Songs And The Theme of Violence Essay Example


In a progressing world where people are constantly moving forward, there still lies a blob of insanity where humans are treated as mere models of clay. The world is still drowned in a cruel spiral of violence where people are being beaten up perversely. Physical abuse is defined as using physical force to injure an individual or put them in danger (“Women’s Health,” 2018). Presumably, it may seem common in the lower class, but the truth is abuse does not consider class, caste or fame when it shows its evil face to the victims. Even the rich and famous artists have not been spared by this heinous act of physical abuse. Therefore, artists of the music industry use music as an outlet to share their own and others’ experiences to raise awareness of the regretfully prevalent physical violence faced by people in society, though these songs are not interpreted as artists wanted them to be.  If understood correctly, music, combined with organizations, could help victims overcome the after-effects of the trauma as a therapeutic expression. 

The tradition of using music to express thoughts on physical violence has been around for a while. Nathan Rabin and his fellows list down some of the old songs in their blog to show how different eras depict abuse (Rabin et al, 2017). However, the songs addressing abuse from different eras did not have much difference; all songs denounced it. In 1923, Bessie Smith, a blues singer, came up with “Outside of That” to narrate a story of a woman abused by her boyfriend. “I said for fun, I don't want you no more. And when I said that, I made sweet papa sore. He blacked my eye, I couldn't see.” Smith described the abuse with such details that it painted a gruesome picture of a woman getting beaten in listeners’ minds. The “black eye” gives away the extent of the abuse Smith is conveying through this song. Later into the 1900s, Dresden Dolls released the song “Delilah” to belittle girls who stay in an abusive relationship. “He’s gonna beat you like a pillow / You schizos never learn.” Smith and Dresden Dolls both ended their songs expressing frustration for women who decided to endure all the pain in the name of love.          

In the modern times, many celebrities have taken an initiative to share the endless cycle of abuse being in a toxic relationship causes. The song “Love the Way You Lie” by Eminem and Rihanna epitomizes the feelings of an intimate partner’s violence. Eminem and Rihanna’s own abusive relationships paved the way into this song. At the time this song was written, Eminem had just divorced his then-wife Kim Scott and therefore, the lyrics include very personal and genuine emotions of Eminem. Usually, people tag one person as a victim and the other as an abuser when it comes to violence.

However, this is not always the case; Eminem and Scott were both abusive to each other due to their insecurities. This resulted in Scott attempting suicide, which became the last straw for Eminem to break the cycle (Enck & Mcdaniel, 2012). That cycle is what Eminem tried to portray in his song: the victim forgets about the suffering on the mere expression of love and apology. The word ‘sorry’ blooms the hope in a victim’s heart of a better and a more peaceful future. “I apologize even though I know it's lies” are the words Eminem uses to describe the hoax these apologies are. Through the song, Eminem tried to impart the message that victims should not be deceived by these pretenses.

While Eminem was warning the audience about the cycle of abuse through this song, Rihanna was conveying feelings of a victim, as she was one too. Before this song came out, Rihanna was in a toxic relationship with Chris Brown. Although, in this case, Rihanna was the only one with bruises and a story to tell, unlike Eminem. On the night of 51st Grammy Awards, Brown reportedly smashed Rihanna’s head on the car window and repeatedly punched her face because she asked him a question about a text message he received from his ex. Waking up on a hospital bed finally made her realize the situation she was in, resulting in her break up (Enck & Mcdaniel, 2012). Consequently, the audience can hear the emotions and messages Rihanna is trying to convey in her part of the song. Through music, she tried to tell the audience that a relationship with an abusive person is doomed from the beginning; victims need to clear up the haze formed on their mind that is preventing them from leaving.

Although the writers and artists intended to send a strong message against physical violence, “Love the Way You Lie” received mixed receptions from its audience regarding its interpretation. The listeners had a hard time discerning whether the song was glorifying the abuse, or condemning it. Many fingers were pointed at Rihanna for singing “Just gonna stand there and watch me burn, but that’s alright because I like the way it hurts.” The line apparently indicated that women enjoyed being hurt. Therefore, in a way she gave consent to the abuser to be physically violent with her. Terry O'Neill, president of the National Organization for Women, believed that Rihanna “unwittingly glorified domestic abuse” in a sense that in the whole song, “She's narrating the story, and not judging it” (Fallon, 2010).

On the other hand, many believed glorification of something as serious as physical violence is impossible. Rihanna was only trying to encompass the justifications a victim gives themselves to stay in an unhealthy relationship. The victim’s fear of losing their significant other clouds their judgment, compelling them to stay and accept the pain that befalls them. In just four lines, Rihanna narrated her own story. Stephanie Nilva, executive director of sexual assault and trauma resource center Day One, in an interview said, “Rihanna's experience [is] as someone who was abused by Chris Brown.

That history is what will make people look at the video and see "that the message is not 'Don't you want a relationship like mine?’ The message is a warning sign" (as quoted in Thomas, 2010). Even the actors, who played the couple who are abusive to each other in the music video, agreed that physical violence is too vicious of an act to ever be lauded (Thomas, 2010). Furthermore, one of the “Love the Way You Lie” actors, Megan Fox, took the matter one step forward and gave Sojourn Services, a shelter for abused women, all her earnings from the video (Dinh, 2010). This notion further convinces the audience that the sole purpose of the song was to spread awareness about the topic, rather than applauding it.

Apart from condemning the violence and describing the feelings of a victim, “Love the Way You Lie” raised another commonly missed yet an important issue of violence on men. Since men are physically stronger, it is widely believed that men cannot be harmed, especially by a woman. Moreover, people automatically assume men can fight their own battles and handle themselves in a fight. For these reasons, people fall for this myth where men are to be blamed for any taken physical actions. However, that is not always the case; in the USA, 1 in 10 men of ages 18 and older are victims of domestic violence. According to Center of Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 7 men will experience intimate partner violence at least once in their lifetime (Huecker, 2018). 

Many examples of male violence can be found in pop culture. Whitney Houston, in an interview with The Associated Press, confessed her attitude towards her husband physically violent. “Contrary to belief, I do the hitting, he doesn't” (Lucky, 2018). Similar messages have been canvassed by many artists in their works to diffuse their thoughts to their audience on this sensitive issue. 

One of the songs that raised the male violence issue was “Hotel Ceiling.” Written by Ed Sheeran and sung by the band Rixton, the song “Hotel Ceiling” encompasses very strong emotional and depressing sentiments where a man is abused by his fiancé. Complimenting the song, the music video dramatized the whole relationship of a couple. Typically, the relationship started out great; the couple loved spending time together until the insecurities emerged to surface. The woman was always skeptical of her boyfriend, apprehensive that he might cheat on her someday.

This obsession turned into wrath, consequently compelling the girlfriend to become violent. The video concluded with the assassination of the woman’s boyfriend while she was left staring at the hotel ceiling, pondering over her rage-driven actions (Rixton, 2015). The whole video exposed a moral to a society that denied male violence existence. Based on the comments “Hotel Ceiling” received on YouTube, it can be implied that the Rixton successfully conveyed the message to its audience. A user named “246apple810” commented “Can I just say I appreciate the fact that they've highlighted men can be domestically abused as well” (Rixton, 2015). In this way, Rixton used the music video to address a very pressing yet overlooked matter.

Rixton was not the first ones to delineate the idea of male abuse. Many singers/ songwriters wrote about the male victims. Previously, however, the meaning of the lyrics was not taken as seriously as they are in today’s world. In 1983, the band Green Day released a song named “Pulling Teeth” to acknowledge male victims of intimate partner violence. “Pulling Teeth” revolves around a man trying to make his partner happy to escape from the beating. The words “She comes to check on me, making sure I'm on my knees, after all she's the one who put me in this state” (cite google lyrics) illustrate the extent of abuse the guy is going through. The phrase “bringing someone to their knees” implies crippling or weakening someone, which is what the abusive woman was trying to do. The song further elaborates on how the man cries all the time for being locked inside the house with no escape route. The heartfelt lyrics of this song show the intentions Green Day had towards educating their audience about this serious matter.

Albeit the candidly moralistic lyrics indicating the uncanny existence of male violence, many listeners disregarded the message sent by Green Day. Out of 130 comments “Pulling Teeth” received on YouTube, only 3 of them recognized the male violence portrayed in this song. Indifferently, the rest of the commenters were either appreciating the band’s vocal artist, or romanticizing the whole song (cite: YouTube). Ironically, many people even daydreamed about making “Pulling Teeth” their wedding song. However, the ones that did understand the concept of this song very briefly confessed to being a victim of an intimate partner relationship without sharing any details. One guy named Fletch responded to a content acknowledging comment tersely, saying “Feels like my ex” (cite: youtube). Fletch professed to being a victim of domestic violence without giving away any emotions, although he broke the cycle (of abuse) and left his partner. Green Day, according to the comments on YouTube, had partial success in reaching out to its audience and educating them of an unbelievable act of male abuse. 

Be it “Love the Way You Lie,” “Hotel Ceiling,” “Pulling Teeth” or any other song with a similar theme, all of them discussed the presence of abuse, feelings of the victims and breaking the cycle of violence (breaking up). However, the story does not end with just breaking the abusive relationship cycle, it starts from there. The aftereffects of violence haunt the survivors for the rest of their lives. Thus, many organizations are working to help them in different ways. One frequently used technique to treat the survivors is music therapy. Music therapy is a relatively new and effective approach to calm the survivors down. In this type of therapy, survivors are asked to hear and compose different songs that connect to their situation and convey the message their words could not. The therapy has helped them overcome their nightmares and alleviate depression (as quoted in Minor, 2015). Moreover, the songs have made the survivors realize they are not alone. If celebrities can get over the trauma caused by their partners, then so can they. In a research conducted by Illinois State University, 13 survivors of the abuse participated and generally showed signs of improvement (Minor, 2015).

 

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