Sunday, March 20, 2011

Lyrical Analysis - Justin Bieber's "Pray"

Welcome to Lyrical Analysis, where I say things that are probably going to get me in trouble.

Folks... Bieber made a "Contemporary Christian" song. If you aren't slamming your head against the keyboard yet, perhaps you didn't read that correctly. Bieber made a "Contemporary Christian" song.

At least, that's how it's marketed. But let's list things that are never mentioned in this song.

The Bible
Christianity in any way
The cross
Any sort of Bible story
Any sort of notable Christians of the past two thousand years
Any sort of "beliefs"
Did I mention GOD AND JESUS?

Yeah. So basically, this song is Bieber saying the word "pray" a lot, and hoping Christian audiences will love it. So on that note, let's dive right in to, "Pray".

"And I Pray..."

...That this song won't suck...

"I just can't sleep tonight/Knowing things ain't right/It's in the papers/It's on the TV/It's everywhere that I go/Children are crying/Soldiers are dying/Some people don't have a home"

Oh great, it's going to be a guilt song. You know what I'm talking about. One of those songs that talks about how bad things are around the world, and how I should be ashamed of myself for lounging around listening to music while some kid in Africa starves to death. I hate those songs.

Now don't get me wrong, it is certainly a very sad world we live in. But I don't need a song to tell me about it, and try to guilt me into doing something.

First of all, guilt is just a scare tactic. Guilting someone into doing something is no better than threatening them. You see, threatening someone forces them to do something because they fear for the immediate consequence of not doing it. If they don't do it, you may beat them up, or cause some other sort of issue for them.

Guilt, however, is invoking the fear of the consequence of inaction. For example, guilt, in this way, is causing someone to fear that some child will starve because they didn't take the action to stop it.

Now, at first you may think that this tactic, while not the most ethical, is at least efficient. It gets things done, at least.

There's a line in the movie Inception (If you haven't seen it yet, why not?), "I think a positive emotional response is more effective than a negative one." This line perfectly sums up the flaw with guilting someone into action. Guilt is a negative emotion. You can't guilt someone into really giving their all. You just can't do it. Inside, although they may be doing good, they won't really be putting their heart into it.

It's not enough to guilt someone into doing something. You have to make them want to do it. And that is a lot harder.

You see, if someone legitimately wants to do good, they will be a force to be reckoned with. They'll be more effective at everything they do, because their heart will be in it. They'll want to do what you want them to do, every bit as much as you want them to do it.

So I don't care who it is, guilt songs are not a good thing. They're a scummy scare tactic.

We're two lines in, and I've already done one full blown rant. I knew this would be a good one to finish Bieber Week with.

"But I know there's sunshine behind that rain/I know there's good times behind that pain/Can you tell me how I could make a change?"

Donate the proceeds of this song to charity. Boom.

Correct me if I'm wrong in the comments, as I said, I don't follow Bieber, but scanning the Wikipedia article on this song, I don't see anything indicating he did.

Edit: Alright, I've since been informed that he does in fact donate large amounts of money to charity quite frequently. Fair enough, like I said, I don't follow Bieber, I wouldn't know.

"I close my eyes and I can see a better day/I close my eyes and pray"

References to God in this song so far: 0
References to praying: 2

"I lose my appetite/Knowing kids starve tonight"

Let me translate this lyric from guilt-song-talk into normal speech.


"Am I a sinner/'Cause half my dinner/Is still here on my plate?"

Bieber would have you believe the answer is yes.

Seriously, this ticks me off. This is basically implying if you have any disposable income, have more food than you can eat, or have any luxury items whatsoever, you're somehow doing something WRONG! Well you know what Bieber, you're marketing this as a "Contemporary Christian" song, tapping into your "beliefs", so I have NO PROBLEM pulling out the scripture on you:

(From John 12, NIV, Verses 1-7)
"Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.

But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.” He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.

“Leave her alone,” Jesus replied. “It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. 8 You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.”"

Did you catch that? If not, perhaps I should give you that same passage in MUSICAL FORM!

For those still not getting it, Jesus was relaxing after all the stress of, y'know, living a perfect earthly existence, when Mary Magdalene anointed him with expensive perfume. Judas Iscariot (the same man who would later betray Jesus) said that Jesus was wrong to enjoy the perfume when there would be poor people starving to death. (The same thing Bieber is saying RIGHT NOW.)

Judas said they should sell the perfume and donate the money to the poor (although in truth he just wanted to take the money for himself). How did Jesus respond? By telling Judas that no matter what, there would always be poor people, and that while it's good to want to help the poor, there's nothing wrong with enjoying what YOU have.

In other words Bieber, no, you are not a sinner because half of your dinner is still on your plate. You may be an idiot for asking, but stupidity is not a sin.

Wow, two full blown rants, and we're only halfway through the song.

"Ooh, I got a vision/To make a difference/And it's starting today"

Great. Tell me what it is, and we'll get started on it. Hello? Bieber? Just tell me this so called plan you have. Nothing? Ok.

"Because I know there's sunshine/Behind that rain/I know there's good times/Behind that pain/Heaven tell me I can make a change"

Did you catch that? He's praying, not to GOD, but to HEAVEN. Because saying the word GOD would be too controversial and might hurt sales from the athiest audience. Screw. This. Song. I haven't heard such a messed up perception of what "prayer" is since that episode of Doctor Who where Amy Pond is praying to Santa.

"I close my eyes/And I can see a better day/I close my eyes and pray"

Ok, I have no idea if Bieber is really a Christian or if he just thought this would be good publicity, that's not my place to judge, but assuming that he is, he may be better off opening his eyes and reading the bible, judging from his previous question. Completely serious here.

"I pray for all the brokenhearted/I pray for all the lives not started"

Oh I'm not touching that line with a fifty foot pole.

"I pray for all the lungs not breathing/I pray for all the lives in need a break(?)"

1. That doesn't rhyme.
2. That REALLY doesn't rhyme.
3. You dropped the word "of".

"Can you give 'em one today?"

Break them off a piece of that Kit-Kat bar. C'mon man.

And then, like so many other crappy Bieber songs, we get a minute and a half of the chorus again. Ugh. Despicable.

What a shameful song! I understand that the world is in a bad shape right now, but writing songs like THIS and telling people the BLATANT LIE that it's immoral to live in comfort when someone else is worse off than you is just shameful. This song, quite simply, sucks. Everything about these lyrics is stupid, and obviously trying nothing but to give everyone listening to it a guilt trip, which irritates me to no end, especially knowing that Bieber probably recorded this song in a studio that's more luxurious than the homes of most of the people listening to this song.

This kind of drivel is exactly the problem with so called Christian music. I like Five Iron Frenzy. I like Relient K. I like a lot of other Christian artists, who certainly do NOT sound like this, and who actually sing about CHRISTIANITY!

And thus concludes Bieber week. That's right folks, I survived. 7 Bieber songs in 7 days. And all of them were terrible.

Due to positive feedback for Bieber week, I've decided to try to turn Lyrical Analysis into a weekly feature here at Wherein I Rant About the World. Not just about Bieber of course, there are LOTS of terrible songwriters out there just begging for me to decimate their lyrics. The Black Eyed Peas, Ke-DollarSign-Ha, 3OH!3, none shall be safe from my wrath.

So tune in next Saturday for the first weekly installment of "Lyrical Analysis"! I'll be covering a song worse than any song Bieber has ever made! Yeah folks, it's possible.

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