Have you heard the song “The A Team” by Ed Sheeren? I was listening to it tonight as I was marinating in the sweet sauce of YouTube. But as I listened, I caught myself thinking: this is such a good song! Why do I also sort-of hate it?
Then I realized that there are several songs like that – songs I love but with one little flaw that makes me cringe with embarrassment when they show up on my YouTube history.
“The A Team” is a song that is both very serious and, with the right amount of red wine or lack of sleep, moving. Ginger-haired English heartthrob Ed Sheeran sings about a young woman caught in the steely grip of drug addiction and prostitution. She applies her makeup in dirty bathrooms, sleeps on benches, and sometimes she cries because, you know, she has a terrible life.
With such a sobering subject matter, I’m not sure why it’s necessary to describe this poor girl’s face as “crumbling like pastries.” I mean, I understand what Ed means. The girl is leading a horrible life and her vulnerabilities are evident by her face. But pastries? Like – danishes? The stuff I used to arrange in a pleasing fashion during my shifts at Starbucks?Baked goods?
The pastry I picture most often when I hear to this song is the croissant, which is really more flaky than crumbly, so I suppose that’s not quite what Ed had in mind. And anyway, having a flaky face seems like more of a dermatological disorder than a consequence of hard living. I guess unless we’re talking about facial wounds in the process of healing, but does anyone really want to get wound specific here?
I’m not exactly a pastry expert, but I can’t think of that many pastries that are meant to be crumbly. The topping of a coffee cake, maybe? Delicious! But I don’t think her crumbly face is meant to be a positive. Perhaps the pastry has been very poorly baked? Too much flour, too long in the oven? I don’t know. What I do know is that the metaphor drives me nuts and I almost don’t want to listen to the song without skipping over it, the way I skip over every word that comes out of Mary Murphy’s loud crazy mouth.
Okay. So my second example takes place in the House of the Lord. Many Jesus-loving individuals like myself dig the song “How He Loves Us,” written by David Crowder.
For the most part, this is a beautiful song. And I don’t want to make all the Christians angry. But is anyone else embarrassed to sing the words “sloppy wet kiss” in church? Or anywhere for that matter? Because I am. When the line comes up, I think first of really impolite dogs. Then of old men who feel they have aged out of social skills. Or maybe even someone with a condition that causes excessive saliva and you HAVE TO kiss them or else someone (Jesus?) will become angry with you. As you may imagine, these anxiety-inducing images put a bit of a damper on my sweet moment with Jesus.
This is the same problem I have with the song “I Will Not Forget You.” This song was written by Ben & Robin Pasley, a couple known for their involvement in the band Enter the Worship Circle. I have many times found myself really into this song, singing about all the stuff I’m going to give Jesus. Then I get to the part where I’m supposed to tell him that, in addition to not forgetting him, I will also ring a huge bell.
Now, I am aware that ringing bells has some symbolic meanings, and perhaps that’s what the Pasleys were invoking. Bells are traditionally rung to gather the worshipers into church, so maybe it has something to do with that. Or perhaps I’m ringing the bell to get someone’s attention – like when you want to pay for something at the Dollar Tree but no one’s around.
But every time I sing this, I can’t help picturing myself struggling to swing one of those huge gong mallets with the fuzzy tips into the Liberty Bell. I actually think it might actually be illegal to touch the Liberty Bell. It’s at least not socially acceptable to ring it, even for Jesus. And also, since this is for Jesus anyway, I’m probably supposed to be ringing a much bigger bell. Like, maybe a bell the size of the Statue of Liberty! Or maybe I could just gather a bunch of tiny bells and ringing them would be the spiritual equivalent of ringing one huge one.
Maybe part of the reason I feel so strongly about lyrics like these is because of their ambiguity. I can only speculate why I would tell Jesus I am willing to ring a huge bell for him. And I’m not all that comfortable telling Jesus that I’m doing something when I have no idea whether or not I’m actually doing it, have ever done it, or will ever do it in the future. So to me, that line is pretty much the equivalent of saying, “Jesus, I’m going to put the arms on the unicorn in the manchester world.” *cue lifted hands!*
Maybe these songs should take a cue from the lyrical genius that is Nicki Minaj:
“Sexy, sexy, that’s all I do.” (from “Pound the Alarm,” a song that makes a mockery of the art of English sentences with lyrics like, “I wanna do it like you like.”)
A lyric like this is genius because it’s so straightforward. No confusion!
“Hey, Nicki! What did you do today?”
“Okay, what about after lunch?”
“Fine. What you are doing later?”
See? The answer’s always the same because sexy is all she does. She’s expertly taken any confusion about any of her activities, ever, and just cleared things right on up.
I wonder if she’d be willing to re-write a few David Crowder songs.