Monday, March 18, 2013

Deathism and Music: If I Die Young Lyrics Fisking

Damien Hirst's Requiem, White Roses and Butterflies (2008) at the Wallace Collection


The Band Perry



If I die young bury me in satin
lay me down on a bed of roses 
sink me in the river at dawn
send me away with the words of a love song
ooh ooh ooh ooh

If I die young/put me into cryo/
Lay me down/so I can be frozen…um?

Damn, I wish we had more poetic imagery for cryonics. Since I’m more of a ‘rhymes are funny’ rather than a ‘rhymes are pretty’ person, I’m clearly not up to the task.

So anyway, ‘Bury me in satin, bed of roses…’ yeah. That’s nice – it’s detailed, it creates a nice mental image. Good description.

I just can’t personally relate to it.

If I die young, throw my corpse in a wood chipper for all I care. I’m dead – I lost. Anything short of cryonics isn’t going to give me one sliver of hope, and I’m actually not legally allowed to sign up for it. One of the few genuine risks to the Masquerade in modern times is anything involving the medical profession. Especially if it’s as headline-worthy as ‘vampire cryo patient.’

File:Cryo surgery.jpg

Yeah, we’re really cryo-friendly to human members, but if you’re a vampire, our main advice is ‘don’t die.’

So yeah – imagining my elaborately decorated deathbed isn’t all that comforting.

And besides, just to be as overly literal and specific as possible, sending me away at dawn would be bitterly symbolic in my case: ‘You live by the night, you die by the day, bloodsucka!’

For another thing, it would mean none of my vampire buddies could attend my funeral. God knows; that’s always been a problem for me. I'm always having to disappoint human friends with my constant excuses for missing all of their daytime functions (these are people outside the community). I'm sure my fellow vampires would love some more of that. 

File:Bouquet de roses roses.jpg

Also I’m allergic to roses. All of my people are. Yeah, that's one of those folkloric tropes that never really seeped into the mainstream. I mean, not a lot of human members even need a reminder about the garlic, but every now and then someone forgets about the roses, and it's one awkward birthday. 

Roses aren’t as bad as something like garlic, but we do get the sniffles and the sneezes something awful. Romantic. Now there’s the reason I want my half my guests’ eyes watering up.

Lord make me a rainbow I'll shine down on my mother
She knows I'm safe with you as she stands under my colours
oh and life ain't always what you think it ought to be
no it ain't even grey but she buries her baby
the sharp knife of a short life
well I've had just enough time

File:Paradiso Canto 31.jpg

Atheists get asked all the time what would happen if we meet God post-dying. Lots of people have all these really impressive answers. Me, I’d just start the groveling. I’m talking hands and knees, tearful, humiliated groveling. Dignity is for the lucky.

I figure that’s win-win. If God’s actually a nice superintelligence, my groveling will be unnecessary, harmless, and over before I know it. If God’s an unfriendly superintelligence, well, I’ll need all the help I can get. At least I was sent to Hell giving it my best shot.

Yeah, watching over my loved ones, as a rainbow or otherwise, probably wouldn’t be first on my agenda. If I was in any position to ask, I think I’d rather God did something more substantial for them. Like, say, not letting them die horribly like I did.

I really like ‘the sharp knife of a short life’ line, though. That’s a great one-liner. Good imagery, too.

File:The Sacrifice of Isaac by Caravaggio.jpg

And then you had to follow it up with ‘well I’ve had just enough time.’

I’m 142. I could still die young (in my culture, you’re not old until you’re 300, and maybe not even then). I haven’t had anywhere near ‘enough time,’ as if anyone was allotted a set amount at birth. You know, it’d be nice if we could see what it was. How overdue was I fifty years ago? Or a hundred twenty years ago, when I decided there was no such thing as ‘enough time?’

That line also completely undercuts the rest of the verse. We just got the image of your mother burying her child too young, and completely unexpectedly. You follow that up with a generic death acceptance sentiment, and it looks forced. It also borders on insensitive.

File:Princess Beatrice mourning.jpg

When I was growing up, if a mother lost a child, she mourned for a year in keeping with Victorian mourning practices. I don’t think trying to assuage it by saying: ‘your five-year-old daughter had a good run’ would have helped much.

if I die young bury me in satin
lay me down on a bed of roses
sink me in the river at dawn
send me away with the words of a love song
the sharp knife of a short life
Well, I had just enough time

There’s that line again. It clashes so damn much with the rest of this verse, it’s crazy. It doesn’t even rhyme with any of it, or fit the rhythm at all. God, it sounds even more abrupt in audio. 

And now they've gotten me thinking about 'love songs.' Huh. The main love song sentiments are as follows: 'You're awesome;' 'You're mine;' and 'I'll love you forever.' 

And now you're dead! 

Sure, I guess there are some love songs that could work just as well as funeral dirges. In Titanic, 'My Heart Will Go On' was practically both. But I don't know. Knowing my luck, they'd choose something like 'I'm a Believer.'

and I'll be wearing white
when I come into your kingdom
I'm as green as the ring on my little cold finger
well I've never known the lovin' of man
but it sure felt nice when he was holdin' my hand
there's a boy here in town 
who says he'll love me forever
who would have thought forever could be severed
by a sharp knife of a short life
well I've had just enough time

Nice. Really. Wearing white on your wedding day isn’t enough; you have to wear it to your funeral. Sneaky. Abstinence moralizing in a song about death. Nothing better than some good old medieval reinforcement of the notion that a woman’s worth is her virginity and she needs to keep it in order to die fulfilled. They even used the traditional definition of the verb ‘know.’

Not to mention some subtle glorification of the idea that the first guy you meet when you’re young is your True Love and grab him fast while you’re still a virgin so you can be a virgin at marriage. Because that leads to so many happy marriages.

Fuck, the ‘green as the ring on my little cold finger’ line is unbelievably fucking creepy. Prettying up the horror of death gnaws at me, but this is one line short of celebrating how great it is when someone dies before they can sin. By which I mean 'have sex.'

so put on your best boys, and I'll wear my pearls
what I never did is done
a penny for my thoughts oh no I'll sell em for a dollar
They're worth so much more after I'm a goner
and maybe then you'll hear the words that I've been singin'
it's funny when your dead how people start listenin'

Yeah, that’s a thing that can happen. And it sucks. It's been said: ‘Once you’re dead, you’re made for life.’ I always love it when the media targets certain celebrities with a barrage of cruelty while they’re alive, and then they die (sometimes through suicide) and suddenly now it’s cruel to insult them. Seems like your timing was a little off, guys.

File:Alexandre-Gabriel Decamps - The Suicide - Walters 3742.jpg

It’s even worse with celebrities who die young, what with our culture romanticizing youth, and this absurd notion that dying young means preserving that youth because – well, at least our most recent photo of you will always be young. I agree. Let’s take a picture of your corpse. Or where it used to be. There’s your ‘dying young.’

However, this is kind of hypocritical sentiment for a song that’s all about romanticizing death. It’s also a fairly cynical sentiment in a fluffy backdrop. Clash. 

Also: 'goner' and 'dollar.' Ouch.

if I die young bury me in satin
lay me down on a bed of roses
sink me in the river at dawn
send me away with the words of a love song
ooh ooh the ballad of a dove
go with peace and love
gather up your tears and keep them in your pocket
save em for a time when you're really gonna need em.
oh the sharp knife of a short life
well I've had just enough time
so put on your best boys, and I'll wear my pearls

So yeah: ‘if I die young, I’ll decide I really didn’t need that lifespan anyway.’ Like if you get mugged in the street and decide you were better off without that bag. Except then they shoot you.

I think I’d like to split this song in two, actually. Take that previous verse (after fixing the dollar/goner pain rhyme), the ‘knife,’ and the basic refrain. Beef it up with some more cynical lyrics, and you might have something. The melody and voice performance definitely worked for me. Well. I doubt this song would be even remotely controversial for many people, or the artists even imagined the existence of a critic like me. Then again, that’s the real problem.

‘Sour grapes’ is a coping mechanism. I get it. I just think there are ways that we can cope with this without distorting the reality of death or telling people not to grieve properly. Coping mechanisms can unfortunately become problems in their own right. I tend to prefer coping mechanisms where you do slightly more in the process than just make yourself feel better. Or at least, coping mechanisms where your ‘feeling slightly better’ doesn’t come at a price.