Reflections of a Broken Man

On Music by StephenMac
January 29, 2009, 11:13 am
Filed under: Reflections | Tags: , , , ,

*currently listening to Paramore: The Final Riot!*

I love music… I really wish I was a more skilful muso so that I could actually use the term to describe myself without feeling like a tryhard, and also to justify the sheer constancy of the stuff coming out of my speakers…

It was during high school where I learnt that songs actually had meaning. You couldn’t just like music for “music” sake, the lyrics were just as important. I’ve used the excuse that “I just listen to it for the beat, I don’t listen to the lyrics”, and then found myself singing along to the song…

Music is important: it expresses what you feel more often, better than you can express it. Music expresses your inner most desires and feelings, music that you love will be the music that “strikes a chord with you” (excuse the pun). Not only does music express what you feel, but you will often feel what music expresses: it’s a two way street. You will be influenced by the type of music that you listen to (Nirvana, though musically brilliant, always depresses me).

And so, the meaning of songs is important (a fact that is not lost on many of the readers here who have found this blog by searching for song meanings). I may be preaching to the converted, so to speak, but we need to be aware of the music that we listen to. 


I write this, pretty much because I bought the Paramore album. Some of you may know this band, others may not ( There is a song called Misery Business which is quite a sad song, but musically awesome. Yet, as you begin to get into it, singing along to the chorus, you find yourself taking God’s name in vain…

No, I never meant to brag… but i got him where i want him now.
Oh it was never my intention to brag…
to steal it all away from you now
But God does it feel so good cause I got him where I want him now
if you could then you know you would
cause God it just feels so…
It’s just feels so good.

What do you do?!? Hayley (writer of this song) has already produced an explanation for this lyric, which I quote in part below (from Paramore’s LiveJournal blog)

i’m ashamed to say that, although i’m a believer in Jesus Christ and i claim him as my God, when i wrote those lyrics i wasn’t addressing him. i was using his name casually. in vain, to be blunt….

i don’t want to be held accountable for being the cause of so many people using his name in vain. you don’t have to believe in what i believe and no one in Paramore is ever going to go around forcing our faith into people’s lives… but believer or not, i might have led some of ya’ll to believe that i take my saviour lightly. and i don’t. …

when i sing those lines that i used to sing in vain, i mean them in a different way. i don’t want to opportunity to be held responsible for causing a lot of people to use my God’s name in vain. so, whether or you not you believe in Christ. whether or not you care if it means something when you say God. just know that as for me, when I am singing those lines, i’m telling God that it feels good to stand up for myself and be victorious after long months of confusion and pain. i don’t hurt the same way anymore.

Please read the post in full, because I don’t want to misrepresent her. And for the cohenrecord, who am I to criticise… I’m no better. My point is this: Unless you think hard about the lyrics, unless you are critical about what you are singing along to, you could end up like me taking God’s name in vain. 

This is why I love Paramore’s “We Are Broken“. In the live version, you hear the passion of the lyrics, you know that this song means something genuine to the singer.

For Paramore’s “Hallelujah”, they begin with singing “hallelujah” from Leanard Cohen. Never heard of him? It’s his song that is sung in Shrek. Here’s another song you need to be careful about… Cohen’s song is quite misleading: it sounds hymnal and nice, but have a look at the lyric changes (h/t BBC for an insightful article):


1984 version 1988 version

Now I’ve heard there was a secret chord
That David played, and it pleased the Lord
But you don’t really care for music, do you?
It goes like this
The fourth, the fifth
The minor fall, the major lift
The baffled king composing Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Your faith was strong but you needed proof
You saw her bathing on the roof
Her beauty and the moonlight overthrew you
She tied you
To a kitchen chair
She broke your throne, and she cut your hair
And from your lips she drew the Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

You say I took the name in vain
I don’t even know the name
But if I did, well really, what’s it to you?
There’s a blaze of light
In every word
It doesn’t matter which you heard
The holy or the broken Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

I did my best, it wasn’t much
I couldn’t feel, so I tried to touch
I’ve told the truth, I didn’t come to fool you
And even though
It all went wrong
I’ll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Baby, I’ve been here before.
I know this room, I’ve walked this floor.
I used to live alone before I knew you.
Yeah I’ve seen your flag on the marble arch,
But listen, love is not some kind of victory march,
No it’s a cold and it’s a very broken Hallelujah.

Hallelujah, Hallelujah,
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

There was a time you let me know
What’s really going on below,
Ah but now you never show it to me, do you?
Yeah but I remember, yeah when I moved in you,
And the holy dove, she was moving too,
Yes every single breath that we drew was Hallelujah.

Hallelujah, Hallelujah,
Hallelujah, Hallelujah.

Maybe there’s a God above,
As for me, all I’ve ever seemed to learn from love
Is how to shoot at someone who outdrew you.
Yeah but it’s not a complaint that you hear tonight,
It’s not the laughter of someone who claims to have seen the light
No it’s a cold and it’s a very lonely Hallelujah.

Hallelujah, Hallelujah,
Hallelujah, Hallelujah.

I did my best, it wasn’t much.
I couldn’t feel, so I learned to touch.
I’ve told the truth, I didn’t come all this way to fool you.
Yeah even tough it all went wrong
I’ll stand right here before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my lips but Hallelujah.
Hallelujah, Hallelujah,
Hallelujah, Hallelujah.

Now I don’t know about you, but neither of these version I think I would be comfortable singing…

A long winded post, but something that was on my thoughts… would love yours…


2 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Many thanks for your kind use of the word “insightful”. 🙂

Comment by Alan Connor

Hahaha, you’re more than welcome! So often we take musical lyrics for granted, and your article really helped me to be a bit more critical of the songs that I enjoy. You’re right… when you look at the lyrics, the song doesn’t seem to fit in with the Christmas vibe, nor does the “X Factor” version which you describe (which I haven’t seen by the way) seem to match the lyrics.

Thanks again!

Comment by StephenMac

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