

The current corner solution in my listening playlist is the song 'Gives You Hell' by the All American Rejects:

It's a classic of the 'You know how you didn't want to date me in high school? Well I'm a rock star now, bitch!' genre.

It's apparently quite a popular theme, with the other notable example being Cee-Lo Green's song 'Fuck You' . This reinforces my conclusion that a lot of famous rock stars were actually losers in high school. Not all of them, of course, but certainly the ones singing about all the girls that barred them. You know who doesn't have a song like that? Jon Bon Jovi. You know why? Because he was probably knee-deep in pussy, both in high school and ever since, and has barely given the question a moment's thought.

Cee Lo Green - Exhibit A

Tyson Ritter - Exhibit B

Jon Bon Jovi - One of these things is not like the other.

But as Roissy pointed out, it's very difficult to make this kind of point as a rock star without looking kind of pathetic. To wit, you're implicitly saying two things:
1. I was lame back in high school and girls didn't like me, and
2. I'm still so hung up on this fact that I need to compensate by flaunting my rock star status and talking up how much better I am than that guy who she was being boned by at the time.

Which brings me back to the All-American Rejects. The chorus is catchy
When you see my face,
hope it gives you hell,
hope it gives you hell.

When you walk my way,
hope it gives you hell,
hope it gives you hell.
But it's the bridge that's really well done. They make a very good attempt to deal with point 2.
Truth be told, I miss you.
And truth be told, I'm lying.
Very nice. They implicitly acknowledge the possibility that writing this song means he's still obsessing about the girl in question. Trying to deny this outright would not look credible, and would seem too desperate to appear over her. So he opens with what seems like an admission of this fact. Psychologically, it's him baiting the girl. He knows that if she is regretting her decision to ignore the guy, she will likely cling to the fact that she's still desirable in his eyes.

But knowing this is what she wants to think, he follows his admission with a clever quip (and some very nice word play) that implies the previous line was a joke. He might find her still attractive in some way. But he's not really bothered by the whole thing. In other words, the song is his idle and humourous reflection on high school, not a burning grudge he has to get off his chest. And that is the only way you can successfully deliver this kind of song.

Nice work, All American Rejects.

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