“You Think You’re Radical” – Americana

This song has all the ingredients of a favorite sf59 song for me. I’m a sucker for sf59 slow jams anyway. That slide guitar, the tube amps, reverb that fills the universe, it is sublime. That organ just aches with a pain unnamed. Plot twist: I’ve never cared for this song. I usually skip it. All the numbers are there in the equation, but it doesn’t add up for me. I cannot say for certain why.

I don’t make a big deal in these posts about whether I like a song or not. I usually only mention it if it is relevant to whatever story the song brings up for me. Everyone has different preferences and it is not my job to convince you that my opinion is superior or that your opinion is substandard. If something I write is going to get your defenses up and your boxing gloves on, it should be for a purpose that is worthy, like writing something that is challenging or true. I’m not interested in fights about smaller matters. That’s not what I’m here for. I heard a quote a couple of months ago that has stuck with me: “Comparison is the thief of joy.” I’ve been working on incorporating that into my everyday perceptions.

I wrote in a comment the other day that Americana is angry and it’s about calling people out on their bullshit. JM must have been feeling his inner queen when he wrote this album because he is throwing shade everywhere. I suspect that this song is about some band who thinks they are better and edgier. It could also be about a Christian’s response to the world that thinks it is so much more authentic. I can understand the singer’s sentiment here. I have this same feeling about the world and about a good portion of the Christians I encounter. If you don’t think Christians can be radical, try reading some Bonhoeffer; he’s my boy.

Although there is some truth here, there is also arrogance. Those too things go hand in hand more often than I would like. If you have the ability to discern when someone doesn’t see the whole picture and are spouting their judgments from ignorance, it is easy to feel superior to them. They don’t see as much as you see. That makes you better, right? The first two lines of this song drip with this attitude.

So you think you’re radical
You think we’re terrible

Once you have adopted this attitude of superiority, the only place to go is isolation. If you are above the mere mortals around you, how can you relate to them? You may even convince yourself that you want it this way.

I don’t mind
Leave me on my own tonight

Obviously you do mind or you wouldn’t be writing a song about it. But that doesn’t fit with the superior persona so let’s pretend that we don’t mind. I don’t mind, really, I don’t. Maybe I don’t like this song because it holds up a mirror to me and the image I see makes me uncomfortable. Better skip the song.

Even calling out your own propensity for arrogance is a pride trap. “Well, at least I recognize that I’m an arrogant twat. That’s more than they can say.” What is the way out of this cycle? We will see JM wrestle with this very thing in later songs. For my own part, I will keep repeating this:

Comparison is the thief of joy.

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