Category Archives: music

Another Damn Girly Song About Game

Following on the heels of “Call Me Maybe,” which Vox correctly typed as an archetypal game motif of the unattainable woman driven wild by an unattainable man, comes “Give Your Heart A Break” by one smoky-voiced Demi Lovato.

I’ll just go through a few of the lines and the loyal Badger Hut readers can shirley fill in the rest of the analysis.

The day I first met you
You told me you’d never fall in love
But now that I get you
I know fear is what it really was

Game principles: solipsism, rationalization. The woman cannot bring herself to accept the man’s words at face value, and instead constructs an elaborate counter-narrative that he is insecure and afraid because it allows her to avoid the reality that he’s not going to get attached.

Now here we are
So close yet so far
Haven’t I passed the test
When will you realize
Baby, I’m not like the rest

Game principles: attraction to aloofness, snowflaking. Frustrated by his preternatural emotional distance (which she has tried to invalidate as per above), she attempts to argue that she is the one special woman who is not going to hurt him.

Don’t wanna break your heart
Wanna give your heart a break
I know you’re scared it’s wrong
Like you might make a mistake
There’s just one life to live
And there’s no time to wait, to waste

Game principle: living in the moment. It feels right right now and has to be capitalized on!

The world is ours if we want it
We can take it if you just take my hand
There’s no turning back now
Baby, try to understand

Game principle: projection. In her mind, his mental model is the one that is busted. If only he understood her – if only his brain worked like hers did and he did what she wanted – then everything would be perfect, life would be so cool.

Capturing the wild and unattentive man is one of the most powerful female fantasies beamed through our popular culture, inextricably entwined with the “women civilize men” narrative. (Dalrock wrote about it this week, a great complement to his early gem on the other primary female fantasy of the “choice” narrative). But any game-aware man or woman who has been paying attention to the evidence in the field knows that it’s not just songs and shows – the “I can change him” modus operandi is epidemic among women in real life. Yes, even among “smart girls” and “good girls.” Like Jeff Spicoli with Forest Whitaker’s sports car, she plaintively intones “I can fix him!” Even women writing in the Manosphere are absolutely obsessed with a panty-soaking fantasy of making the aloof hunk realize that he should let his guard down and give in to his feeeeelings because she just really loves him so much.

Despite all the hand-wringing about how much women want “relationships,” women tingle for unavailable and uncommitted men, for those traits specifically, and project all sorts of stuff onto those men that obfuscates the basic truth – he ain’t in love with you and he’s not going to be.

There was even a study a couple months ago that during ovulation, women think their bad-boy flings are great father material. If there was ever something that should disabuse every bootlicking white knight of his delusional fantasy that putting on the Fred MacMurray act was going to get him to the top of the sexual heap and win the heart of his damsel forever, this is it.


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“29/31”: A Time-Travel Video About The Wall

Courtesy Captain Capitalism, a hilarious video about what it’s like when the belle of the ball doesn’t get the attention she used to, and how quickly that can happen.

The first verse goes thusly:

29: For the first time in my life I see it clearly,
I realize the power of being a woman
29 years old and time’s on my side,
I’m in my prime, I’ve hit my stride
I’ve got so much charisma and so many options,
It’s nice to always have my pick


The song proceeds with an increasingly awkward juxtaposition of criminal optimism and profane frustration. A YouTube comment described it as “the entire plot of How I Met Your Mother.”

I have to give this pair credit for really going after the underbelly of all these “man-up” shaming articles we’ve been seeing – that for every Bolickian tragedy we have shoved in our faces about a woman who woke up in her mid-30’s with no husband and tries to blame guys for not being everything she wanted in a hunky package, there were there’s one, two, five, ten good and decent men who would have made good matches she passed up when she had a good shot at locking him down.

As part of his thesis-level body of work about female marital habits and the cultural forces that drive them, my blog friend Dalrock has often commented on a pop-culture narrative that encourages women to delay marriage, and buttresses itself with the argument that living a fabulously single life is going to make them more desirable and effective marital partners (which itself seems to be a projection of the fact that women prefer to marry men older and more established than them).

While I believe anybody who isn’t ready for the commitment and sacrifice involved shouldn’t get married, and those who want to stay single should be free and unmolested to do so, telling a woman for whom marriage is a serious life goal (which is to say most of them) to intentionally blow it off until her late 20’s to “find herself” (or whatever new-age aphorism rationalizes enlightened navel-gazing and middle-class hedonism) is, as quoth Dalrock, a recipe for disaster.

One interesting factor here is that the two women have the same state – single. What has changed is their options, and thus their perception of the future. Dalrock commented on this phenomenon as well; he observed that women can play the “I have so many options!” game precisely because they believe it has to end happily; “they assume that marriage to a worthy man is an absolute given.”

On the other side, Dalrock has also elaborated on the concept of “signaling” demand in the marriage market and how it develops (or doesn’t) men who are good performers in marriage – the key ideas being the following:

  • Over the entire sexual marketplace, men tend to execute the act of marrying in response to female pressure for marriage.
  • For a man to prepare to be a marketable husband takes years of development of certain traits and attitudes (e.g. leadership, industriousness, domesticity and relationship orientation).
  • Those traits sprout and strengthen in response to men’s perception that marriage is a positive, rewarding and expected lifestyle choice
  • Women delaying the desire for marriage until their late 20’s means that the corresponding male cohort doesn’t see the signal (or the payoff) for marital fitness until advanced young adulthood either.

If men don’t see any demand (or reward) for them to be husband material (i.e. have good beta traits) until they cross 30, a couple of factors are going to get in the way of that development. First it’s harder to change your life outlook after about age 25. The sort of paradigm plasticity that allows just tends to gum up in a lot of cases. Second, a lot of the benefits of a stable, supportive marriage for a man are in his 20’s – when he’s getting established in his career and his lifestyle. You take a man who is 30 or 35 and tell him to man up and marry who’s decided it’s time she settled down and he’ll say “why? I built this life all by myself, what’s in it for letting someone waltz in and enjoy it with me now who could have gotten in on the ground floor?” It recalls the childhood story of the Little Red Hen.

To make his point, Dalrock references the excellent Solomon II post “The Marriage Zone,” in which the defunct blogger posited a thin time window in which men have the market value to snag a top-quality woman but have not yet habituated themselves to a lifestyle of casual relationships or serial polygyny.

Without a doubt, there’s a lot of schadenfreude in the Manosphere regarding women like Ms. “31.” Some of it is abstract (guys tend to be pragmatic and don’t take well to complaining about the fruits of your own decisions), but much of it is personal, many of these guys having been passed up for the charming rake, or the “fabulously single” lifestyle or “something’s missing” or whatever, only to get desperate calls back when the trappings of monogamy and commitment are at long last her best option.

Anyway, with all of this “I’ve found myself, now where is my husband?!” whining, a backlash is inevitable – even, as above, from other women.


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MCA Is Dead, or The Genius Of Sabotage

Word went out Friday that Adam Yauch, of the persona “MCA” in the New York-based white hip-hop-rock trio Beastie Boys, had died after a three-year fight with cancer.

As I discussed in detail in this post and again in this one, I came of musical age in the alternative fever swamp of 1994, an incredible time of musical development and variety, both on the radio and on MTV (which at the time was still playing music videos as a primary service offering). The Beastie Boys were a big part of that, bringing the notoriety of hip-hop to the mainstream in a way that was palatable to rebellious suburban white kids who were more interested in pissing off their parents than idolizing gun-toting drug dealers.

I want to draw some attention to one of the iconic videos of that time, the Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage.” Directed by Spike Jonze, the video matched the angry punk-funk-rock energy of the song with a campy pastiche of 70’s cop-shop images billed as a show called Sabotage. The band wigged their hair, put on sunglasses and acted out classic scenes of car chases, violent interrogations, disguises and chasing a target into a swimming pool.

A nice touch was the use of fictional fictional characters, where band members didn’t portray the characters directly but actors playing the characters (“Alasandro Alegre as the Chief…Fred Kelly as Bunny.”) MCA played two of them.

One of the funniest bits in the film was the cops stopping for donuts during the song’s tacit break.

The song (along with Sure Shot and Get It Together) was one of the crown jewels of the band’s 1994 album Ill Communication, easily one of the best records of the era. “Sabotage” is notable for exemplifying several key factors of the alternative breakthrough – the allusion to classic popular culture and past musical styles, the carefully-tweaked and intentional eschewing of production values and pedagogy in favor of lo-fi rawness and fusional music, the lack of self-consciousness, and the willingness to push the envelope. They were guys having fun making music, just like my early-teen band was, and it was easy to feed off of their vibe.

Apropos of nothing, the video formed a visual bookend with the summer blockbuster Pulp Fiction which also featured a campy retro kick.

Fifteen years after getting snubbed in five categories at the MTV Video Music Awards, “Sabotage” was the first winner in the new category of “Best Video (That Should Have Won A Moonman).”

RIP MCA. Thanks for the memories.

Now one more time, MCA come and rock the sure shot:



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Guns N’ Roses’ “Locomotive”: Dysfunctional Angst in Music and Lyrics

Guns N’ Roses’ nine-minute sludgefest “Locomotive” is one of those songs where the title, lyrics and music all match together perfectly.

The theme of the song alternates between a relationship marked by anger and manipulation, and the singer’s inspiration and vision of his life, his “illusions.” The music is true to its name, driving the song forward in steady but disjointed fashion.

The song is less notable than other more emotional long works from the Use Your Illusion albums like November Rain and Estranged, owing in part to its relative simplicity and repetition rather than epic breadth.

Notice I said relative. “Locomotive” exhibits a most careful balance between balls-out energy and technical precision, and all of its changes and pieces of flair, combined with the sheer volume of lyrics building from confusion to frustration to exasperation, and the care it must have taken to get it right in the recording studio, points to a work of great emotional investment and release for the band.

Slash does a great job of weaving short, dizzying guitar solos in between the verses (or even in the verses), building each one seamlessly out of the rhythm part itself and carrying the emotion of the song when the vocals are silent.

Like a few other GNR songs, Locomotive features a very distinctive aspect of the group’s guitar work – two rhythm guitars, in the same register, playing slight variations on the same part and making it sound good. It creates a stereoscopic effect where you can tell there’s two part but can’t really tell the difference. This is not nearly as easy as it sounds on paper, to pull it off requires both a great sense of cooperative verve among the guitarists and a rock-solid rhythm section of drums and bass for them to work off of. It perfectly expresses the paranoia of a song like this.

Appetite for Destruction is a hard-rock classic, but the group really punched their ticket to immortality with their 1991 separately-sold “double album” Use Your Illusion I and II which contained over two and a half hours of music (a length that would qualify as a very long quadruple album in the vinyl days). The artwork famously stole a detail of two anonymous men from Raphael’s painting “The School Of Athens,” and then added contrast to achieve a now-and-then or here-and-away effect.

There was a vague thematic split amongst the two records. The first, colored yellow and red, deals a lot with interpersonal strife (it opened with a track about Axl Rose’s hostile neighbor) and high-energy anger. The second album (themed in cooler blue and purple) focused more on internal discord, angst and disappointment.

The inscrutable narrative videos for “Don’t Cry,”November Rain” and “Estranged” received beyond-exhaustive airplay on MTV.

In the cover of Bob Dylan’s “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door,” a spoken-word section is introduced by the dialing of a telephone. My band buddy and I both spent more than an appropriate amount of time playing back the sequence and punching buttons on our telephones to figure out the phone number.


Clawing their way to the top of the over-populated mass of rock musicians in LA, Guns N’ Roses was the real-life incarnation of the band every writer wished they had invented for a screenplay about the music industry. Violence, inexhaustible energy, drug abuse, alcohol, on-stage antics, shady characters and dark pasts – not to mention the loud music, wild costumes, angry lyrics and refusal to conform to pop sensibilities. They were a group who thought that hair metal was getting a little too fashion-conscious.

Frontman Axl Rose was beyond famous for his histrionics, often going onstage late (causing fines for the group) and showing no qualms about leaving early. He also called out rivals onstage and in lyrics, including Warren Beatty, Vince Neil of Motley Crue and a series of music writers savaged in the highly profane track “Get In The Ring.”

Rose was the victim of childhood sexual abuse, which undoubtedly contributed to his violence, impatience, narcissism and volatile relationships with women, and at the height of the band’s success he discussed his psychotherapy regimen being “four or five hours a day” even during touring.

Rose contrasted with lead guitarist Slash, a taciturn and unfazed character whose face was obscured by a massive broomtop hairdo. Funny line from Slash: “As a musician, I’ve always been amused that I’m both British and black; particularly because so many American musicians seem to aspire to be British while so many British musicians…went to such great pains to be black.”

It is ironic that although GNR had inspired me to pick up guitar – aside from the fact that Slash looked so cool with his Les Paul, the sounds they made were just so interesting – I had sort of outgrown them by the time I really started playing the instrument. Their lack of new material all but forced me to move on…after two-plus years of touring in support of the Illusion albums, they released a collection of covers and then more or less just faded away, with the new heavyweights of alternative like Pearl Jam and Alice In Chains filling the void as aggressive stadium rock dissipated into inward angst.

A few years ago I ordered the tab book to Use Your Illusion I (“tablature” is a way of writing guitar fingerings as sheet music, a much simpler way to transcribe and teach songs than asking guitarists to sight-read from conventional staff notation). I had never been able to pull off the GNR sound before, but with the notes in front of me I was shocked at how difficult and intricate the guitar parts were.

It was then that I realized GNR was one of those bands whose key sophistication was distracting you from their own sophistication. In other words, they sounded so good you didn’t stop to think about how hard it must be to sound that good.

The amazing thing about a group like GNR isn’t their onstage energy or reckless lifestyle – plenty of bands before and since have copped the attitude of three chords and a dozen groupies – it’s that when they went into the studio or onstage (late, oftentimes), they managed to be in tune, on time, and always interesting. You could argue the quasi-concept album pairing of Use Your Illusion I and II makes them the most successful prog-rock band in the history of the genre. Sure, Rush has sold more records, but the next barely-legal girl to flash Geddy Lee will be the first one.

I’m not quite ready to put Axl and Slash alongside Lennon and McCartney, but GNR had a talent for combining diverse rock styles into a singular sound that made sense, from typical hard-rock/metal stylings to neo-blues to epic ballads. In this way they were indeed like the Beatles, who combined their muses into a fusional style that sounded neither derivative nor pretentiously avant-garde.


Given the above-discussed need for a solid beat behind all the activity, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that drummer Matt Sorum came off in interviews as by far the sanest, most stable member of the group. Part of this was selected for – Sorum was lured from The Cult to replace Steven Adler who was kicked out of the band for drug abuse. (If you got kicked out of that band because you were too strung out, you must have had a really serious problem.)

One of the most interesting vignettes about the band to me was the departure of founding member Izzy Stradlin in the middle of the UYI world tour. The rhythm guitarist and key songwriter grew tired of the rock-star shtick and found that getting sober enhanced the contrast between him and the other members.

“Once I quit drugs, I couldn’t help looking around and asking myself, ‘Is this all there is?’ I was just tired of it; I needed to get out…I didn’t like the complications that became such a part of daily life in Guns N’ Roses…When you’re fucked up, you’re more likely to put up with things you wouldn’t normally put up with.”

It goes to show that no matter how big and successful you are, there’s always a price to pay, and you really need to think over whether it’s worth it.

We talk a lot in this space about the alpha male and his key characteristic of defining his world instead of letting it define him. Even among the true alphas, very rare is the man who can get to the top of the world and not wind up underneath it all.


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Even Prince Worried About His Partner’s Number

A while back I heard Prince’s “Little Red Corvette,” I recall making a connection to the game and then promptly forgot about it. When I heard it this week it all became clear. In the song Prince (that’s his real first name, btw) plays Captain Save-A-Ho to a promiscuous woman.

I guess I should’ve known by the way U parked your car sideways
That it wouldn’t last
See, U’re the kinda person that believes in makin’ out once
Love ’em and leave ’em fast
I guess I must be dumb cuz U had a pocket full of horses
Trojan and some of them used     [ahh I see what he did there! -B]
But it was Saturday night, I guess that makes it all right
And U say – “What have I got 2 lose?”

And honey, I say Little Red Corvette
Baby, U’re much 2 fast (Oh)
Little Red Corvette
U need a love that’s gonna last

(Prince is perhaps the artist most hardcore about not having his music on YouTube – very few of his studio recordings are available there. So I had to go with an acoustic concert film.)

The lyric that really stuck out at me was this one:

I guess I should’ve closed my eyes when U drove me 2 the place
Where your horses run free
Cuz I felt a little ill when I saw all the pictures
Of the jockeys that were there before me


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Sexy Music: “The Girl From Ipanema”

I don’t want to write much and take away from the power of the piece, but when I happened upon “The Girl From Ipanema” in my buddy’s mp3 collection, I knew I had found an all-time classic. Describing the daily stroll of a real-life teenage beauty in Rio de Janeiro, “The Girl From Ipanema” instantly earned its place as one of the timeless standards from the short-lived but well-remembered 1960’s heydey of the bossa nova sound.

The song’s sparse arrangement – a rhythmic classical guitar and a subtle jazz drum kit with accents of piano – builds gradually to accommodate male (Joao Gilberto) and female (Astrud Gilberto) vocal performances in Portuguese and English respectively and a soaring saxophone solo by Stan Getz.

(This is the long-form, bilingual album version.)

As a personal aside, thanks in part to this YouTube, I recently learned to play the song on the guitar.

It’s not a novice piece, but oddly enough, thanks to my long-time scholarship of the music of the Police and their harmonically expressive guitar work, the chordal subtleties came easily to me.

I was actually playing it this morning before I went to work. I’m telling you right now, just playing that song makes you feel sexy.


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Metric’s “Combat Baby”: Anthem for a Dominance-Seeking Dopamine Addict

I have been all over the Canadian band Metric for the past couple of weeks, and their frenetic track “Combat Baby” hit home for me in a few ways.

I recall clearly the first time I heard this song years ago. I was driving back to MadTown from Iowa City where I had visited some friends at the U of I. I tuned into the campus radio station and heard this fireball of energy. I called up the station and being a college station my call went direct right to the DJ, who told me who it was.

I later rang up a Canadian friend who told me “oh yeah, I know all aboot them. Metric is great. They’re huge up here in Toronto.” Eh.

If you want a, ahem, better look at Metric frontwoman Emily Haines, check this live video out (whatever you do, don’t skip to 3:02):

It’s a rather sophisticated song, highlighting lyrical syncopation, liberal slant rhyme (“combat” and “come back,” “baby”/”lethargy”/”easy”), blending of figurative and literal language (“they try to kick it, their feet fall asleep”) and the use of blue notes.


The song itself rather clearly describes a woman who digs the excitement of arguing and of lively personalities, and wants and to be dominated. (I take the term “fighting” as figurative).

We used to leave the blue lights on and there was a beat
Ever since you have been gone it’s all caffeine-free
Faux punk fatigues
Said it all before
They try to kick it, their feet fall asleep
Get no harm done no
None of them want to fight me

Combat baby come back baby
Fight off the lethargy
Don’t go quietly
Combat baby
Said you would never give up easy
Combat baby come back

Get back in town, I wanna paint it black
Wanna get around
Easy living crowd so flat
Said it all before
They try to kick it, their feet fall asleep
I want to be wrong but
No one here wants to fight me like you do


I try to be so nice
Who gets it good?
Every mighty mild seventies child
Every mighty mild seventies child
Beats me

Do doo doo doo

Combat baby come back baby
Combat baby come back
Bye bye bye bye bye bye bye bye baby
Combat baby come back

How I miss your ranting
Do you miss my all time lows

One-offs on this topic: Susan Walsh has more than once referenced “starting a fight just to get the makeup sex.” Athol Kay has translated a woman’s complaint of “I’m bored” as “I need some dopamine, can you give me some?” Brendan spoke to “mediocrity” in relationships in terms of lack of emotional intensity.

Back in my days as a musician, I was exposed to a few teenage punk-rocker-girl types. They were fascinating, and I was totally unable to handle them at the time, but there was also something really shallow about them. All flash and no bacon, able to cop an attitude and push against authority but lacking any alternate ethos in its place. The typical frame was that of Rayanne Graf from “My So-Called Life” – a world without walls, with lots of heat and light, but no constructive movement.

There’s a reason there are so few long-term-successful punks. It’s both rare to have that level of artistic talent to being with, and hard to balance the requisite angst with the discipline you need to write, record and tour (the downfall of countless garage bands). It’s a fundamentally self-limiting genre, as evidenced by the number of para-punk musicians that shifted to the nascent New Wave sound in the early 1980’s (John Lydon and the Police come to mind).


For a song that wasn’t written until most of it was over, “Combat Baby” clicked with more than one piece of my life (it’s such a great quirk of art and music that people we’ve never met can create things that speak to us so well).

As I’ve moved several times over my life, I resonated with the theme of missing a friend who really lit your fire, and as an out-of-the-closet Type A personality, I suffer when I don’t have equally intense people around me. (Revving down my engine has been a point of improvement for me for years, to much success, I’m proud to say.)

My first year of graduate school was very tough, so much so that I refer to it as “the lost year,” and I’ve come to understand that a large part of the angst was sheer boredom. I moved to graduate school straight out of undergrad, going from a tight-knit city college atmosphere to a hollow and mutually fearful enterprise of students who didn’t really know where they were going. The median level of social skills took a huge hit, shrinking my pool of possible friends, and we were spread all over town without the ability to centrally socialize. A lot of my classmates didn’t speak passable English and socialized in their own ethnic groups including professors. I went from a full academic schedule, plus labs and organized activities, to having less than eight hours of class a week, and there was certainly not enough homework to keep my mind occupied.

How desperate I was for someone to make it interesting, to care about what I had to say and to say something worth caring about. (I found her eventually, and then let her break my heart twice, but that’s another story.) “Combat Baby” speaks to my longing for someone to, for lack of a better term, fight me.

As it was, I gradually crept into a pool of friendships based on mutual but unacknowledged misery, which crescendoed with us all hitting bottom simultaneously that spring. In short, two girls both got dumped within a few weeks of each other, a guy broke up with his long-distance girlfriend to date one of the aforementioned women, I fell in love with an unavailable emotional basketcase and botched my chance to get her, one of the gals started smoking again to her deep disappointment, somebody got divorced, two of the alpha-type leaders of our social group graduated, and one guy got fired from his job due to a clerical issue just days before he started .

I self-styled myself as our cohort’s company medic, treating their emotional wounds but allowing them to infect me in the process, but that was a bunch of mental bravado – I was suffering just like they were and didn’t want to admit it, and talked myself into a story that made me both hero and victim. It was all a surreal experience. Most of us made it out OK eventually, but it was a very long year.


The ending couplet:

How I miss your ranting
Do you miss my all time lows

reminds me strongly of my first relationship – a literate but arrogant man (rants) and a spirited but depressive woman (lows). We were great complements and heartfelt outlets for each other’s emotional energy, and our relationship worked in part because we were the only ones the other felt comfortable enough around to share those sides of ourselves. So the intimacy was very deep but by the same token very unstable.

It eventually did us in, as soon as the relationship tipped in the downward direction it quickly lost steam and burned out. Neither of us even mildly entertained the idea of getting back together, but we stayed in touch and continued to grate on each other’s nerves. Neither of us dated for a while. She had a few first-base hookups, and I flirted with oneitis for a couple of women I now know would have been horrible choices for the Badgerette, and also had a hilariously disastrous three-week fling with a fan of a rival college team.

It wasn’t until she started dating the man she eventually married, a guy who was able to sublimate her animus without bearing the brunt of it, that we became real friends again. So much so that she served as a personal advisor during the Lost Year, and I helped her through a brief breakup with her future husband. Even though it didn’t work out, I certainly am thankful for the experience, and she was too, eventually.


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