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THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 19, 2009

Feeling Gravity's Pull: "Fight For This Love"




The first of an occasional series ...

Some analysis of a song that has crept up just too often for my liking lately ... and since it's sung by someone I have no great fondness for, all the more reason to perform an autopsy.

Who is responsible for the Modern Poetry below?

Steve Kipner, Andre Merritt and Wayne Wilkins.

And who is currently the waitress that is delivering this exquisite dish?

Cheryl Cole.

And if you don't know who she is, I think you are genuinely lucky ... Just as most people outside Britain do not know who Katie Price aka Jordan is. Of course, America, you have given the world Britney Spears, so the game is definitely running in your favour. And I don't mean that in a good way ...

Back to the dissection ...

"Too much of anything can make you sick"

So begins the song with a statement, telling us of the dangers of excess: "Even the good can be a curse" - of course it can.

All fine so far, standard clichés and trite philosophical pontification ... Cue the non-sequitur:

"Makes it hard to know which road to go down"

Now, this is hardly a Robert Frost dichotomy. And it depends on the roads on offer ... and also assumes that roads cannot be gone up ... (Why do we walk down things here on Earth? "The Killer awoke before dawn, he put his boots on. He took a face from the ancient gallery and he walked on down the hall" being one example. "How many roads must a man walk down before you can call him a man?" being another example ... the implications are that Halls and roads are walked down ... but streets are sometimes walked up ... however, I digress ...)

So, at this point, to make the non-sequitur become logical, we will assume that it's ALL roads, not just the road to Ruin or Wigan Pier or Damascus or Bali ... Thus, we have a reference to William Blake: "The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom". So, having too much of anything - even something good - can be a curse, but this is only learned the hard way, thus making the choices one has to make in one's life a difficult thing ...

But then: "Knowing too much can get you hurt" comes the next line ...

Does the physical retention of knowledge cause pain? A million schoolkids would argue "yes", but scientists could produce proof to the contrary. To make this fit, we must assume that this excess of knowledge is again a reference to Blake, where he differentiated between Innocence and Experience. An excessive knowledge of the wrong kind of experience (and this is a common symptom when walking the road of excess, which we have already established is  the most likely candidate for being the road with the most deterent potential for the second-time roadwalker) is what is meant here, clearly, and as such, is a direct reference to Alfred Hitchcock's "The Man Who Knew Too Much" - "A little knowledge can be a deadly thing", Hitchcock told us back in 1956, and more than 50 years later, it seems that nothing has happened to reduce the truth of that tagline ... The implication that the knowledge possessed is of criminal activity is unmistakeable.

The song continues:

Is it better? Is it worse?
Are we sitting in reverse?
It's just like we're going backwards

The use here of rhetorical tautology and a prefacing binary opposition (better/worse) suggests both confusion and ambiguity of feelings towards the journey as a whole (much like the up/down oppostion that diverted my attention earlier). "I know where I want this to go", the narrator continues, determined to assert control (as many passengers attempt to do), at least within the psychological sphere, over the whole - and obviously messy - situation. This is followed by a calm, yet assertive, request to he driver for safety to be put first:

Driving fast but let's go slow
What I don't wanna do is crash, no

The narrator has claimed to have a sense of direction ("I know where I want this to go"), or at least, a desired destination for "this" i.e. "love" (as we already know from the title). However, the text poses a problem when one considers the fact that the car in which the people are travelling (we safely assume there are at least two involved) may be in some kind of tailspin, as the narrator has already expressed uncertainty as to the direction in which the car was travelling. (Perhaps whomever or whatever they knew too much about has caught up with them?)

However, the sensation of "It's just like we're going backwards" is more likely to have been caused by the driving of the car "down" a so-called Magnetic Hill or Gravity Hill - a naturally occuring optical illusion that seems to reverse the up/down backwards/forwards oppositions by apparently making cars (and other wheeled vehicles) roll uphill. Later references in the text to picnics and walks in the park reinforce this notion that the couple are in fact on a "Sunday drive" of some kind, and are taking in the sights while heading to the park of their choice.

The next stanza suggests a certain disregard on the narrator's part for the situation in which this couple finds themselves: "Just know that you're not in this thing alone". Love - for that is what we must call it - is reduced to being a "thing". A shapeless entity (which of course an abstract emotion is). When taken literally as love, the sentiment seems somehow weak, limp, lifeless - "just know": a completely different attitude from saying "I love you". A rather boring reassurance that the love of the unnamed driver of the vehicle is not unrequited, but no guarantee that it is matched in intensity (and it does appear intense, given that the other was "driving fast", all cares eliminated by love, the most dangerous narcotic known to humanity).

"There's always a place in me you can call home" the narrator tells the other in what must be referred to as a "pre-chorus". Suddenly, the love in question starts to become much more maternal, and it would be no surprise if the next line had invited the leaving of dirty laundry at the weekend. However, the sentiments begin to align themselves in another pattern, perhaps suggesting that the confusion experienced in the Gravity Hill (or tailspin) earlier is actually a desirable state:

Whenever you feel like we're growing apart
Let's just go back, back, back, back, back to the start

This newfound desire for backward motion suggests that the narrator is in fact coming to terms with the retrograde motion or reversal of direction along the road of excess, which of course, eventually must lead back to "the start", after which it becomes the road of scarcity.

The chorus is an exemplary use of reinforcement through repetition:

Anything that's worth having
Is sure enough worth fighting for
Quitting's out of the question
When it gets tough gotta fight some more

We gotta fight, fight, fight, fight, fight for this love
We gotta fight, fight, fight, fight, fight for this love
We gotta fight, fight, fight, fight, fight for this love
If it's worth having it's worth fighting for

However, from a philosophical standpoint, this seems somewhat gung-ho: a kebab is worth having, but is it worth fighting for? Would I want to inflict harm on another in order to secure a succulent spicy meat sandwich? I don't believe so ... The belief that quitting is "out of the question" also indicates a complete disregard for personal safety, and suggests a level of heroism that is perhaps inappropriate. Of course, when the "anything" under the microscope is "love" one can expect violence in this modern age, although "justice" might seem a more substantial catalyst for a justifiable conflict ...

"Now every day ain't gon' be no picnic" - in the literal sense, this must be taken as true: the rigours of modern human life preclude daily picnics (how could one hold down a decent job?). "Love ain't a walk in the park", comes the next truism, whether taken as literal or metaphorical negation of the nature of love. However, a walk in the park is often what many urban humans do when in love. So, while love itself cannot be described as such, the act of coupled parkwalking may be a suitably apt expression of love for many. And, as we have already established, these are the pleasures which this couple are concerned about experiencing before the incident at the Gravity Hill.

The next lines indicate some difficulties in their itinerary:

All you can do is make the best of it now
Can't be afraid of the dark

This suggests that picnics and their corollary walks in the park are to be enjoyed as and when they may - a carpe diem philosophy - yet it seems that our couple are having their picnics and walks in darkness, suggesting that owing to the confusion caused by their experience on the Gravity Hill (or tailspin due to the recklessness of the driver who is blinded to the dangers of his action by love) they have arrived at the park late in the evening. Their determination (or, at least, the narrator's determination) is clear: fear will not prevent them walking as planned.

The pre-chorus and chorus follow without variation from their initial appearance. However, the middle-eight section returns to the Gravity Hill - the couple's walk and picnic now concluded:

I don't know where we're heading I'm willing and ready to go
We've been driving so fast we just need to slow down and just roll

The narrator now confesses a complete lack of control over the situation, yet attempts once more to convince the driver that slowing down is a good idea.

Another pre-chorus and chorus and the song comes to its conclusion. Or rather, the song ends, unresolved as to the next steps to be taken.

Will they slow down and roll uphill, enjoying nature's own theme park ride? or will they crash, ending their short and brutish human lives?

We will never know. However, this I do know: I don't actually care. This couple are obviously so incompatible as to be comical - one a nervous wreck, fearful of love, speed and darkness, despite a professed determination not to be, the other a lovestruck fool with little regard for the safety of those in his vehicle or other roadusers. Undoubtedly, the revocation of his license is immanent, and their walks will be confined to up their street or down their road, and their "picnics" may well be staged in a local cafe. And love? In this text, it merely stands as a reason for violent struggle, not as something that is a pleasure, not something desirable. Nor beautiful. Surely divorce or separation of some kind can be the only conclusion?

Crushed by the weight of gravity's pull, watched by all, enjoyed by many, and laughed at by a few. But the text does not offer these conclusions. It offers a circular structure, an uroborotic moment:

If it's worth having, it's worth fighting for; and if it's worth fighting for, it's worth having.

Back to the start. Go again. Hell goes round and round. Heavy rotation.


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