I Love the Way You Lie

One thing I love about being a parent is getting to sample all the stuff my kids read, listen to, watch, etc. My own little cultural bubble gets a little dull, what with my perpetual affection for Joni Mitchell, literary fiction, and all.

In the early years, you get to control this influx. We had the kids listening to Burl Ives and the Beatles, watching Little Bear videos, and we read them Roald Dahl...to mention a few of my favorites. Over time, the control decreases--the damned school decides what they should read, and they start absorbing other people's tastes. Then they discover the radio dial.

Thanks to my two 13-year-olds, I actually know my Black Eyed Peas and Lady Gaga and, etc etc etc. The biggest shock: my favorite part of the influx is hip hop. Best of all: Eminem. My son got his new album Recovery on Monday, and he’s been compulsively replaying the best songs. Especially the #1 (at itunes) song, "Love the Way You Lie." It’s a really beautiful duet that perfectly evokes dysfunctional passion, but, um, what about the message?

The guy raps about a messy relationship ... (lyrics here, listen here)

All I know is
I love you too much
To walk away though
Come inside
Pick up your bags off the sidewalk
Don't you hear sincerity
In my voice when I talk
Told you this is my fault
Look me in the eyeball
Next time I'm pissed
I'll aim my fist
At the dry wall
Next time
There will be no next time
I apologize

But then the attitude goes dark:

Even though I know it's lies
I'm tired of the games
I just want her back
I know I'm a liar
If she ever tries to fucking leave again
I'mma tie her to the bed
And set the house on fire

"Tie her to the bed and set the house on fire?" The girl (Rihanna) responds (with an achingly lovely voice and melody):

Just gonna stand there
And watch me burn
But that's alright
Because I like
The way it hurts
Just gonna stand there
And hear me cry
But that's alright
Because I love
The way you lie
I love the way you lie
I love the way you lie

Now, if I’m Eminem’s publicist, and I’m trying to explain, this is what I’m going to say: a song is a sort of play or fiction. There are characters. Rihanna’s character is indeed masochistic. But the song doesn’t say she should be that way, any more than Charlotte Bronte was saying we should keep madwomen in our attics when she wrote Jane Eyre.

OK...fine. So Eminem isn’t really telling women to enjoy being set on fire. But what about influence? Songs shape the way people experience things—you know it’s true! Some of the millions listening to this song right now are being abused by their boyfriends. Even if the song doesn't really say they should, won't it make some try to like the hurt and love the lies? And isn’t that effect intensified by the voice being Rihanna's—you know, she who famously got beaten up by her boyfriend a year or two ago?

My only hope is that the lyrics, and her singing them, are so appalling it’s almost funny. “Please set me on fire. I just love it, cuz I love you soooo much!”  Groan. Laugh.  Just don't take it seriously.


Anonymous said...

It's a very good song. Each verse tells a different story and that third verse you quoted is superb. It sums up the reason for some1 sticking through a tubulant relationship perfectly.

Jean Kazez said...

I like it a lot too, despite my misgivings.