Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Self-Surrender in Words and Music

So yesterday while getting gas, the gas station was playing loudly John Legend's song "All of Me", which is not a bad song as pop songs go - the lyrics and the melody are pretty good, but at various points this guy sings

Give your all to me
I'll give my all to you
You're my end and my beginning
Even when I lose I'm winning
'Cause I give you all of me
And you give me all of you, ohoh

and throws himself into a funky falsetto that, frankly, makes me want to vomit.  The falsetto somehow emphasizes the dishonesty in the teen-aged girl sentiment the song conveys.

And that dishonesty, despite the romance that's also in the song and that seems more genuine, is turning "all of me" or self-surrender, into something much more self-indulgent, at least from the point of view of the girls who must like this gooey stuff.  

Total mutual self-surrender is less about a guy singing in a falsetto dying to have sex and more about putting up with the little frustrations of daily life side-by-side for 25 years, changing diapers and paying mortgages.  Legend's "All of Me" seems to be "all-about-me" and that biological longing that I'm spiritualizing, while the classing song "All of Me" by Ruth Etting (here sung by Willie Nelson) is much more about a lover's humble attempt truly to serve his beloved.

Legend's version of total self-giving focuses on a kind of pre-climactic titillation that isn't humble self-surrender at all.  Legend's "All of Me" is to the classic "All of Me" what Christopher West's giddy hyper-sexual Pop-Theology-of-the-Body is to the St. John Paul II's real one.

Here's a man who would never sing falsetto.


Anonymous said...

John Legend lost me at the falsetto. How whiny can you get?

Dr. Eric

Anonymous said...

"Here's a man who would never sing falsetto."

Such irony coming from a female impersonator as yourself.

Kevin O'Brien said...

Yes, well, I always talk nice and butch when I'm in heels and evening gowns.

Anonymous said...

Too funny!