Wednesday, October 28, 2015


He would die for you.

When I composed my previous two analyses of the import of pop-song lyrics as expressions of Zeitgeist angst and/or establishment agitprop, my wife—who can be brutally frank when she wants to be—expressed a dubious attitude, not about my arguments, either with regard to REO Speedwagon’srepressed cuckold rage or Billy Joel’s gratingcondescension towards self-immolation-prone teens, but about my overall lack of topical relevance in devoting attention to either Speedwagon or Joel . Who, after all, knows about these songs in 2013, much less listens to them?

Mrs. Nowicki was right, as she often is. And since Alternative Right’s readership skews young, I suppose I need to prove my mettle as one hip to the current pop culture scene, lest I come across as some sort of out-of- touch forty-two year old. Unfortunately, I possess little knowledge of, nor interest in, black metal (a genre which, I’m told, apparently does not number Jimi Hendrix among its practitioners, despite appearances to the contrary), and I’m well aware that faking one’s awareness in the youth scene makes one overall appear even more buffoonish than owning one’s ignorance.

I do, for some reason, still listen to the radio these days, and recently a tense little tune smacked my eardrums and captured my imagination. The song, by Bruno Mars, is called “Grenade.” (See the video here.) It is a minor-keyed sort of lover’s lament, an intensely emotional ballad, the lyrics of which encapsulate a bitter truth about the war between the sexes, with both contemporary and perennial resonances.

That truth, boiled down to its essence, is this: women can be mean, men can be suckers, and love is often irrational, even insane.
It is true, of course, that history is replete with instances of lovers, both men and women, falling in love with people who are no damn good. Both men and women do this, and both men and women commonly give their allegiance to some worthless ne’er do well who has stolen their hearts, giving the object of their ardent affection many more chances to change than they ever would grant to anyone whilst still in a reasonable (i.e., non-romantic) state of mind. Love indeed, as St. Paul notes, “endures all things” and “believes all things,” not least of which that a bad person can become good if one just loves him or her hard enough.
Love, like the wind, “bloweth where it listith,” and we are at times helpless against its seemingly capricious drifts. Yet much of the time, we rationalize that which perversely tugs at our hearts, and in the process we romanticize our no-good objects of unhealthy infatuation. Women seem especially adept at this process. In their minds, the scummiest douchebag ever can be rendered a “really sweet guy who acts out sometimes because he’s just a little insecure.” A serial killer with a winning smile isn’t really that bad, if you just give him a chance! A charmingand dreamy young maimer of children is just a nice boy at heart who got mixed up with the wrong crowd, etc. There seems to be no limit to some women’s capacity to forgive and forget, provided that the man whose sins they are so consumed with absolving is sufficiently charming and attractive.

Men are, however, by no means exempt from this all-too-human capacity to be drawn in by a lovely countenance and an enticing figure. But as Mars’s song amply illustrates, a man in love isn’t nearly as prone to rationalize his sentiments or to glorify the source of his passionate attachments.  “Grenede” demonstrates an extreme example of this dichotomous propensity of the male mind. The speaker in this song is totally taken with a fantastically bewitching maid, yet at the same time he knows—and seemingly has always known-- that the girl is bad news; in fact, she’s callous, selfish, abusive, and utterly without conscience:

Easy come, easy go
That's  just how you live, oh
Take, take, take it all
But you never give
Black, black, black and blue
Beat me 'til I'm numb…

The speaker’s assessment of his woman is shockingly, devastatingly honest. He gave her all he has, he says, and she “tossed it in the trash.” She is the sort of woman who “will smile in (his) face, then rip the brakes from (his) car.” If he were on fire, she’d just “watch him burn down in flames.” In addition to being fully aware of her boundless malice and breathtaking cruelty, he knows that she has never cared a whit for him, even when she hasn’t felt positively inclined to cause him grievous injury or death. The first time they kissed, he reflects, she “had (her) eyes wide open,” suggesting a conspicuous lack of passion and interest. He knows where he stands in her eyes, and her deceitful protestations to the contrary cut no ice with him: “You say you love me, you’re a liar/ ’Cause you never ever did, baby.” Finally, the speaker identifies his lover—with minimal, if any irony-- as a demonic spirit, sent from Hell, ruefully instructing her to “tell the Devil I said ‘hey’ when you get back to where you’re from.”
Whereas a woman is in love with a no-good man will desperately attempt to find ways to dismiss his massive character flaws as illusory, or in any event unimportant, here we see a man directly acknowledging and lamenting his lover’s thoroughgoing awfulness. It’s not an instance of masochism, of secretly enjoying her beastly behavior, because it’s clear that he fervently wishes that she were different than she is. Yet repentance and reform are impossible for this witchy bitch with no redeeming qualities, other than her outward beauty.
And yet, despite his clear-eyed comprehension of the lady’s true nature, he still loves her. And his love manifests itself in the quintessentially honorable male ardor for chivalric self-sacrifice:

But, darling, I'd still catch a grenade for you
Throw my hand on the blade for you
I'd jump in front of a train for you
You know I'd do anything for you
Oh, I would go through all this pain
Take a bullet straight through my brain
Yes, I would die for you, baby
But you won't do the same

In short, our poor doomed hero can’t help loving his faithless, loveless, heartless la belle dame sans merci, and he can’tstop loving her. It is a tragic case, but then, as Woody Allen infamously noted, under similarly dubious circumstances, the heart wants what it wants.

Some manosphere types have complained about “Grenade,” calling it a glorification of “beta”-type effeminization and an expression of internalized misandry in an uber-feminist, gynocentric age. But such an analysis is shallow and silly. It is akin to feminists who trash Alfred Hitchcock as a misogynist because Janet Leigh got stabbed by Norman Bates in the shower scene of Psycho.

In truth, Hitchcock wasn’t promoting the murder of sexy, naked blondes, and neither is Mars advocating  a man’s pledging his fealty to an despicable succubus. But love can often leave us vulnerable, and an evil woman can tear at one’s heart with just as much devastation as the sharp edge of a knife wielded by a psycho. Love’s a bitch, and then you die.
 (originally published at Alternative Right, August 2013)

Andy Nowicki, co-editor of Alternative Right, is a Catholic reactionary writer who loathes all modernist dogmas and superstitions. He is the author of five books, including Heart Killer and The Columbine PilgrimHe occasionally updates his blog ( ) when the spirit moves him to do so.

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