Common People: A lyrical discussion/dissection

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proposal

poor
working/middle class
rich

having taken an actual journalism class (contenderizer), Friday, 3 September 2010 22:54 (4 years ago) Permalink

nobody disagrees with you about the bogus invocation of "middle class" by American politicians, i don't think

xp

horseshoe, Friday, 3 September 2010 22:55 (4 years ago) Permalink

it's just kind of irritating when working class people perceive themselves as that "middle class" voter and end up voting against their best economic interests because of weird class aspirations, and it's also irritating when people who grew up middle class are in denial about it - either positing that they are higher or lower than what they are.

sarahel, Friday, 3 September 2010 22:56 (4 years ago) Permalink

I don't think that's a very common problem in america? pretty much everyone who isn't bill gates or homeless claims to be middle class.

iatee, Friday, 3 September 2010 22:58 (4 years ago) Permalink

it's just kind of irritating when working class people perceive themselves as that "middle class" voter and end up voting against their best economic interests because of weird class aspirations

unpack?

cuz i think self-identified "working class" voters tend to vote against their best interests due more to religious pressure than due to class aspirations...

having taken an actual journalism class (contenderizer), Friday, 3 September 2010 23:00 (4 years ago) Permalink

I think a lot of working class people believe that the american federal income tax system overburdens them - but that's partly because we have a country where anyone who has to pay any tax ever believes that they're overtaxed.

iatee, Friday, 3 September 2010 23:02 (4 years ago) Permalink

i think i'm still caught up in this argument i was having with some friends about why California has gone to shit, and how the biggest problem is because of Prop 13 - and working class people voting for it, and the result is that tuition at state colleges - where they used to be able to afford to send their kids to college - is now often out of reach.

sarahel, Friday, 3 September 2010 23:03 (4 years ago) Permalink

what were they arguing?

iatee, Friday, 3 September 2010 23:03 (4 years ago) Permalink

they just weren't aware of the impact of Prop 13

sarahel, Friday, 3 September 2010 23:04 (4 years ago) Permalink

but how as their opposition to prop 13 a product of class aspiration? you mean they just wanted to keep more of their hard-earned so that they might ascend?

having taken an actual journalism class (contenderizer), Friday, 3 September 2010 23:06 (4 years ago) Permalink

home-ownership is an huge part of class aspiration

iatee, Friday, 3 September 2010 23:06 (4 years ago) Permalink

This might be a bit flippant but maybe it explains the failure of communication here between US and UK: People in Britain understand class, and class relations, in their guts, the way Americans do race - its the open wound that needs to be kept open if you are to understand how stuff 'really' works. Whereas British people tend to be quite literal and guileless about race, the way Americans are about class.

― sonofstan, Friday, 3 September 2010 23:45 (Yesterday)

this is well put, though the affective component can be understood

the essex office worker from a wc background is obviously lower middle class, but unless they become wealthy enough that any pretence of proletarian bona fides is rendered absurd, they and their neighbours will persist w/ saying they're working class

nakhchivan, Friday, 3 September 2010 23:07 (4 years ago) Permalink

but wanting to cut yr property taxes seems more like short-sighted self interest blinding itself to long term consequences - not class aspiration as such

having taken an actual journalism class (contenderizer), Friday, 3 September 2010 23:07 (4 years ago) Permalink

they were in denial about the fact that the cuts to state services - esp. in the form of low tuition at state schools - would have the greatest negative effect on them, as opposed to middle class or upper middle class people, who might struggle a bit to pay, but ultimately can.

sarahel, Friday, 3 September 2010 23:08 (4 years ago) Permalink

but also what iatee said about home ownership

sarahel, Friday, 3 September 2010 23:09 (4 years ago) Permalink

the wealthiest americans are the best at short-sightened self-interest blinding itself to long term consequences - so the lower classes just want to practice by voting for stupid propositions.

iatee, Friday, 3 September 2010 23:09 (4 years ago) Permalink

god Californians vote for stupid propositions - it often makes me embarrassed of where i'm from

sarahel, Friday, 3 September 2010 23:10 (4 years ago) Permalink

I think people in most states would be voting for stupid propositions if they had the ability

iatee, Friday, 3 September 2010 23:11 (4 years ago) Permalink

good luck USA!

sarahel, Friday, 3 September 2010 23:12 (4 years ago) Permalink

we are no switzerland

iatee, Friday, 3 September 2010 23:12 (4 years ago) Permalink

oh wait switzerland is horrible and racist now too

iatee, Friday, 3 September 2010 23:12 (4 years ago) Permalink

seriously though, when Minnesota elected Jesse Ventura, it did make me feel less embarrassed about Schwarzenegger - and the whole country voted for Reagan for President

sarahel, Friday, 3 September 2010 23:13 (4 years ago) Permalink

funky brewster (San Te), Friday, 3 September 2010 23:14 (4 years ago) Permalink

i get it. you mean they attempted to adopt the blitheness of more wealthy people wr2 the need for well-funded social services, and they did this as a product of their own class aspirations, their sense that they shouldn't have to worry about such things.

makes sense, especially to the extent that conservatives whip up anger among the less well-to-do working classes against the poor (when they actually share a great many interests in common)

having taken an actual journalism class (contenderizer), Friday, 3 September 2010 23:15 (4 years ago) Permalink

makes sense, especially to the extent that conservatives whip up anger among the less well-to-do working classes against the poor (when they actually share a great many interests in common)

ding ding ding!

sarahel, Friday, 3 September 2010 23:16 (4 years ago) Permalink

This is the part where I point out that Jesse Ventura was the mayor of a large suburb before running for state office, so the comparison with Arnie isn't quite level.

maintenant avec plus de fromage (suzy), Friday, 3 September 2010 23:23 (4 years ago) Permalink

and a Californian might point out that Jesse was pwned by the Predator and Arnie kicked his ass

sarahel, Friday, 3 September 2010 23:25 (4 years ago) Permalink

at least arnold's not a ron paul fan

iatee, Friday, 3 September 2010 23:28 (4 years ago) Permalink

maybe suzy should tell us more about Jarvis

sarahel, Friday, 3 September 2010 23:29 (4 years ago) Permalink

i.e. we're way off topic right now

sarahel, Friday, 3 September 2010 23:30 (4 years ago) Permalink

yeah, i liked that part

xpost

having taken an actual journalism class (contenderizer), Friday, 3 September 2010 23:31 (4 years ago) Permalink

I did not vote for Jesse Ventura but I did like the 'thinker' ad very much.

The first time I heard this song was the first time Pulp ever played it live (I went to see most of their London shows, and saw the final one in Rotherham). I actually read the whole thread to make sure nobody had posted about Sophia - Wiki says it's another woman who's Cypriot, but I'm not certain they're right, because S. is really Greek, really a sculpture grad, and knew Jarvis. It still brings me LOLs that after this song, Jarv basically had a case of Lucky Jim syndrome and dumped his long-term partner for a very posh fashion person.

maintenant avec plus de fromage (suzy), Friday, 3 September 2010 23:48 (4 years ago) Permalink

I thought goole's reading was the obvious and OTM way of interpreting the lyrics, wasn't aware that there were other ways to read the song. this thread is really confusing.

shorn_blond.avi (dayo), Saturday, 4 September 2010 07:02 (4 years ago) Permalink

Sometimes when I'm unpacking the boxes I feel bad for the theoretical co-worker that doesn't have an earner as a spouse or parents to pay for the dental work. then I look around and it's just me and her, and it's all good. those theoretical guys work at different locations.

I hurt for them.

DON'T YOU SEE THE WALR (Zachary Taylor), Saturday, 4 September 2010 08:44 (4 years ago) Permalink

damn. Ignore me. This is a fascinating discussion about music and class. Lurking threads like this is among the things that's brought me to this site.

I don't have a good posting style or discussion technique. I like this song. The first time I saw the video, it stuck with me and I hunted down the cd. It's one of the pop highlights of that decade. I don't really require anymore depth or meaning out of it than I would from other British pop hits of the past, "Play With Fire", "Substitute", "Remote Control", "If You Wanna Be My Lover" .

The whole slumming, and resentment of it, aspect of the lyrics trigger all sorts of anger and memories from my own life, but they are American ideas rooted in self-pity or shame.

It's a nice rant, and fuck those people who are like that.

DON'T YOU SEE THE WALR (Zachary Taylor), Saturday, 4 September 2010 09:05 (4 years ago) Permalink

contenderizer i think you have it exactly backwards -- .

― goole, Friday, September 3, 2010 4:03 PM (Yesterday) Bookmark

c+ping this for later

the embrace of waka flocka is v pertinent (deej), Saturday, 4 September 2010 10:06 (4 years ago) Permalink

so it seemed a lot of the song's defenders actually agree that the narrator is pretty dislikeable? that's still the most major problem i have with the song, he doesn't actually succeed in portraying the greek girl as an unsympathetic character (when surely it wouldn't have been hard to do this), so the vitriolic rant seems bitter and baseless.

لوووووووووووووووووووول (lex pretend), Saturday, 4 September 2010 10:53 (4 years ago) Permalink

I didn't really "get" how good this song was until it was recontextualised by Bill Shatner.

village idiot (dog latin), Saturday, 4 September 2010 11:00 (4 years ago) Permalink

class in the UK is a holdover of a bygone era these days. plumbers can make twice as much as a university lecturer, but the former would still say they're working class and the latter would say they were middle class

Even in the bygone era it was never purely abt money -- plenty of broke toffs back in the day. The link between money and class is, I think, also related to how you spend it rather than how much you have. Know builders who drop £1000 on a chihuahua and toffs who drive the same car fr 20 years.

OK it's hard to still *say* you're working class if you're making sums wildly outside the norm and parking yr Rolls outside yr 2up/dwn, but with the whole WAG thing it feels like people are just shooting for an offshoot of working class: that Posh/Becks setup of more money than God but still having HP sauce on the table.

Wonder how Common People wld go aimed at that sort -- hard to slum when you're already buying pot noodles, only from Waitrose.

stet, Saturday, 4 September 2010 11:03 (4 years ago) Permalink

he doesn't actually succeed in portraying the greek girl as an unsympathetic character

totally hadn't got this until you pointed it out in the other thread (and Kate smthg similar upthread). Is a really gd point that if you're not already all righteously bristly just at the setup he doesn't go very far to persuade you that she's a terrible person. The funniest rants can be levelled at the least deserving, all the same.

stet, Saturday, 4 September 2010 11:05 (4 years ago) Permalink

yeah the fact that the greek girl seems like a perfectly fine person makes the song more...ripe for discussion, i guess (a quality that's often confused with a song being good), but

t if you're not already all righteously bristly just at the setup

^^is why so many people i've known appreciate the song. "slumming it" takes many forms, not all of them bad, so just the fact of the set-up isn't remotely offensive; to find it so is on a par with the still-prevalent kneejerk posh-hatred i see so often (most often from people who are SOLIDLY MIDDLE CLASS who seem to be totally unaware of their own privilege, maybe because they're so aware that they could never actually pass for someone genuinely posh)

لوووووووووووووووووووول (lex pretend), Saturday, 4 September 2010 11:13 (4 years ago) Permalink

Wonder if that kneejerkery was more prevalent during that horrible britpop era when everyone wanted to be a laaad. Jarvis could just go "posh lass wants to be common" and it was a signifier for the whole setup.

stet, Saturday, 4 September 2010 11:19 (4 years ago) Permalink

yeah, i think that misreading was touched on in the other thread, i think the song was seen as an anthem for "common people" against poshos. which is obv wrong - also, as i think k8 said upthread, the song's unpleasant stereotypes go in the other direction as well - the narrator's attitude to working class life is reductive and superior; he doesn't just make the fair point that being poor is a bit shit and shouldn't be fetishised, there's a contempt there for his fellow working class people who actually seem content with their lives, and the judgmentalism of assuming that people who love to dance and drink and screw can't possibly have anything else worthwhile in their lives.

(one of my least fav things is the straight white man who makes a huge deal out of how hard life was/is because he's a bit "different", who loves to revel in being a "misfit" and even an "outcast" without actually knowing anything about the sorts of differences that go beyond, like, one's taste in clothes.)

لوووووووووووووووووووول (lex pretend), Saturday, 4 September 2010 11:24 (4 years ago) Permalink

BACK X-POSTS GALORE IN TEH TIME IT'S TAKEN ME TO WRITE THIS OUT

OK, so this thread has gone through 200 posts of "America: does it have a class system?" I guess and I'm not going to go back and read that until some day I'm really really bored at work.

Going back to the song for a minute, and again, my discomfort with it. And part of that is (as I've repeatedly said) how his anger (although it might be righteous) is completely displaced by being applied towards this (somewhat clueless) posh girl.

First part of that is, you're not getting angry at the person you are actually angry at - or (thinking back to that shallow pedantic thread) are you getting angry at someone who can do something about the situation? How would the song - how would his *reaction* be different if her were speaking to, say, her *father* - would he be quite so willing to get so angry, eh, big man, if he was picking on someone his own size? What if the gender roles in the song were reversed? If it were her wealthy brother coming and trying to pull a poor but arty *girl* wouldn't this be painted as some kind of fairy tale happy ending where he's somehow noble for choosing the poor girl? (You know, like archetypical romance stories for the past 2000 years or so?)

Second is this idea of *tourism*. And this is where I leave the song a bit behind, but actually get into "how does this play out IRL?" How do you teach social justice issues to the very wealthy, or, as in this case, the children of the very wealthy? (this has not been an entirely academic issue for me.) There's this anger at a posh girl "slumming it" - but what do you do in cases where there is an actual genuine sense of trying to learn, even in a clumsy and clueless way? That's the difference, for me, between this song and something like Holiday In Cambodia, that the girl in this song seems like even if she doesn't comprehend (the "ha ha you're so funny" line) she seems willing enough to learn that she went to the supermarket with him in the first place. And yet she's exposed to mockery and laughter - is that really the best way to teach or change someone?

Again, this is where I veer away from the song to personal experiences, but that "open wound" analogy seems apt. Like, they have so much invested in their hatred and blame they don't want to change the existing systems, they just want someone to vent their anger at. (Thinking of parallels of women who have gone over to the Dark Side of feminism, and have actually started hating men, they have no interest in the "patriarchy hurts men, too" arguments because they have this worldview that *requires* men to be evil.) It's much easier to hate someone for "slumming it" than it is to try to change their minds or their worldviews and send them back to daddy's mansion with a real understanding and real chance to change something. I'm not saying "oh noes, won't someone think about the poor heiresses!" because several of the heiresses I've known have been pretty annoying people - though not *all* of them - there are people in that position who are "holy shit, I have a brain and a vague sense of social justice, but what the *fuck* can I do and how the fuck am I going to learn to do something about it?" It seems to be a better idea to try to get those kinds of people (and they do exist) on side in a meaningful way than it is to sneer at them and mock them until they go away.

But you know, sneering makes for the "funnier" song, I guess. But that doesn't mean I have to like that song.

cymose corymb (Karen D. Tregaskin), Saturday, 4 September 2010 11:24 (4 years ago) Permalink

She isn't a fine person. She's lumped Jarvis in with the 'common people', thereby dismissing all his personal signifiers in having got away from there. She's denying his individuality, treating him as a cipher of something that's painful to him and just a whim to her.

He's also aware of the fact that he's moved away from the lumpen common people, so he's trying to recreate them but getting it quite right either because his image is bound up with his own resentment of them - being bitten without being warned, for example. But the killer is that if it goes wrong they're all he's got to go back to, while she has her assurance and her money and her dad and his contacts - the very things that keep him out of the upper classes and mean he's got to identify with the common people, because however much he dislikes them they're all he's got.

Ismael Klata, Saturday, 4 September 2010 11:29 (4 years ago) Permalink

See Arctic Monkeys' 'A Certain Romance' for a more affectionate take on essentially the same idea.

Ismael Klata, Saturday, 4 September 2010 11:31 (4 years ago) Permalink

Ismael OTM. Point of divergence here seems to be that Karen and Lex see nothing wrong in the Greek girl's condescending attitude and unthinking privilege. If you think she sounds lovely, then no wonder you don't appreciate the song's rage but I think you may be in the minority there.

Haunted Clocks For Sale (Dorianlynskey), Saturday, 4 September 2010 12:12 (4 years ago) Permalink

How would the song - how would his *reaction* be different if her were speaking to, say, her *father* - would he be quite so willing to get so angry, eh, big man, if he was picking on someone his own size?

This has an underlying assumption that women can't stick up for themselves, which I'm not very happy about.

If it were her wealthy brother coming and trying to pull a poor but arty *girl* wouldn't this be painted as some kind of fairy tale happy ending where he's somehow noble for choosing the poor girl?

No. No, it wouldn't.

emil.y, Saturday, 4 September 2010 12:14 (4 years ago) Permalink

(one of my least fav things is the straight white man who makes a huge deal out of how hard life was/is because he's a bit "different", who loves to revel in being a "misfit" and even an "outcast" without actually knowing anything about the sorts of differences that go beyond, like, one's taste in clothes.)

You don't understand the pressures of being a straight white man!!

gr8080 State (King Boy Pato), Saturday, 4 September 2010 12:16 (4 years ago) Permalink

Also, A Certain Romance is a great point of comparison because Alex Turner, unlike Jarvis or Morrissey, has a diverse range of friends and sees a certain kind of working-class misbehaviour in a more sympathetic light as a result - he's not an outcast, he's on the fringes, moving between cliques, critical but not damning. His real finger-pointing venom (on Fake Tales) is reserved for indie-scene poseurs. I'd forgotten how beautifully nuanced and candid A Certain Romance was.

Haunted Clocks For Sale (Dorianlynskey), Saturday, 4 September 2010 12:17 (4 years ago) Permalink


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