LITM has been pretty quiet due to Boston turning to ice and the release of That Movie. I haven’t read a single page in weeks. It’s difficult to ignore the promotional tie ins and chatter. When I was living in an extremely violent environment, the genre was my safe space. I was never, ever, ever looking for Mr. Grey. The core message that we deserve to be treated well is incredibly important. Domestic Violence is normalized all over American culture. Since I can’t read right now, let’s talk music.
Last summer Robin Thicke got a justified hammering for his ode to rape. Nick Jonas has a recent release that I find far more objectionable but the response to Jealous has been much milder. If you take one part Teen Idol and add one part Protestations Of Love you can be as ugly you want and still show up on a Kidz Bop compilation. Jealous is the 2014 example of the truism. This is a song about an abuser. Full stop. Let’s look at some lyrics. The song opens with Nick saying he knows his partner is with him, but when he watches others admiring his partner he begins to fantasize that their relationship is ending. Cue the catchy chorus.
I turn my chin music up
And I’m puffing my chest
I’m getting red in the face
You can call me obsessed
It’s not your fault that they hover
I mean no disrespect
It’s my right to be hellish
I still get jealous
– Nick Jonas “Jealous”
Chin music, according to Jonas, is attitude music, music meant to warn someone, to caution them. So he’s playing the music that alerts those around him that he’s ready to fight. Next he begins puffing his chest. This is a common act of physical aggression. Add that to his getting red in the face, and many DV survivors would assume a protective position. He admits that he obsesses, that this is something he’s done before, that the problem is entirely in his mind and in no way in the actions of his lover. Then he pivots and says it’s his right to get hellish. His lover, who is blameless, has no rights. The priority is not on Jonas to control himself. He believes he has the right to pump himself up and get not just unpleasant but hellish due to a third parties unsolicited actions. His lover is not a person, but property. Jonas goes on to whine about his protectiveness while also blaming his lover for being attractive and (to his mind) over exposing themselves. He wavers between acknowledging the irrationality of his response and justifying it. This is the All-American-Boyfriend in action.
Counter this with an example of less acceptable or underground music. While Jane’s Addiction is now fairly mainstream, the live shows remain true to their roots. Guitarist Dave Navarro writes for Penthouse and has designed a guitar strap that can be used for sex play. A Jane’s Addiction show may features girls dancing in cages, flying on embedded hooks, or performing a BDSM fable. I’m often asked (in music circles) how I can reconcile my devotion to this band with my feminist ideals. It’s not hard at all. Navarro takes snapshots with fans and porn stars the same way. There is no difference in the Jane’s Addiction world between a Good Girl and a Bad One because the concepts don’t exist. The band’s signature song may be Jane Says, which at it’s heart is about the sadness of a woman allowing herself to be undervalued.
On The Great Escape Artist lyrics turn toward a reflection on violence in I’ll Hit You Back. Here the band muses not on a right to be violent, but if they must always take the path of non-violence. Do they have to remain passive in the face of aggression? Is being the better man always the only response? As well, on Twisted Tales they talk about obscuring a painful past to maintain appeal to their sexual partners. The core messages of many Jane’s Addiction songs is a celebration of carnality and love. Unlike Nick Jonas, they’re not typically booked for the Teen Choice Awards. In a song written (ironically?) to a past love (who has indicated she feels under credited for their work together) Perry sings the following –
Such a classic girl, gives her man a great idea
Hears you tell your friends,
“Hey man, why don’t you listen to my great idea!”
– Jane’s Addiction “Classic Girl”
One comes away feeling both Jonas and Farrell are pretty self aware. No one would question my parenting if I took tween girls to a Nick Jonas concert, where they could learn that being attractive means a hellish boyfriend. If I took them to a Jane’s Addiction show, where they could learn that sexuality is diversely beautiful, women are rarely given their due and that you are not your worst day, there would be raised eyebrows. Yet I feel loved and appreciated by Jane’s Addiction in a way I absolutely do not by Nick Jonas. I want my daughters to feel that everything about them deserves celebration. I never want them to believe the price of love is abuse.