Monday, April 30, 2018

"The Middle" by Maren Morris is Secretly About Domestic Violence

Conclusive proof the pop hit of the year is actually a paean to intimate partner abuse and alcoholism ...

By: Jimbo X

Unless you've been held against your will at a top secret black ops site since January, you've probably heard "The Middle," as an approximate count, 456,437 times over the last five months. 

The song is a top 40 pop staple, still getting regular rotation on most of America's pop stations. And, of course, it's also used as the soundtrack for those omnipresent Target commercials ... indeed, the same way 2012 was the year that gave us Sandy Hook and "Call Me Maybe," it's pretty much a given that we'll ultimately recall 2018 as "the one with the Florida high school shooting and that 'meet me in the middle' song."

It's no doubt a catchy little jingle. The byproduct of ex-country crooner Maren Morris (obviously trying to become the next Tay-Tay, even though she obviously doesn't have the chops/aesthetic appeal to aspire for such lofty heights) Zedd and Grey (I still don't know what those last two do, or even if they're singular or plural artists), I initially thought the track was just another, harmless, radio-friendly ode to how much a woman wants to fuck some dude's brains out (which, by the way, is about 90 percent of the stuff you hear on the radio nowadays ... what's that about the objectifying male gaze again?) Alas, after enough listens of the song, I've discovered two fairly shocking things about "The Middle." 

No. 1 — the song has the EXACT same "ticking clock" sound from "Stay"; and ...

No. 2 — it's not a randy hymn about the female libido whatsoever ... in fact, it's secretly a song about intimate partner violence.

You scoff? Well, popular music (hence, the term "pop music," in case you've ever wondered) has a LONG track record of befuddling people with sugar-coated but subversive messages. For example, people thought "Born in the U.S.A." was a loving homage to America, even though it was actually a song about how poorly Vietnam veterans were treated during the Reagan administration. Same thing with "The Freshman" and "Brick" — at the time, we all though they were heartfelt songs about breakups, when abstractly (and even more shockingly, withing the contextual confines of the lyrics themselves) they were actually about abortions.

The same way some insightful souls deduced "Complicated" by Avril Lavigne was actually about date rape, I've decided to go public with my revelations about the not-so-veiled deeper subtext of "The Middle." Let's cut away the happy, upbeat tempo and dissect the lyrics all by their lonesome, why don't we?

Take a seat
Right over there, sat on the stairs
Stay or leave
The cabinets are bare, and I'm unaware
Of just how we got into this mess, got so aggressive 
I know we meant all good intentions

So right off the bat we know what's really going on here. Obviously, we've got one domestic partner offering an ultimatum to the other one. When Maren says "the cabinets are bare," that allows us to deduce a focal point to their relationship woes. Her man works all day, and it's her job to take care of the house, which apparently, she's been neglecting to the point where she stopped buying groceries for the family. But that also offers a secondary meaning: that the cabinets are bare because they engaged in mutual combat and one of them got slung into the china cabinet, where ceramic plates and perhaps even a box of chocolate Lucky Charms were used as weaponry. The singer literally has no clue how such a minor squabble turned into an act of family violence, hence, the line about "good intentions." But as we will soon see, it's not like the singer is the most reliable of narrators here ... 

So pull me closer
Why don't you pull me close?
Why don't you come on over?
I can't just let you go
Oh baby, why don't you just meet me in the middle? 
I'm losing my mind just a little 
So why don't you just meet me in the middle? 
In the middle 
Baby, why don't you just meet me in the middle? 
I'm losing my mind just a little 
So why don't you just meet me in the middle? 
In the middle 

Now, the first time I heard this song, my thought was the same as yours. "Well, duh, it's another broad singing about how much she wants to fuck somebody." But the more I've listened to the song, I realize the singer isn't trying to seduce somebody, she's trying to bait him into a fucking fist fight. When she says "pull me close" and "meet me in the middle," she's not talking about making up or working out a compromise, she means she wants to throw elbows with some motherfucker. The singer even admits this want of domestic violence is irrational, hence the line "I'm losing my mind just a little." But that leaves a burning question: just why is Miss Morris so psychopathically enraged? Well, let's examine the lyrics a little deeper.

Ohh, take a step
Back for a minute, into the kitchen
Floors are wet
And taps are still running, dishes are broken
How did we get into this mess? Got so aggressive 
I know we meant all good intentions

So, why is the floor wet? Note, she never explicitly states what the floor is wet with, either. Now, we could attribute those broken dishes to the physical altercation from earlier, but why are the water taps still running? Well, it's a bit of a stretch, but here's my hypothesis: the floor is wet from the hard liquor the narrator spilled, who was attempting to clean out the evidence of her furtive alcoholism when her boyfriend/husband showed up and caught her in the act. This is something that's actually strongly implied in the next stanza:

Looking at you, I can't lie
Just pouring out admission
Regardless of my objection, oh, oh
And it's not about my pride
I need you on my skin 
Just come over, pull me in, just 

"Pouring out admission?" "It's not about my pride?" I mean, goddamn, she pretty much makes it textual right there. The singer is an alcoholic bitch whose addiction is ruining the family, and now she wants to engage in drunken fisticuffs with her significant other instead of come to terms with the fact she's a stinkin' drunk, deadbeat mom and piss poor spouse/girlfriend. Which, of course, leads back into one more go-through of the main chorus, which insinuates this kind of violent behavior is cyclical. By the end of the track , there is no resolution, just the recognition that the couple is stuck, perpetually, in the ... ahem ... Middle ... of a violent, alcohol-ravaged co-dependent situation.

Forget it, boys — this is about as far down the rabbit hole we can go with product placement.

Yeah, it's kind of hard to go back to bopping your head and tapping your toes to the rhythm after learning the song is really about an alcoholic domestic abuser, no? What's really amazing to me, though, is how seemingly nobody else has picked up on this, despite the lyrics themselves pretty much making it clear as day.

Which I suppose is just more proof that you can say anything in a song, and just as long as the chorus is catchy and the beat is groovy, nobody will even give a fuck what you're really singing about. I mean, shit, Jethro Tull wrote a song that was explicitly about a pedo creeping on young children at the park, and classic rock stations still play it a good 30 times a day. 

So yeah, I guess if nobody gives a damn about a Stone Temple Pilots song encouraging date rape a good 25 years down the road, I reckon no one will bat an eyelash about 2018's defining pop anthem being a ditty about spouse abuse and alcoholism. 

What a time to be alive — when the most popular track of the year makes both its superficial and contextual meaning about substance abuse and intimate partner violence apparent to anybody with a working hippocampus, but they have to subliminally sneak in a furtive department store ad at the ass-end of the official video.

And to think; there are some people out there who actually argue that ours isn't the greatest epoch in human history ...


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