A post from Kieron Gillen has set me off on an 80s queer disco listening jag. While bobbing helplessly on a sea of ecstatic emotion, I’m mainly noticing:
1. my fondness for a well-turned arch phrase encapsulating angst has not diminished. Compare my teen faves the Pet Shop Boys (Do I Have To):
It’s a fatal mistake, and you know it, that you’re dying to make, and you’ll pay for it…
to my current preference, the Mountain Goats – well, pretty much the whole of their lyrical output. Maybe this one (Old College Try):
someone’s going to do something someone else will regret…
(although without the musical line I admit that’s a bit of a mouthful).
2. I’ve been reading up on addiction, recently (not for dramatic personal reasons).
A suggestion that was new to me was that when someone’s successfully avoided an addictive behaviour for a while, relapse is often preceded by a moment of feeling total helplessness. As in: I am not strong, or big, or powerful enough to resist this. If you know that pattern, you can spot that thought and try to tackle it. Root it out, prop it up, not relapse.
I don’t want to be glib about the suffering of addiction (and I don’t want to back that as a theory – I don’t know enough to critique it, but I can see other reasons one might fall off a wagon). But that idea of a fatal moment of self-doubt resonated with so many lyrics I could think of, which were about (usually) sexual wrongdoing. Pet Shop Boys again:
It’s already too late, go on, admit it…
This is the wrong thing to do, the lyrics acknowledge, but I am going to do it anyway, and there’s relief and joy in that instant: everything will go to shit in a minute but there’ll be just a minute or two of celebration while I set down my burden.
And denial and surrender teeter along together deliciously for a bit – knowledge of the pattern seeps back into the struggling period beforehand and contaminates it, makes it easier (but undermines it) by promising a rest:
I want to say I’m sorry for stuff I haven’t done yet
Things will shortly get completely out of hand
I’m wondering if that moment is peculiarly pop-y.
Surrender to anything makes for good pop music, because the lyrical content can match the feeling of letting music flood your head and heart, or the physical feeling of throwing yourself into dance, or a dancing crowd. Surrender that you know is coming is the hallmark of the lead-up to a particularly ecstatic chorus.
Surrender to a part of oneself that is usually stoically denied is even better.
Sexy surrender = top marks.
In conclusion, drugs ≠ sex ≠ music, and clinical addiction is not the same as really wanting to sleep with your best friend’s boyfriend, but you can certainly work the parallels.