Love hurts?
A rambling by Tom Knapp

A big question on the pop-music circuit -- at least among adults, since the kids are mostly just tuning in to the music and tuning out our jabber about it -- is whether or not Eminem and Rihanna are attempting to glorify domestic violence with their recent song and video, "Love the Way You Lie."

Of course not. There's no question in my mind that they didn't set out to glorify anything. Their big plan, folks, was to produce a song that would get a lot of airplay and make people put the jingle-jangle of money in their pockets. That's what musicians -- any, really, pretty much anyone working to make a profit -- do. The fact that Rihanna was herself the victim of domestic violence and that Eminem has been accused of it in the past only adds spice to the story and probably earned them a few more sales.

But let's not be naive here. The song by its very nature teaches impressionable young minds that domestic violence is OK, that it's a normal byproduct of love and that, if you want passion in your life, you have to accept the pain.

Eminem, who thrives on controversy, carries the meat of the song and, with lines like "High off of love, drunk from my hate," you can never mistake this for a gushy romance piece. "Next time I'm pissed, I'll aim my fist at the drywall," he intones. Gosh, that sounds like a healthy option.

What bugs me the most is the perception among so many youngsters -- including my own preteen daughter -- that the song is about being sorry for the violence, about apologizing and making sure it never happens again. "I laid hands on her, I'll never stoop so low again," he sings. "I guess I don't know my own strength." Aw, he sounds sorry, right?

Hell, no. "I apologize even though I know it's lies," he adds a few lines further along.

Meanwhile, does Rihanna buy the apology? No ... but she's going to come back and let him do it to her again. Her sorrowful chorus makes it plain, she knows she's going to get it in the face again, and again, and again.

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.

Chills. But not the good kind. It tears my heart a little every time this song comes on the radio and I know, out there somewhere, a kid is learning that violence in a relationship is par for the course. It happens; just say you're sorry and move on, if you're the villain of the piece, and if you're the victim, just take it, learn to like it, and never ever try to leave him.

I know I'm a liar.
If she ever tries to f###ing leave again
Im'a tie her to the bed and set this house on fire.

This will, I'm sure, earn my an Uncool Father of the Year Award, but I wish my daughter had never heard this terrible, horrible song. It's catchy enough -- and yeah, I'm no fan of most modern pop music, but I know what sticks in the head, and this does -- and all my daughter's friends love it. Me, I wish I could reach right into her head and scrub it from her memory. She deserves better than this.

She might never be as rich or famous as Eminem or Rihanna, but I sure hope she sets her standards for a relationship a little higher.

by Tom Knapp
4 September 2010