Eve 6 and Explicit Lyrics

It’s a real bummer discovering that your favorite song from one of your favorite bands has an “explicit” version in which you can FINALLY understand the lyrics, and they a) don’t make sense, and b) have completely gratuitous profanity.

The song is “Promise” by Eve 6.

Lemme say first that in general I love the lyrics from Eve 6. They’re evocative, poetic, and extremely literate. That they bind these lyrics to kickin’ crunch-chords and a great beat only improves the delivery.

I don’t get out and buy albums much anymore now that I’m not running sound for a comedy troupe, so the only Eve 6 album I have is their first one. Yesterday I bought some singles via iTunes, and I paid for “Promise” by Eve 6 twice — once for the non-explicit “radio” version, and once for the explicit version.

The lyric in question runs like this:

“I promise not to try not to [mute] with your mind”
In the non-explicit version the odd turn of grammar and the clutter of instruments masks what should have been obvious. Even if you’re not familiar with the song, you probably know what’s going to go in the [mute] spot.

Grrr… WHY?

Consider first the double-negative. “I promise not to try not to…” means, in effect, “I promise to.” In context, that’s not what’s meant, unless the singer is schizo. A simple change to “I promise that I’ll try not to…” would scan almost as well and make more sense.

Consider now the profanity. The phrase “f*** with your mind” is used all-too-conversationally these days, and is a cheap shot. Sure, sure, the metaphor is vivid: violation of intimately private spaces (the mind) with what SHOULD be intimately private tools (genitals). You take the concept of “rape” and blend it with the concept of “emotional abuse,” and you have a very powerful meme. Great. IT’S BEEN DONE. In the non-explicit version of the song, muting the f-word renders the whole phrase powerless. REPLACING the word, however… THAT would have been artistic.
“mess with your mind” may lack some of the power of the mindrape meme, but it’s alliterative. In the context of good song lyrics, it’s BETTER. Especially if you have to do a non-explicit version of the song. Grrr…

There’s a band that actually did this quite well. Nine Days, “Story of a Girl.” The non-explicit lyric is:
“How many lovers would stay
Just to put up with this every day and all day”

The explict one is :
“How many lovers would stay
Just to put up with this sh** day after day”

The non explicit lyric is more poetic, conveys more meaning (not just every day, but ALL day) and will reach a broader audience by virtue of it being non-explicit. My only gripe there is that when I bought the Nine Days album the version of the song I got was not the one I wanted.

Moral of the story: I’m glad I used iTunes. The lesson I learned yesterday only cost me 99 cents.


20 thoughts on “Eve 6 and Explicit Lyrics”

  1. Consider first the double-negative. “I promise not to try not to…” means, in effect, “I promise to.” In context, that’s not what’s meant, unless the singer is schizo.

    Seems like you’re right there, unless what the singer is really trying to convey is something a little different. Maybe using “I promise not to” as the start of the statement, then midway through the message the singer has to weaken the obligation and say “try not to” to indicate a lack of willpower/drive/etc that may keep him or her from doing more than merely attempting not to perform the action. Of course, that interpretation would probably have some evidence for it in the way the line was sung. Never having heard any Eve 6, I couldn’t say much. 🙂

    1. Re: Teh douBle neGat1ve

      Okay, looking at the rest of the lyrics, the “context” is nothing like as clear as I’m making it out to be. The meaning is buried under at least one layer of complexity, which is a good indicator of thoughtful lyricism. Too bad the “thoughtfulness” didn’t extend far enough to obviate the need for shallow explicity.

      It could be worse. Tehy c0uld b3 s1ng1ng in 1337.


      1. Re: Teh douBle neGat1ve

        Or to make things really worse, they could be singing in p|-|0|2|_||\/|sp34|< . Of course, then it'd take upwards of twenty minutes to get through a single song, and sound like... I guess someone's malfunctioning yet strangely musical Speak-and-Spell.

      2. Re: Teh douBle neGat1ve

        Concerning double negatives in general. Language is not math. In that line, the two ‘nots’ do not cancel each other, they just mean really, really not. Language is an art, it is meant to be fucked with.

        1. Re: Language SHOULD be math

          Language should be like math. It should be possible to build checksums into our grammar so that we can understand *exactly* what was meant when it was said, even though the message has been repeated and paraphrased hundreds of times.

          No, I’m not advocating change. I’m just saying.

          1. Re: Language SHOULD be math

            One of the reasons Linguistics is a subset of Philosophy — the language you use is determined by the thoughts you have, and, conversely, the thoughts you have determines the language you use (or invent) to convey your thought clearly. That John 1:1 is phrased the way it is is not an accident, nor that it hearkens back to Genesis 1 and the power of the word to bring things into existence from nothing.

            All of us have learned one way or another that a thing (person, idea, what-have-you) becomes the language used to describe it, regardless of the thing’s original function or being. Language has power; if it did not, there would be no need for the freedom-of-speech clause in the First Amendment. Language is a tool; the use of it is an art. And a bad craftsman can make a really awful mess, even if the tools he uses are good ones.

          2. Re: Language SHOULD be math

            I dunno, Mr. T.

            Language can be like math–if you use it that way, to say what you mean, only what you mean. It can also be like art, as well, I suppose, but as a practical matter, most languages make use of multiple negatives to convey something as simply being not. English is kind of an exception to the “double negatives are a no-no” rule.

            (I don’t have an opinion one way or another on your example, however. I’ve never listened to Eve 6.)

          3. Re: Language SHOULD be math

            Language is as precise as math, but it operates in differant and more complex ways. A simple double negative is almost always a positive, but those rarely crop up. This particular instance, for example, the singer (Jon Siebels, I believe) is not promising to lie, he’s saying he won’t make an effort not to.
            The chorus is essentially talking about (based on the way I’ve always heard the lyrics) how he is determined not to put effort into this relationship. The verses are just the opposite, so I’ve never been sure what to make of this song. I usually just try to enjoy it for the music.
            Also, some songs don’t make sense without the profanity, such as (to stick with Eve 6) Girl Eyes.

  2. The literal of actually, physically bleeping a mind would be squicking.

    No, you don’t want to know. I learned it on a Lovecraftian horror/conspiracy mailing list. If you find out how I can unlearn it, please let me know.

  3. My take on the Eve6 song has always been more of a Yoda-esque interpretation.

    Do or do not. There is no try. If he has to make an effort not to *verb* with her mind, then he’s not that great a guy. On the other hand, I’ve always figured that what he’s promising is that the situation will never arise. When taken in context with the rest of the chorus, he’s basically saying that while his best may not be that great, it’s what he has to offer.

    That’s my take on it, but I agree that the profanity wasn’t really necessary.

    It does bring up an interesting topic though, which is the dissassociation of the f-word from it’s original carnal usage.

    It’s become a pretty universal part of speech, being synonymous with many different words. Joking, manipulation, violence, general disdain, simple and complex emphasis…

    Context is everything. But it would be more amusing if it was replaced with “smurf”

    I promise not to try not to smurf with your mind…

    1. I was going around the same idea. I always thought the singer meant “I promise not to try, not to f*** with your head.”

      As in “I’d say I’d try, but that wouldn’t be enough. So I promise I won’t try – I really won’t mess with your head”.

  4. Don’t Marry Her, Have* Me by the Beautiful South. Generally heard in the Radio friendly format, on the album “Blue” (prophetic) the * isn’t “Have”.
    Yet Beautiful South can and do produce some very insightful lyrics…

    I remember “I’m Sorry I’ll Read That Again” producing extracts from the Des O’Connor dirty song book by the use of artfully placed “bleep” noises…

  5. I remember a song by Everlast (sort of rock with a rap influence, I think?) called “What It’s Like”. They had to censor some of the lyrics for the radio edit, so rather than just replace the lyrics or whatever, they actually covered the words with odd sound effects. Also, in addition to covering up the actual “obscene” words, they also covered up probably every single reference to drugs or guns in the song too. Probably some sort of protest against having to censor in the first place. Made the song interesting to listen to.

    1. I love that song, btw.

      I always interpreted Everlast’s choice of which words to censor as an expression of his belief that guns and drugs were just as obscene as sexually explicit lyrics.

      I found it very powerful and moving to hear “whore” and “Colt 45” bleeped out just like more typical “obscenities”.

      1. See, I figured it as “if you’re going to make us bleep out this stuff, you might as well make us bleep out the other stuff, but the whole idea’s stupid.” Two sides of the same coin, I suppose.

  6. I’ve heard almost nothing of Eminem’s music, but if you ever have the opportunity to watch the video for “Cleaning Out My Closet”, I strongly recommend that you do so.

    It’s…really quite moving.

  7. Re: My first experience with censoring

    I wasn’t allowed to listen to “modern” radio when I was a kid — just the Oldies station.

    Because of course, “I can’t drive fifty-five” is a horrible, evil, disobedient concept, but Simon and Garfunkel singing about “the whores on Seventh Avenue… I do declare, there were times when I was so lonesome I took some comfort there” is perfectly acceptable for an eight-year-old to sing along with.

    Anyway, when Radiohead came out with “Creep,” I was finally listening to the radio on my own, and I loved the song and bought the album, which has BOTH the radio-friendly and non-radio-friendly versions.

    I wish I was special
    You’re so very special

    I wish I was special
    You’re so ****ing special

    In this case, I actually thought the non-radio-friendly version was more powerful. “You’re so very special” can be said without any particular emotion attached, or with any emotion you so desire attached to it. “You’re so ****ing special” just reeks of envy, which is better (in my opinion) than a vague sense of “I’m not, you are.” Instead, it’s “I’m not, you are, and I hate you for it even though I love you.”

    But it’s a rare song that seems to need the f-bomb.

  8. A lot of musicians these days seem to include fairly gratuitous profanity in their lyrics. I’m not sure if they’re going for shock value, or what, though in this day and age, it doesn’t seem so much shocking as infantile.
    There are lots of examples like that, though. I would think, however, that the “radio-friendly” version is going to get you a lot more listeners than an explicit version. Heck, have you ever heard the explicit/non-explicit versions of Prince’s “Erotic City?” Did you know it was possible to have a non-explicit version of “Erotic City?” I didn’t, until I heard it.
    I liked it significantly more than the explicit version, which I would never play in front of, well, anyone…

  9. As far as I’ve been able to tell: People like being offended. I’m not sure why that is. For a long time (until freshman year of college), I wouldn’t use profanity like “fuck” “shit” “bitch” and a few others (“damn” was ok). One day, I decided to start using them, and I’ve found it’s much easier and more entertaining to communicate with those words than without. They literally are just words, the meaning is totally assigned.

    From looking at your library, I know you’ve read a few books where authors bring in new words, the best example being “censored” from Niven’s works. It sounds funny to us to hear people saying “censored” to curse, but that’s how funny ordinary curse words sound to me now. Once you make fun of them, they lose all their power.

    Song lyrics are art, and art is all about creating emotion in your audience. Powerful words do that best. If you want bland and inoffensive, there’s always 50s era music. Just because music is pop doesn’t mean it can’t still be art.

  10. Mostly non sequitur, but the band GWAR (noted for their grotesque and offensive lyrics and stage show) did a brilliant sendup of this sort of thing.

    They have a “song” detailing the lead singer’s barnyard rampage, called “F***in’ an Animal”, where all the various expletives and overly suggestive terms are drowned out by various animal sounds. Given the nature of the song and the excess of profanity, this mostly makes it sound like a whole-barnyard version of the “Christmas carols done by cats”. It is another example of a song considerably funnier in its radio-safe version… though I suspect they didn’t get much radio airplay anyway.

Comments are closed.