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Brittany Tedesco's blog for KMB003 Sex Drugs Rock N Roll

Brittany Tedesco

KMB 003 Sex Drugs Rock n Roll

Musical Response to Drug Addiction

Personal Reflection

Semi-Charmed Life by Third Eye Blind has been my favourite song for as long as I can remember, due to the catchy, up-beat rhythm and carefree tone of the lyrics. However, it wasn’t until I got older that I understood the references to sex and drugs, and realised there is a much deeper and darker meaning behind the song, which just made me love it even more.

Drugs & Transcendence

The relationship between drug use and popular music has a very extensive and diverse history. “From the role of the ‘reefer’ in early twentieth century jazz and blues, to the centrality of amphetamines and hallucinogens for dance music at the close of the century and beyond, there has been an intimate relationship between drug consumption and music. The relationship has been expressed through journalism, biography and fiction, the lyrics of songs, the cultural practices of popular musicians and audiences, and through musical forms and performance styles” (Manning 2007, 103). More specifically, adolescent drug use has been on an upward curve since the late 1970s, and focused largely on the use of solvents and heroin through the 1980s. According to South (1999, 18-36), the use of such drugs has generally been considered “as a marginal activity linked closely to urban deprivation and social dislocation.” South (1999, 18-36) also said that since the late 1980s, there has been a significant rise in the number of drug-users, especially young people, including a much wider range of substances, “causing a dramatic rise in the incidence of recreational drug use among young people in the 1990s.”

The 1990s had many significant drug-related instances specifically within the music industry. In 1996, a meeting amongst music stars and record company executives was held in Santa Monica, California to discuss drug abuse in the industry “plagued by drug-related arrests, deaths and concert cancellations” (Saskatoon 1996). The meeting came as a result of a heroin overdose resulting in the death of Bradley Nowell, lead singer of the rock group Sublime, in San Francisco on Memorial Day weekend. Dave Gahan, singer of Depeche Mode, was arrested in Los Angeles that same weekend “for investigation of cocaine possession and being under the influence of heroin” (Saskatoon 1996). Earlier that year, The Stone Temple Pilots were forced to cancel their summer tour after a judge ordered lead singer Scott Weiland, who had previously been arrested after deputies discovered crack in his car and heroin in his wallet, into a treatment program (Saskatoon 1996). A similar gathering of music executives was held a few months earlier, after Shannon Hoon, lead singer of Blind Melon, died of a cocaine overdose. Her death came shortly after the suicide of Kurt Cobain, the lead singer of Nirvana, who struggled with heroin and alcohol problems for years before his death. All of these incidents happened only one to two years before the release of Third Eye Blind’s Semi-Charmed Life.

The song was released in June 1997 as the first single from Third Eye Blind’s self-titled debut album and was a major hit of the 1990s (Whitburn 1996). However, controversy erupted over the song’s lyrics, which made frank references to the drug crystal methamphetamine, or ‘ice’. This drug is part of the “synthetic group of drugs known as amphetamines, which stimulate the central nervous system and have been used medicinally and recreationally for decades” (Ayres 2012, 318). Methamphetamine, when produced pharmaceutically, is the strongest kind of amphetamine. However, when illicitly produced in laboratories, its strength and purity may vary. The drug comes in various purities and forms, for example, “tablet (known as ‘ya ba or ‘sabu’), powder (called ‘pure’ or ‘crank’), base (‘putty’ or ‘base’) and crystal (‘ice’, ‘Tina’ or ‘glass’).” Third Eye Blind references the latter of these forms, crystal meth, or dextro-methamphetamine hydrochloride, which is “a more concentrated form of methamphetamine and has a crystalline appearance, similar to shards of glass or a translucent rock, which is sometimes tinged with green, blue or pink” (Ayres 2012, 318).

Crystal methamphetamine is commonly known to bring on “a feeling of exhilaration and a sharpening of focus; a huge rush followed by a feeling of euphoria for anything from 2 to 16 hours. It enhances mood, increases blood pressure and heart rate, heightens energy levels, boosts confidence, promotes disinhibition and sexual arousal, and suppresses appetite”(Ayres 2012, 318). However, the intensity of the drug’s effects depends on a variety of factors including the purity and method of ingestion, and there are also many negative side effects that occur after the initial ‘high’, in which many users may experience “anxiety, headaches, teeth grinding, jaw clenching, nausea and paranoia”(Ayres 2012, 318). Regular use of the drug, as well as most other drugs, alters the effects of the drug, increases the user’s tolerance, and when stopped, stimulates withdrawal symptoms, which include “severe depression, anxiety, fatigue, insomnia, memory loss, cravings to use the drug, violent and suicidal ideations, hallucinations (including ‘meth bugs’ crawling under the skin), obsessive behaviour (such as skin picking), paranoia and a schizophrenic type of psychosis known as ‘tweaking’ (Ayres 2012, 318). As Stephen Jenkins, lead singer and lyricist of Third Eye Blind, says in the second verse of the song, “Doing crystal meth will lift you up until you break,” proving that the high won’t last, and the after-effects will be difficult to cope with.

Due to controversy over the lyrics, a “clean edit” and a “radio edit” were both released on the track’s single to be played on air. It is common for radio stations to ban certain titles based on explicit content, such as hints of drug habits in the song texts, as they are often regarded as an invitation to take drugs. After analysing numerous song texts, however, researchers have concluded, “the texts were no explicit invitation to take drugs but rather reported the experience involved in drug consumption” (Aldridge 2006, 87). This is exactly what Third Eye Blind is doing in Semi-Charmed Life. Jenkins confirmed that “he was not glorifying drug addiction, especially not after what it had done to so many of his friends. In fact, he said, he was merely using speed as a metaphor for the allure of false delights that lead us away from life’s true pleasures. Like sex” (Himes 1998). He also explains that the title, ‘Semi-Charmed Life’, “refers to a life that’s all propped up. You know, the beautiful people who lead bright and shiny lives that on the inside are all fucked up” (Bambarger). In this respect, these types of people are only “semi-charmed”; they are never fully happy with their lives. As Jenkins sings, “I want something else to get me through this semi-charmed kind of life,” the term “something else” represents drugs, explaining the dependency on drugs to make things better, while in reality, they are missing out on life’s true happiness. Jenkins explains, “At one point, I sing, `I believe in the sand beneath my toes … and the four right chords that can make me cry.’ These are the things that really matter, and the song is about how we get separated from those things.” (Himes 1998)

Moreover, Jenkin’s experience with the drug is portrayed not only through the lyrics of the song, but also throughout the groove, hook, and sound. The melody of the song mirrors the effect of the drug referenced, as it can definitely alter your state of mind. It puts you in this happy mood and makes you forget the dark side of the drugs that the song was written about. As Rolling Stone magazine describes it, “One of the most relentlessly sunshine-y songs of the Nineties was actually written from the dingy indoor perspective of a man and woman on a drug binge – crystal meth, to be precise. ‘Then I bumped again,’ sings Stephan Jenkins, whose refrain is the same as that of every drug user, ever: ‘I want something else/To get me through this life’” (Sullivan 2013). It is common for music to have this drug-like effect on us. “Listening to our favourite melody, we register changes in the activity of the autonomous nerve system, changes in heart beat, muscle tension, skin resistance and depth of breathing and also in the blood flow in brain structures that are also involved in processing emotional stimuli. The activation pattern of brain regions show a surprising similarity to activity patterns induced by drugs with a primarily euphoric effect like cocaine” (Aldridge 2006, 84).

The Groove, Hook, & Sound

The groove, hook, and sound offer a popular music framework that is based on how western people respond to popular music (Thackray, 2014). As stated before, the melody and the lyrics make up the framework for Semi-Charmed Life. Furthermore, some background information is also important to help us further understand what the song truly means and represents. “In our understanding, melody has to be located in a cultural context that incorporates a variety of differing aspects” (Aldridge 2008, 11). Therefore, we can use a variety of other materials: “written reports, spoken stories, visual media, recorded materials and musical material in the telling of the story” (Aldridge 2008, 64).

Jenkins very carefully crafted the song’s groove, hook, and sound based on his background in San Francisco in the 1990s. “The members of Third Eye Blind met through a club-roving musical network in San Francisco, where Jenkins had been performing spoken-word in an ‘acoustic hip-hop thing’ called Puck and Zen. He split to form Third Eye Blind with the goal of creating a group that embraced a do-it-yourself ethic while breaking free of the constraints of indie rock” (Scribner). Jenkins said, “I didn’t feel like I fit into that whole post-grunge noise-pop scene, that movement to democratise the form by playing badly. The emotional range was really limited. To me, rock music is all about putting yourself out there, and there was an emotional correctness, a safe-ness in the San Francisco scene. We got into it to not to fit in” (Scribner). He then shaped the band’s sound into a “stylistic melting pot,” influenced by sounds of the Beatles, hip-hop pioneers the Sugarhill Gang, and college rockers Camper Van Beethoven (Scribner). Jenkins was set on the band’s authenticity, as he stated, “We don’t do it for fame, we’d do it for free, but having that audience connection is really fun. I don’t really understand that Reel Big Fish song ‘Sell Out.’ So far, we haven’t compromised” (Scribner). In remaining an authentic artist, Jenkins did not hide anything, including his addiction to drugs. The band was open about their experiences and didn’t try to hide anything, not only with drugs but also with sex. For example, Jenkins said, “[Sex] is raunchy, it’s earthy. I don’t dress it up. I’m not an exhibitionist, but it’s an emotional thing. You have to report on it without judging. Sometimes it doesn’t make you look that good, but if you don’t it’s sort of fraudulent’” (Scribner). Jenkins says that his references to sex and drugs are honest, which is what rock music is all about.

The groove of a song is an embodied response regarding how it connects us to ourselves, our peers, and our culture (Thackray, 2014). In Semi-Charmed Life, the groove is especially noticeable in the song’s style, which reflects the changes that were occurring in the San Francisco music scene in the 1990s, which included the growing interest in hip-hop music and in doing speed. Jenkins explained, “What most people don’t pick up about that song is how it’s influenced by hip-hop. We all grew up listening to hip-hop, and we like it a lot. When I was writing that song, I was banging on my guitar as if it were a drum and free-associating a rap over it. It’s manic storytelling with very quick shifts between time periods, present tense and past tense. But there’s also a real sweetness to it, even when things are going wrong in the story” (Himes 1998). Thus bringing us to the reflection of drugs throughout the music, Jenkins further explains, “When speed came rolling into San Francisco a few years ago, it seemed very innocuous at first. Before we knew it, though, a large part of our peer group was pretty ravaged by it. Speed’s a very bright, shiny drug, and I wanted the song to sound like that, but I also wanted the frustration in there. So a real poetic decision is determining the music. That’s why you have that bright, melodic chorus but also that dirty guitar sound. A lot of things are going on at the same time, which is the crux of all our music” (Himes 1998).

The hook draws us into the narrative or confession of the artists sonic narrative (Thackray 2014). Artists take on characters and empathise; they create or perform songs that express events and emotions and share it with us (Thackray 2014). But even if they are playing a character, something of the musician’s own “character” will be heard in the choices he or she makes regarding sound, emphasis, and tempo, so that his or her own “subjectivity” appears because they are working from their own experiences (Cumming 2000, 9). Jenkins explains that the song captures something far more intense than first meets the ear, as he explains, “It’s heavy subject matter. In some ways it’s a cautionary tale. It charts the decline of a relationship due to a speed addiction” (Scribner 1997).

Moreover, we hear this in the song’s sound. Sound relates to the song’s structure and how it affects our attention and experience to the song. “Neither punk nor rootsy, neither metal nor techno, ‘Semi-Charmed Life’ opened with loud guitars and a thudding rhythm section but then gave way to chirping scat vocals. It was the blend of power chords and catchy melody mainstream-rock radio had been waiting for” (Himes 1998). Jenkins captured the feeling you get on speed by providing us with a catchy, upbeat chorus, which distracts us from the dark undertone of the lyrics being about how speed distracts us from the real pleasures of life. “Deceptively upbeat, ‘Semi-Charmed Life’ soars on a poppish “doot-doot-doot” intro, jagged, supercharged guitar and Jenkins’ rapid-fire singsong rap. The bouncy style and quick pace make it easy to miss the dark undercurrent” (Scribner 1997). As mentioned previously, the entire structure of the song gives us that same feeling we would get on speed.

Conclusion

In conclusion, drug references in popular music are in fact very common. However, they are not necessarily praising the use of drugs. More than likely, they are taking an authentic approach to the song’s narrative by describing their own experiences with drugs. While it may seem that Jenkins is giving speed a positive outlook, due to the song’s happy and upbeat sound and structure, he is really trying to portray the effects speed has on its users, while also incorporating elements of hip hop into alternative rock. When paying close attention to the lyrics and the contradicting melody, we see how Jenkins is actually trying to show how harmful speed can be. The song very cleverly distracts us, just as the drug would do.

Works Cited

Aldridge, D. (2008) Melody in Music Therapy: A Therapeutic Narrative Analysis. London: J. Kingsley Publishers.

Aldridge, D., & Fachner, J. (2006). Music and altered states consciousness, transcendence, therapy, and addictions. London: J. Kingsley Publishers.

Ayres, T. (2012). The haunting spectacle of crystal meth: A media-created mythology?. Crime, media, culture. Retrieved from http://cmc.sagepub.com.ezp01.library.qut.edu.au/content/8/3/315.full.pdf+html

Bambarger, B. (1997). The modern age. Billboard, 109(17), 79. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/227082767?accountid=13380

Cumming, N. (2000). The sonic self: musical subjectivity and signification. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Himes, G. (1998). Third eye blind’s independent insight. The Washington Post. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/408340482?accountid=13380

Jenkins, S. (1997). Semi-Charmed Life [Third Eye Blind]. On Third Eye Blind [CD]. San Francisco: Elektra. (April 8, 1997)

Manning, P. (2007). Drugs and popular culture: drugs, media and identity in contemporary society. Cullompton, Devon, England: Willan Publishing.

Saskatoon, S. (1996). Musicians face drug issue. Star – Phoenix. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/348436809?accountid=13380

Scribner, S. (1997). POP MUSIC; we’re not talking blind luck; with catchy riffs pumping up lyrics that kids like a lot more than broadcast censors do, it’s no wonder third eye blind is getting so bleeping popular. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/421238950?accountid=13380

South, N. (1999). Chapter 2: Dances with Drugs: Pop Music, Drugs and Youth Culture. Drugs: culture, controls, and everyday life. London: SAGE Publications.

Sullivan, J. (2013). 10 Songs You Didn’t Know Were About Drugs: Third Eye Blind, ‘Semi- Charmed Life’ | Rolling Stone. Rolling Stone. Retrieved May 18, 2014, from http://www.rollingstone.com/music/lists/10-songs-you-didnt-know-were-about-drugs- 20130614/third-eye-blind-semi-charmed-life-19691231

Thackray, J. (2014). KMB003 Sex Drugs Rock N Roll: Week 2 [Lecture Notes]. Retrieved from http://blackboard.qut.edu.au/webapps/portal/frameset.jsp?tab_tab_group_id=_4_1&url= %2Fwebapps%2Fblackboard%2Fcontent%2FlistContent.jsp%3Fcourse_id %3D_111435_1%26content_id%3D_5048922_1%26mode%3Dreset

Whitburn, J. (1996). The billboard book of top 40 hits (6th ed.). New York: Billboard Books.


KMB 003 Sex Drugs Rock n Roll

Title: Musical Response to Drug Abuse

Draft

Introduction

Semi-Charmed Life by Third Eye Blind has been my favourite song for as long as I can remember, due to the catchy, up-beat rhythm and carefree tone of the lyrics. However, it wasn’t until I got older that I understood the references to sex and drugs, and realised there is a darker meaning behind the song, which just made me love it even more. The song was released in June 1997 as the first single from Third Eye Blind’s self-titled debut album and was a major hit of the 1990s. However, there was controversy over the lyrics. “Controversy erupted when a closer inspection of the lyrics revealed that the song made frank references to crystal Methedrine and fellatio. This caused some anxious moments at Elektra and MTV until the band’s lead singer and lyricist, Stephan Jenkins, explained he wasn’t glorifying speed addiction, not after what it had done to so many of his friends. In fact, he said, he was merely using speed as a metaphor for the allure of false delights that lead us away from life’s true pleasures. Like sex” (Himes). The song very cleverly mirrors what the drug would do; it distracts us.

Background

“The members of Third Eye Blind met through a club-roving musical network in San Francisco, where Jenkins had been performing spoken-word in an “acoustic hip-hop thing” called Puck and Zen. He split to form Third Eye Blind with the goal of creating a group that embraced a do-it-yourself ethic while breaking free of the constraints of indie rock” (Scribner).“Weaned on the Beatles and, later, hip-hop pioneers the Sugarhill Gang and college rockers Camper Van Beethoven, Jenkins molded the band’s sound into a stylistic melting pot” (Scribner). Jenkins said, “I didn’t feel like I fit into that whole post-grunge noise-pop scene, that movement to democratize the form by playing badly. The emotional range was really limited. To me, rock music is all about putting yourself out there, and there was an emotional correctness, a safe-ness in the San Francisco scene. We got into it to not to fit in” (Scribner).

As Jenkins said, “We don’t do it for fame, we’d do it for free, but having that audience connection is really fun. I don’t really understand that Reel Big Fish song ‘Sell Out.’ So far, we haven’t compromised.” (Scribner)

“Neither punk nor rootsy, neither metal nor techno, ‘Semi-Charmed Life’ opened with loud guitars and a thudding rhythm section but then gave way to chirping scat vocals. It was the blend of power chords and catchy melody mainstream-rock radio had been waiting for” (Himes).

"What most people don’t pick up about that song is how it’s influenced by hip-hop," Jenkins adds. "We all grew up listening to hip-hop, and we like it a lot. When I was writing that song, I was banging on my guitar as if it were a drum and free-associating a rap over it. It’s manic storytelling with very quick shifts between time periods, present tense and past tense. But there’s also a real sweetness to it, even when things are going wrong in the story. At one point, I sing, `I believe in the sand beneath my toes … and the four right chords that can make me cry.’ These are the things that really matter, and the song is about how we get separated from those things." (Himes)

The style of the song reflects changes that were occurring in the San Francisco music scene, particularly a growing interest in hip-hop. The band’s lead singer and lyricist, Stephan Jenkins, explained that the song gives “the bright, shiny feeling you get on speed” and uses speed as a metaphor for “the allure of false delights that lead us away from life’s true pleasures. Like sex” (Himes). He also explains that the title “Semi-Charmed Life” “refers to a life that’s all propped up. You know, the beautiful people who lead bright and shiny lives that on the inside are all fucked up”(Bambarger).

The Groove, Hook, & Sound

The groove is an embodied response- how it connects us to ourselves, our peers, and our culture. Semi-Charmed Life refers to a time when everyone was doing speed, and this is reflected throughout the music. Jenkins explains, “When speed came rolling into San Francisco a few years ago, it seemed very innocuous at first. Before we knew it, though, a large part of our peer group was pretty ravaged by it. Speed’s a very bright, shiny drug, and I wanted the song to sound like that, but I also wanted the frustration in there. So a real poetic decision is determining the music. That’s why you have that bright, melodic chorus but also that dirty guitar sound. A lot of things are going on at the same time, which is the crux of all our music” (Himes).

The hook draws us into the narrative or confession of the artists sonic narrative- the song’s catchy, upbeat melody is like the feeling you get on speed, and distracts us from the dark undertone of the lyrics being about how speed distracts us from the real pleasures of life. “Deceptively upbeat, ‘Semi-Charmed Life’ soars on a poppish “doot-doot-doot” intro, jagged, supercharged guitar and Jenkins’ rapid-fire singsong rap. The bouncy style and quick pace make it easy to miss the dark undercurrent” (Scribner). “The song, Jenkins explains, captures something far more intense than first meets the ear. ‘It’s heavy subject matter,’ says the singer, an articulate 28-year-old with a pencil-thin beard tracing his jawline. ‘In some ways it’s a cautionary tale. It charts the decline of a relationship due to a speed addiction.’” (Scribner).

The Sound:structures and affects our attention on how we experience sound

“Neither punk nor rootsy, neither metal nor techno, ‘Semi-Charmed Life’ opened with loud guitars and a thudding rhythm section but then gave way to chirping scat vocals. It was the blend of power chords and catchy melody mainstream-rock radio had been waiting for” (Himes).

Drugs & Transcendence

The relationship between drug use and popular music has a long and diverse history (South, 1999, 18-36). Adolescent drug use had been on an upward curve since the late 1970s, and then through the 1980s focused largely on the use of solvents and heroin (South, 1999, 18-36). Use of such drugs was generally regarded as a marginal activity linked closely to urban deprivation and social dislocation (South, 1999, 18-36). What has happened since the late 1980s is a significant broadening of the drug-using constituency encompassing a much wider range of substances taken by ever-larger groups of young people, causing a dramatic rise in the incidence of recreational drug use among young people in the 1990s (South, 1999, 18-36).

Drugs and transcendence alter your state of mind, which is basically what the song does to you. It puts you in this happy mood and makes you forget the dark side of the drugs the song was written about. “Listening to our favourite melody, we register changes in the activity of the autonomous nerve system, changes in heart beat, muscle tension, skin resistance and depth of breathing and also in the blood flow in brain structures that are also involved in processing emotional stimuli. The activation pattern of brain regions show a surprising similarity to activity patterns induced by drugs with a primarily euphoric effect like cocaine” (Aldridge, 2006, 84).

Through the lyrics’ references to sex and to the drug crystal methamphetamine, the band is also displaying their identity and authenticity. The band is open about their experiences and aren’t trying to hide anything. Singer & lyricist Jenkins says the references are honest, which is what rock is all about. “Sex is raunchy, it’s earthy. I don’t dress it up. I’m not an exhibitionist, but it’s an emotional thing. You have to report on it without judging. Sometimes it doesn’t make you look that good, but if you don’t it’s sort of fraudulent’” (Scribner).

"Explicit hints of drug habits in the song texts by rock and jazz musicians were regarded as an invitation to take drugs, and radio stations banned certain titles on the basis of more or less arbitrary criteria" (Aldridge, 2006, 87) When the song texts were analysed, researchers "concluded that the texts were no explicit invitation to take drugs but rather reported the experience involved in drug consumption"(Aldridge, 2006, 87)



Reference list

Aldridge, D., & Fachner, J. (2006). Music and altered states consciousness, transcendence, therapy, and addictions. London: J. Kingsley Publishers.

Bambarger, B. (1997). The modern age. Billboard, 109(17), 79. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/227082767?accountid=13380

Himes, G. (1998, Feb 27). Third eye blind’s independent insight. The Washington Post. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/408340482?accountid=13380

Scribner, S. (1997, Sep 07). POP MUSIC; we’re not talking blind luck; with catchy riffs pumping up lyrics that kids like a lot more than broadcast censors do, it’s no wonder third eye blind is getting so bleeping popular. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/421238950?accountid=13380

South, N. (1999). Chapter 2: Dances with Drugs: Pop Music, Drugs and Youth Culture. Drugs: culture, controls, and everyday life (pp. 18-36). London: SAGE Publications.


KMB 003 Sex Drugs Rock n Roll

Title: Musical Response to Drug Abuse

Proposal

Semi-Charmed Life by Third Eye Blind has been my favourite song for as long as I can remember, due to the catchy, up-beat rhythm, but it wasn’t until I got older that I understood the references to sex and drugs, and realized there is a darker meaning behind the song. The song was released in June 1997 as the first single from Third Eye Blind’s self-titled debut album and was a major hit of the 1990s.

The style of the song reflects changes that were occurring in the San Francisco music scene, particularly a growing interest in hip-hop. The band’s lead singer and lyricist, Stephan Jenkins, explained that the song gives “the bright, shiny feeling you get on speed” and uses speed as a metaphor for “the allure of false delights that lead us away from life’s true pleasures. Like sex” (Himes). He also explains that the title “Semi-Charmed Life” “refers to a life that’s all propped up. You know, the beautiful people who lead bright and shiny lives that on the inside are all fucked up”(Bambarger).

Section 1- The Groove, Hook, & Sound

Groove: embodied response- how it connects us to ourselves peers and culture. “”When speed came rolling into San Francisco a few years ago,” Jenkins explains, “it seemed very innocuous at first. Before we knew it, though, a large part of our peer group was pretty ravaged by it. Speed’s a very bright, shiny drug, and I wanted the song to sound like that, but I also wanted the frustration in there. So a real poetic decision is determining the music. That’s why you have that bright, melodic chorus but also that dirty guitar sound. A lot of things are going on at the same time, which is the crux of all our music” (Himes).

Hook: draws us into the narrative or confession of the artists sonic narrative- the song’s catchy, upbeat melody is like the feeling you get on speed, and distracts us from the dark undertone of the lyrics being about how speed distracts us from the real pleasures of life. “Deceptively upbeat, ‘Semi-Charmed Life’ soars on a poppish “doot-doot-doot” intro, jagged, supercharged guitar and Jenkins’ rapid-fire singsong rap. The bouncy style and quick pace make it easy to miss the dark undercurrent” (Scribner).

Sound:structures and affects our attention on how we experience sound

“Neither punk nor rootsy, neither metal nor techno, ‘Semi-Charmed Life’ opened with loud guitars and a thudding rhythm section but then gave way to chirping scat vocals. It was the blend of power chords and catchy melody mainstream-rock radio had been waiting for” (Himes).

Section 2- Key Concepts

Authenticity/Identity- The lyrics make references to sex and to the drug crystal methamphetamine. The band is open about their experiences and aren’t trying to hide anything. Singer & lyricist Jenkins says the references are honest, which is what rock is all about. “Sex is raunchy, it’s earthy. I don’t dress it up. I’m not an exhibitionist, but it’s an emotional thing. You have to report on it without judging. Sometimes it doesn’t make you look that good, but if you don’t it’s sort of fraudulent’” (Scribner).

Gender/Sexuality- references in the lyrics to sex

Narrative- The meaning conveyed (fusion of words/sounds) “The song, Jenkins explains, captures something far more intense than first meets the ear. ‘It’s heavy subject matter,’ says the singer, an articulate 28-year-old with a pencil-thin beard tracing his jawline. ‘In some ways it’s a cautionary tale. It charts the decline of a relationship due to a speed addiction.’” (Scribner).

Drugs & Transcendence- “Controversy erupted, however, when a closer inspection of the lyrics revealed that the song made frank references to crystal Methedrine and fellatio. This caused some anxious moments at Elektra and MTV until the band’s lead singer and lyricist, Stephan Jenkins, explained he wasn’t glorifying speed addiction, not after what it had done to so many of his friends. In fact, he said, he was merely using speed as a metaphor for the allure of false delights that lead us away from life’s true pleasures. Like sex” (Himes).

Syncretism/Tradition – the coming together of different religious/philosophical beliefs

As Jenkins said, “We don’t do it for fame, we’d do it for free, but having that audience connection is really fun. I don’t really understand that Reel Big Fish song ‘Sell Out.’ So far, we haven’t compromised.” (Scribner)

Genre & Style-

“Weaned on the Beatles and, later, hip-hop pioneers the Sugarhill Gang and college rockers Camper Van Beethoven, Jenkins molded the band’s sound into a stylistic melting pot” (Scribner).

“The members of Third Eye Blind met through a club-roving musical network in San Francisco, where Jenkins had been performing spoken-word in an “acoustic hip-hop thing” called Puck and Zen. He split to form Third Eye Blind with the goal of creating a group that embraced a do-it-yourself ethic while breaking free of the constraints of indie rock” (Scribner).

Jenkins said, “I didn’t feel like I fit into that whole post-grunge noise-pop scene, that movement to democratize the form by playing badly. The emotional range was really limited. To me, rock music is all about putting yourself out there, and there was an emotional correctness, a safe-ness in the San Francisco scene. We got into it to not to fit in” (Scribner).

“Neither punk nor rootsy, neither metal nor techno, ‘Semi-Charmed Life’ opened with loud guitars and a thudding rhythm section but then gave way to chirping scat vocals. It was the blend of power chords and catchy melody mainstream-rock radio had been waiting for” (Himes).

"What most people don’t pick up about that song is how it’s influenced by hip-hop," Jenkins adds. "We all grew up listening to hip-hop, and we like it a lot. When I was writing that song, I was banging on my guitar as if it were a drum and free-associating a rap over it. It’s manic storytelling with very quick shifts between time periods, present tense and past tense. But there’s also a real sweetness to it, even when things are going wrong in the story. At one point, I sing, `I believe in the sand beneath my toes … and the four right chords that can make me cry.’ These are the things that really matter, and the song is about how we get separated from those things." (Himes)



Reference list