I can’t tell you how often I bop along to a song with absolutely no idea what the tune is actually about, mainly because I’m one of those people who make up their own lyrics anyway so there’s no point paying attention.
It’s not until I go home and read the lyrics (because I’m a saddo like that) that I realise that phwoah boy, some tracks are troubling. And look ~art~ can be subjective, we get that, but there’s a difference between music that’s talking about abusive behaviours, and music that excuses this shit or paints it as ‘romantic’.
So, I thought it’d be wise to go through a few controversial songs and discuss how songs can seemingly condone inappropriate behaviour – particularly non-physical abuse – even if they may seem harmless at face value.
LOVE THE WAY YOU LIE – EMINEM, RIHANNA
I suffocate and right before I’m about to drown
She resuscitates me, she fucking hates me,
And I love it, wait
Where you going, ‘I’m leaving you’
No you ain’t, come back
While Love The Way You Lie bluntly speaks about domestic abuse in a physical sense, there are also a tonne of mentions of non-physical abuse that tends to go unnoticed.
To name a few, relying on a partner to make you better after you’ve treated them like shite is manipulation at its finest. Even in the video (as seen in the gif above), the partner tries to gloss over his repeated awful behaviour with a gift. Ahhh, no thanks. Nope. Not good.
SORRY – JUSTIN BIEBER
I’ll take every single piece of the blame if you want me to
But you know that there is no innocent one in this game for two
I’ll go, I’ll go and then you go, you go out and spill the truth
Can we both say the words and forget this?
Biebs. Mate. C’mon.
In what scenario between a couple has it ever gone down well when someone takes ownership for being in the wrong, then follows it up with a ‘but….’? That’s straight-up gaslighting right there. Especially if your only qualm with your partner is that they told people that you messed up. While it might seem minor, emotional abuse in the sense that you’re blaming your partner for your own behaviour is never cool.
SOMEBODY THAT I USED TO KNOW – GOTYE
And I don’t even need your love
But you treat me like a stranger and that feels so rough
No, you didn’t have to stoop so low
Have your friends collect your records and then change your number
Somebody That I Used To Know is a banger, but in any relationship, if someone feels like they need to change their actual phone number and send friends so they don’t have to see their ex, that they want to be left alone. It’s not ‘stooping low’, it’s wanting boundaries and space.
BLURRED LINES – ROBIN THICKE
(I’d include some key lyrics but it’s quite literally all of them.)
Who doesn’t remember this chart-dominating monster back in 2013?
Now in all honesty, even I didn’t miss the lyrics the first time I heard Blurred Lines, they were deadset bonkers. The entire song, while definitely cringe, encouraged listeners to view women as property they could ‘own’ or ‘domesticate’ with absolutely no agency whatsoever. And look, let’s not get started on the blatant references to sexual coercion.
ANIMALS – MAROON 5
Yeah you can start over you can run free
You can find other fish in the sea
You can pretend it’s meant to be
But you can’t stay away from me
When you refer to someone as your ‘prey’ and say that they’ll never be free of you, you’re already in ‘stalker’ territory. People need to be able to get away from someone without fear that they’ll keep pursuing them – that’s a basic freedom.
Plus, it didn’t help that ol’ mate Adam Levine paired those stalker-AF lyrics with a video where he’s an actual stalker – get some perspective, dude.
Anywho, if you don’t find any of the material in these songs worrysm, have a squiz at the video below to get more of a feel about what non-physical abuse is:
If you need some more info, hit up Our Watch’s No Excuse For Abuse campaign.
If you or someone you know has experienced any kind of abuse, sexual assault, domestic or family violence please call 1800RESPECT or visit www.1800respect.org.au.
If you feel you are in any kind of danger please call 000.