One of my chief complaints, as someone who enjoys heavy music, is that practically none of the bands that play such music put more than two seconds of thought into their lyrical content. As a writer, I know that words matter, and I appreciate a thoughtful metaphor or a well-turned phrase. A good lyric isn’t necessary to make a song enjoyable, but there’s never any harm in adding more well-written elements to a track.
I can normally ignore the majority of banal, trite lyrics that I come across. Those are the sort that don’t say anything, that say their nothing in a bland and inoffensive way, and for the most part might as well not exist. These are the songs you sing along to without once bothering to think about what the words coming out of your mouth mean, if they mean anything at all. There is more than enough room in the world of music for these sorts of songs to thrive, and I have no problem with this reality. Not everything needs to aim for the highbrow, nor do I expect it to. I enjoy mindless fun like anyone else.
What I can’t enjoy is music that actively insults my intelligence. No matter what feeling an artist is trying to convey with their music, there is a way to say it without delving into the lowest forms of human depravity. Stereotypical bravado and pointless profanity do not make music more exciting, nor more ‘dangerous’. All that kind of lyricism does is show the contempt that an artist has, either for themselves or their audience.
I bring this us as a result of hearing a track from the new Slipknot album, entitled “Custer”. As a song, it’s an unremarkable peddling of modern American metal cliches, exactly the sort of thing that holds no appeal whatsoever to me. But what made the song so revolting were the lyrics, which go beyond the pale of adolescent stupidity, to the point where I would be ashamed of being the nearly middle aged adult who had to attach my name to them.
“Cut, cut, cut me up, then fuck, fuck, fuck me up” the chorus goes, killing a few of my brain cells by association.
There are ways of expressing hatred and anger eloquently, and there are ways of being cartoonishly vile like Cannibal Corpse, but the combination of vile hatred that begs to be taken seriously like Slipknot is expressing is disturbing. For one thing, there is the issue of mental health that is brought into question, but I doubt there is any true sincerity behind the words.
That leaves us with the position that those words were intentionally chosen because someone thought they were a good idea. The fact that I even have to write that sentence is why I have a hard time calling myself a fan of metal. I’m embarrassed to like any music that even gets lumped in with that kind of trash, however unfair that might be.
Slipknot is far from the only offender. Adrenaline Mob released a song on their horrid debut album with the chorus “are you motherfuckers feeling me?” No, no I am not. In fact, I wish I had never heard those words. And calling your fans motherfuckers isn’t a good way of endearing yourself to them. It’s juvenile, stupid, and shows how little brain power that band has as a collective unit.
I’m not asking for bands to try to become the next Shakespeare, but a little bit of thought put into their lyrics would be nice. As someone who has a brain, and uses it from time to time, I don’t want to feel dirty listening to the music I enjoy. As bad as I feel about those songs, I feel even worse that there are so many more people who don’t see the problem.