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.

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