Watching YouTube on my television is a recent vice of mine. I select “Music” and then just flick through whatever comes up. I enjoy not knowing whether the next track is rock or rap or country or even a Bollywood musical. I get to see things that I might otherwise miss, I can skip the ones that don’t do it for me. I can do a deeper dive on anyone who catches my interest. It’s like I have my own personal music station.
Sorry if that sounds like an advert for SMART TV but it’s new to me and it makes me smile.
Now I’m a card-carrying Atheist of long standing, but if I was of a mystical frame of mind, I would have thought that God was trying to speak to me through YouTube last night because the songs that hit me hardest were all about angels and God.
It started with Passenger doing a cover of “Angel From Montgomery” with The Once and Stu Larsen. I was entranced by the sense of being part of a jam session with musicians who seem to be making music for the joy of it. They sang about hope and how hard it is to sustain and prayed to be given an angel from Montgomery as “one thing to hold on to” because to “believe in this living is just a hard way to go.” Amen to that.
I guess hope is the only thing I believe in and even then I wonder if I’m just chickening out of seeing things as they are. Songs like this make me wonder if music was the last thing to come out of Pandora’s box, a salve to take the sting out of life.
Then a heavy metal band with the unlikely name of Five Finger Death Punch pitched a great rock song that opened with “I spoke to God today and she said that she’s ashamed” and offered a classic chorus: “I’m on the wrong side of heaven, and the righteous side of hell.” The lyrics are about how hard it is to know right from wrong and how your actions change who you are. All good stuff but what really caught my imagination was the message seeded into their video about the number of homeless American veterans. The stats are so depressing that, if there was a God, she should indeed be ashamed of herself. I felt ashamed and I’m not even American.
Then I hit a country song that was initially cute but ultimately the most depressing of the night: “God Mad Girls” by RaeLynn.
RaeLynn is twenty. She came third in the American version of “The Voice” when she was eighteen. She comes from Baytown, Texas and she gave up being in Disney movies to write songs. She’s one of four writers listed for this song (RaeLynn, Nicolle Galyon, Liz Rose, Lori McKenna).
The video is beautifully shot. The song is instantly memorable. There are witty lines to make you smile and RaeLynn plays the cute, wholesome, country girl with everything she’s got.
At first, I just tapped my foot and dipped my chin in time to the music (I’ve seen “Roadhouse”. I know how its done) but then the lyrics seeped through the icing-sugar video and the whole thing curdled in my mouth.
The video opens with ReaLynn, alone at a campfire, telling us:
“It’s to be romanced,
to evoke beauty,
to play an irreplaceable role in a great adventure.
The heart of every girl longs for these things.
It’s what makes us come alive.”
It sounded like an anthem for young women. Something to inspire them. Something that helps them to see their true value. I was impressed until I heard her explanation of God’s plan. RaeLynn explains, with a smile in her voice, that:
“Somebody’s gotta wear a pretty skirt,
Somebody’s gotta be the one to flirt,
Somebody’s gotta wanna hold his hand so God Made Girls”.
Every verse sells, with snappy wit and happy melody, that God made girls so that men could be a little less of a disaster than they would be without women, sorry, girls.
There is truth in this song. In my experience, men without women become less easy for me to like or even understand. They seem deformed, perhaps even crippled. But then, I’ve never been able to make friends with men so I’m probably missing something.
I can also see that pretty girls have a power over young boys (and even men old enough to know better) that it must be fun to wield. It may even do everyone involved some good.
What turns me off about the ideas behind this song is that, while metaphorically ruffling the hair of boys and telling them that they’re about to have their world rocked, it firmly puts boys as the main drivers of life. If God made girls to smooth the rough edges of boys, why did God make boys like that in the first place?
This is a large part of why I’m an atheist, I can’t stomach a God who took these decisions and then got them so badly wrong.
This song sets out a worldview that ultimately turns men into monsters and women into victims. If we cast all girls as lion tamers then some of them are going to get mauled.
I know I should have let it go.
It’s just a song. Most people aren’t going to remember the lyrics and those that do won’t think about them.
So why do I care?
Perhaps because, where “Angel from Montgomery” shows me music as a source of hope, “God Made Girls” shows me music as a means to twist good things into bad shapes.
in an effort to exorcise the “God Made Girls” demon, I wrote my own version of the opening verse. See how this sits with you.
“Somebody’s gotta tear her pretty skirt,
Somebody’s gotta be the one to hurt,
Somebody’s gotta wanna hold her down so God Made Boys”.
For me, this is the shadow the original lyrics cast. It is as twisted as the original. It lies with truths in the same way. Except this version doesn’t make me smile. Now I can’t see the song without its shadow so now the original no longer makes me smile.
I wish RaeLynn well. Her debut song on The Voice was a cover of “Hell On Heels” by the Pistol Annies. I hope her writing takes her back in that direction and away from this “Prop Up Your Man” routine.
Anyway, it seems to me that if I was hearing anything on YouTube other than the music, it wasn’t the God I don’t believe in, it was just me, chewing on things like a dog with a bone, making connections that only exist in my head but are no less real because of that.
I still don’t believe in God, but if I’m wrong, and she ever comes to tell me so, I suspect it will be via a YouTube video that’s gone viral.