Every Breath You Take
When things stare us in the face, sometimes we don’t see them.
I don’t recall exactly how old I was — late high school, I think, maybe early college — when it was pointed out to me that the ubiquitous meal, breakfast, was a break from the fast imposed by sleeping those 6 to 10 hours every night. Break + fast. I know. Some of you are saying Duh.
This was the sort of epiphany I had listening to the song by the Police, Every Breath You Take. The song is bouncy, catchy, and has a happy-go-lucky aura that blinds us to what the song is really about.
It is a Stalker’s Theme.
The song is about an abusive, scary man who is telling “his woman” that, try as she might, she can and will never escape his vigilance and his control. It’s a suffocating, frightening song with a repulsive message.
Curious and concerned, I Googled the song to see if others had noticed this. Lo and behold, the author of the song himself, Gordon Matthew Thomas Summer, otherwise known as Sting, talked about this as well. He said he was surprised, but he didn’t mention a thing about removing or otherwise rescinding this song that couples have played at their weddings, or of returning the royalties. He didn’t sound too convincing.
I prefer songs that sound like what they’re about. The Beatles’ Eleanor Rigby sounds like what it is about: sad, slightly ominous, existential, dark. Over the Rainbow from the Wizard of Oz sounds wistful, longing, a reaching out towards lost feelings and lamenting what we had but no longer do. Hey Jude sounds celebratory and anthemic, and it involves the audience in its tail-wagging excitement.
Every Breath You Take sounds like a boyfriend/husband saying I love you, don’t worry, I’ll always be there.
Until you strip the words of the sweet music and actually pay attention to them.
There are other songs that are tricky that way.
Creedence Clearwater Revival’s song Bad Moon Rising sounds jaunty, rhythmic and driving (to quote Billboard). But I was learning the song for guitar, and was jolted by its dark, grim apocalyptic message: bad luck and horror are on their way. The world is going to end. Don’t bother making plans for the future.
And me skipping along, fat dumb and happy.
Oh yeah. Duh.