Dissect-a-Song

Good day, everyone, and welcome to Dissect-a-Song with Hot-Dog Trevor! Every week I listen to a fairly dated pop hit for the first time with absolutely no context and try to analyze it. The song I am about to dissect today is Sorry by Justin Bieber.

The upbeat tune might trick you into thinking this is just another flashy commercial gimmick, pandering to the millions of teenage girls who have only a rough understanding of how the world works and worship the idea of boys who have feelings that they aren’t afraid of showing to the world. However, do not be fooled. On careful consideration, the lyrics of the song reveal depths so profound, it took a while to regain my composure after listening to it.

So without further ado, let’s dig in!

You gotta go and get angry at all of my honesty
You know I try but I don’t do too well with apologies

I’ll admit, at first I misjudged these lines as being a little manipulative, given the way the song begins with Justin portraying himself as the victim, when the assumption is that he is apologising to someone else whom he has hurt. However, this isn’t the whining of a selfish person looking for sympathy, but the sincerity of a man who wears his heart on his sleeve. Look at the last word of the line: honesty! Need any more evidence? I think not. Justin is devastated by this other person’s annoyance at his sincerity. In life, we often have very little patience for people who refuse to keep up facades, and through the sharp social critique in his music, Justin exposes this ugly truth of the world. People do not care for honesty. Remember this, and trust it, for Justin never lies. The second line might require a couple of listens to fully grasp. Justin apologises to this other person while at the same time admitting that he probably isn’t doing too good a job at that. Admitting one’s fault while acknowledging another one of one’s flaws? Genius!

I hope I don’t run out of time. Could someone call a referee?
‘Cause I just need one more shot at forgiveness

Justin echoes one of the deepest fears almost everyone of us holds in his heart. The knowledge of the fleeting nature of time has, from time to time (pun intended) made me very anxious. I wake up every morning and am forced to face the day knowing full well that is a currency I do not know how to spend and have no way of saving up and storing. It is a void that will take from me everyone and everything I love. Lord knows it’s already begun that. I do not actually know what the second part of the line means. As Madchild once rapped, “tried watching sports still don’t f**king understand it.” I never have been good with sports metaphors. Help me out? Anyone? Do referees forgive people? Was Jesus a referee? This is what I love about Justin. You could spend hours trying to understand him, and still miss out on a lot!

I know you know that I made those mistakes maybe once or twice
And by once or twice I mean maybe a couple of hundred times

Trust Justin to use humour in a serious song! He leads us to believe that he is, to a great degree, pardonable. But, the punchline here is that he is actually a lot worse than he would like us to believe. I feel you on that, JB! I won’t lie, I let out an audible chuckle when I heard these lines and my pet cat shook her head with a grin on her face while mumbling, “Men will be men…”

So let me, oh, let me redeem, oh, redeem, oh, myself tonight
‘Cause I just need one more shot, second chances

“So let me, oh, let me”
“Redeem, oh, redeem”
Don’t just listen to this line, feel it! Feel the rhythm. Feel the way the words flow. Feel the way they connect. Justin intentionally repeats words in this line for emphasis. He wants us to know that he’s asking for permission, and he says it twice just to make it clear. “Let me,” he says. Now most might dismiss this as Justin being the gentleman he is, however, the significance of his choice of words goes way beyond that. By asking for permission Justin is teaching the world about the importance of consent. What is he seeking consent for? Redemption. He says it twice just to make sure we know. He doesn’t want revenge. He doesn’t want riches or glory. He doesn’t want to go down in history.. All he wants is a sense of peace with himself. He has wronged someone, and wants to redeem himself in the eyes of this person. If only we could all be a little more like him! What does he need to redeem himself? A shot. Of vodka? Well, think again, c*nt! This isn’t a party song. It’s a song about remorse, and another shot here refers to a second chance, as explained by the phrase “second chances.”

I’ll take every single piece of the blame if you want me to
But you know that there is no innocent one in this game for two

This is the emotional crescendo of the song. Justin is willing to assume blame even for  things that aren’t his fault. Is that silly? Maybe a little. Is that absolutely heart-wrenching? You bet your sweet sweet arse it is! The next line makes it very clear that Justin is not naive, but magnanimous. He knows that this other person is not blameless, yet he is willing to take the blame for both of their faults. I’m sorry, I’ve got a lump in my throat.

I’ll go, I’ll go and then you go, you go out and spill the truth
Can we both say the words and forget this?

This elusive line may at first seem like Justin telling us the sequence in which they go. First he goes, then he goes again. Then the other person goes, and goes out and spills the truth. However, upon further contemplation, this line appears to mean… I honestly don’t know either. It’s eluded me too. What are you trying to say, Justin?! Justin then expresses his desire to say the words and move on. What are these words he speaks of? Who knows? Maybe it’s the infamous John Wayne quote, “I believe in white supremacy until the blacks are educated to a point of responsibility.” Or perhaps, it is the words, “Economic justice means wiping out the tear from every eye.

Yeah
Is it too late now to say sorry?
‘Cause I’m missing more than just your body, oh
Is it too late now to say sorry?
Yeah, I know-oh-oh, that I let you down
Is it too late to say I’m sorry now?

I’m sorry yeah
Sorry yeah
Sorry
Yeah, I know that I let you down
Is it too late to say I’m sorry now?

Yeah
Is it too late now to say sorry?
‘Cause I’m missing more than just your body, oh
Is it too late now to say sorry?
Yeah, I know-oh-oh, that I let you down
Is it too late to say I’m sorry now?

I’m not just trying to get you back on me (oh, no, no)
‘Cause I’m missing more than just your body (your body), oh
Is it too late now to say sorry?
Yeah, I know-oh-oh, that I let you down
Is it too late to say I’m sorry now?

I’m sorry yeah
Sorry, oh
Sorry
Yeah, I know-oh-oh, that I let you down (let you down)
Is it too late to say I’m sorry now?

I just… I mean… Come on! Are you not in tears by now? Do you not have a heart? Monster! Hey, maybe I’ll dissect Kanye West‘s Monster next.

Post Title

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English Assignment

They say that the human drive to survive against all odds is the strongest force in the universe. Soma proved them wrong when they found her in her bedroom with a serrated dagger in her right hand and a deep slit along her left forearm all those years ago. She could have been a friend of mine. Her parents couldn’t bear to live in that cursed house anymire, and since then 14 Rose Grove has been sitting idle on the market. However, unknown to everyone else, Soma has been squatting on the property. Although Soma is living (in a manner of speaking) testament to the uncertainty of human behaviour, there is something else we are all equally good at: denial. When Ashok Vakil moved into 14 Rose Grove, he was in the middle of a class action lawsuit. His friends had often pointed it out. A lawyer named Vakil? What are the odds! Being preoccupied, Ashok paid no heed to the vines creeping up the dilapidated boundary wall or the lawn desperately in need of mowing. That evening as Ashok sat in the study surrounded by half unpacked cartons, poring over his notes and looking for a precedent, the brisk wind coming in through the ajar window and the stench of mulch didn’t bother him at all. That evening, Soma slammed shut the study door with a loud bang. That evening, Ashok Vakil noticed nothing.

Well, what do you think?

Still Alive

It’s my graduation.

The room is dimly lit and the dissonant jazz is soft. There’s a smile on every face around. Just smiles. No eyes, no other features. Just smiles. I close my eyes. I still see two faces.

There’s no sensation of floating up towards the skies. I was lied to. I’m falling. I’m falling freely through space. There is no ground to hit. I feel weightlessness, just not the kind I was promised. Imagine being stuck in an elevator but you can’t tell whether it’s going up or down.

She shoots me in the chest. No, that can’t be right. I open my eyes. She’s still smiling.

“Do you hate me for that?”

I don’t know. Do I? I feeling nothing at all.

I’m not dying. I’m just dreaming. I see my best friend of a decade. He’s more of a wall than a person. I can work with that. I’m an echo chamber. He is a wall. That’s the only way someone can be my friend. I have never faced judgement from him. I have never faced reproach from him. He is a wall.

She’s here again. She turns around to leave. I grab her arm and ask her to stay. She turns around in exasperation. Her hand is cold. My cheek stings. Why did she do that? Her mother asks me to leave. No, that can’t be right.

I open my eyes for real this time. I wasn’t really asleep, but I wasn’t really awake either. Most of the time I can tell the difference. I see the dust particles swirl in the small beam of light penetrating through the hole in the board covering the window. It’s 11 in the morning. My neck hurts from sleeping awkwardly.

Inhale.

Exhale.

Panic hits me like a bucket of cold water. Then it’s rage. I do the breathing exercises again. I am calm now. It’s late. Time is money. Money, it’s a gas. No, that’s a song.

I get up to make some tea, one hand on my aching neck. One quick glance at my phone tells me there’s nothing to do today that can’t wait. Uncle Trevor’s been out of town all week. He’s expected to return this weekend. I’ve been house-sitting. Apart from keeping things from getting dusty, I haven’t disturbed anything in the house, save the bedroom.

“What are you doing out of town anyway, Uncle Trevor?”
“Looking into a career as a shepherd.”
“Sheared sheep look ugly.”
“Yeah, well, I don’t have to love them now, do I?”

He never really tells anyone what he’s ever up to. Nobody knows how he has enough to get by on. I don’t think he’s written anything in a month.

I’ve been trying to be more socially active in his absence. I’ve met X every other day. He wants me to meet his boxing buddies and tell them a story today. It’ll be all me, my show, my moment to shine. I leave the house in ll grey everything. I stand outside the cafe for a good five minutes, looking through the glass, trying to figure out if he’s in there. He is. I enter.

The ambience is unsettling at first. The street outside was almost deserted, with no more than one vehicle passing by every couple minutes. Inside, it’s bustling with activity. There’s people moving to and fro, people on their phones, people discussing serious business face to face, people laughing at proper knee-slappers. The unintelligible static of a dozen voices all talking simultaneously makes me feel invisible. He’s with two others. They’re laughing at something he just said. No matter what, that’s always the kind of scene he seems to be in. He talks. People respond favourably. He calls me over.

“Alright, man. Tell us a story.”

Why is he putting me on the spot. I know we agreed to this, but this isn’t how normal conversations work. I know which one I’m telling. He knows the story too. He was a part of it. Should I just start? Should I introduce myself? He hasn’t introduced them.

One of them offers me his hand to shake. Okay, I suppose I should begin.

In the old neighbourhood, we had this way of picking teams.

“Yeah, we’d get into pairs and pick secret codes. Say, I pick green and you pick yellow. Then we’d ask the captains if they wanted green or yellow. That’s how it worked.”

Thank you. Now let me finish this?

“Anyway, sorry. Go on.”

So, this one time X and I were a pair. One of the captains pulled me aside and asked me to pick leaf and make X pick feather so he could have me on his team.

“Yeah, I remember that.” he grins. Of course he remembers.

And that’s what I did. When we asked him to pick, the asshole picked feather.

“Wait, so he intentionally didn’t pick you?” one of them asks.
Yes, that’s the point of the story. “Yeah, it was kind of a dick move. I mean he could have just asked X instead of me.”

“Not much of a story, was that? Anyway, that’s what you get for not playing fair.” X says. He’s laughing.

I suppose it is somewhat funny, if it didn’t happen. You don’t see me laughing.

Conversation Transcript

See what I’m saying? I’m stuck in a time loop. Up and down. Back and forth. In fucking circles. And the only way out is all the way out, because you didn’t don’t won’t love me.

“But I did! So much!”

But you didn’t!

“Stop saying that…”

Shut up! Shut up! Shut up! Shut up shut up shut up.

“What do you want?”

Shut up.

“This isn’t home.”

Discomfort. Dread. Unease.

“But you’re here and that’s all that matters.”

Joy. Relief. Comfort.

“Babe?”

Panic. Panic. Panic.

“I can’t sleep.”

Worry. Anxiety.

“This isn’t about you!”

How is it not? Dispensable. Punching Comforting blanket. Use and dispose when no longer needed.

“Stop making it seem that way…”

It is that way.

“Okay, you need to stop. You’re just nagging now, and I really don’t want to talk to you.”

Run someone over. Apologise. Tell them to stop whining.

“A buzz cut? I don’t get you sometimes.”

It’s just a whim.

“Don’t get it cut like that again.”

Yes, ma’am.

“I don’t like that picture.”

I’m sorry, ma’am.

“No rope? You can use my shoe lace.”

What are you reading?

“This.”

Fun?

Growing Up

It’s Wednesday, the 5th of October, 2016, 1:02pm. I stand in the verandah of Uncle Trevor’s house with my eyes absentmindedly resting on a sparrow pecking at the ground. The sunlight seems to avoid me as I’m shivering but it cuts down the shadows of trees to stumps. I am heartbroken and brooding. My body is here but my mind isn’t. Imagine my surprise when I suddenly find myself doubled over, struggling to catch my breath, with Uncle Trevor rubbing the knuckles of his right hand with his left.

“Get a hold of yourself, boy.” That is his advice to me whenever he thinks I look troubled. The punches are saved for those special occasions when I look absolutely forlorn. I look up at his face, so empty of all emotion. Ever the stoic, I get that from him. Only, I hesitate to express what I feel. I doubt he feels anything at all. “Quit being a pussy. Jesus! Look at yourself. You’re sobbing and slobbering like a little girl.” Uncle Trevor almost never swears at me. He doesn’t have a flair for dramatics though. I was not slobbering. The only reason I have tears in my eyes was because I had been punched in the gut only seconds ago.

I tune him out and get back to absentmindedly looking out. Uncle Trevor’s yelling scared the sparrow away. I catch phrases like “grow up” and “mature” every now and then, but I’m not really listening. He grabs my shoulder. I turn to face him, thinking he’s about to punch me again. He isn’t. He’s talking more animatedly than ever. “…feel unappreciated…need to appreciate yourself first…know your worth…”

Something behind him catches my eye and I start walking towards it. Uncle Trevor sighs and follows me. Some twenty feet from the house a dead squirrel no bigger than my fist lies limp, its tail curled. There is no blood, no visible wounds, no signs of struggle. I stand there silently with my hands in my pockets, looking down at it. Uncle Trevor kneels beside me and inspects it. “The stench is killing me. Wait here.” he says and he runs back inside. A moment or two later, he returns with an empty shoe box and a shovel. “You dig. I’ll speak?” I nod and reach out for the shovel.

“Do you want to name it, boy?”
“What’s the point?”
“Sentiment, I suppose.”
“No, I don’t want to.”

Uncle Trevor lowers the shoe box with the squirrel into the hole and I begin filling it with earth. “Don’t worry. It’s something that just happens.” he says. “I know, Uncle Trevor.” It seems as if he’s comforting himself more than me. I sit down facing the mound of dirt. “I think I’ll stay here for a while, Uncle Trevor.” I look up at him and for the briefest moment catch a frown play at the corners of his mouth. “Alright, but don’t stay out too long.”

I sit there, absolutely still, for hours. The shadows grow longer and eventually the light of the day turns redder and fades away. Uncle Trevor comes out to call me back in.
“Let’s go, buddy.”
Sunsets are always prettier than sunrises.

Hubris

It’s Sunday, the 14th of July, 3:20pm. It’s raining somewhere far away. X and I are sitting peacefully on a fallen tree trunk by the lake. He has a joint in his hand. I have a 40. “Do you know what hubris is?” he asks. “Your most defining trait.” I say. “Nah, that’s chutzpah.”

“Ah, fuck! Pig.” he says as he chucks the joint. The cop walks over to us, the two solitary figures sitting by themselves where no respectable men are found. The cop looks at the still smoking joint, puts two and two together, and strikes X on his upper arm with his baton. X stands up, towering over the cop by at least four inches. Unflinching, the cop says, “Tell me what you were up to, or I hit you again. And don’t give me the medicinal usage crap. I know the penal code, bitch.”

“Well, I know the Constitution, and my rights, bitch. Can’t compel me to be a witness against myself under duress. You just fucking assaulted me.”
“I have solid proo-”
“Shut the fuck up and listen to me, you little shit. Do you know the DA? Here’s what you’re going to do next. Call a lawyer. Show up in court. Bend over. Spread your ass cheeks and wait. I’m gonna fuck you over so hard your fucking father won’t be able to help you shit for the next four days. Wanna make that call or wanna walk the fuck away?”
“Dude, just piss off.” I mumbled, disgruntled.
The guy took a step back when…
“Wait!” X yelled, “Who’s gonna fucking apologise?”
The guy just looked down and muttered something unintelligibly.

“See? That’s chutzpah.”
“Still seemed a bit like hubris to me, man”
“Whatever, it worked.”
“Could have been a little less harsh.”
“Why?”
“How do you know the DA anyway?”
“I don’t know who the fuck the DA is.”