When people say something hyperbolic like "That song saved my life," they mean that that particular song--whatever it may be--inspired them to change the direction of their life. Maybe it gave them the idea to quit doing drugs, to switch occupations, to be a better spouse, or to join the United States Peace Corps. NOBODY who says something like this, though, has ever had their life literally saved by a song. I know that I generally refrain from disclosing many details from my personal life when I write about the songs that changed the landscape of human thought and understanding. But perhaps you, the ever-so-gracious reader, would be willing to allow this one indulgence? I only ask because a song HAS saved my life. I was only a few seconds from dying when divine intervention intervened, giving me another chance at living this life. For I was resurrected like Lazarus by the dulcet tones of Paris Hilton's 2006 smash hit "Stars Are Blind."
The Spring of 2006 was a bad time for your humble narrator. I was fired from a prestigious, well-paying job, on a late Friday afternoon, because I was "not mean enough." Losing the job didn't hurt my feelings so much as the reason why I got canned. To make matters worse, I received a call from my ex-boss the following Wednesday. She told me that they would have re-hired me if I would have protested my firing and "showed a little chutzpah." Apparently, the cliche "Nice guys finish last" is actually true. To make matters worse, my mother saw a picture of me that I had recently posted on MySpace and said that I "looked way too skinny." My mother, usually a very nice woman, had never, and I sincerely mean this, never insulted me once in my entire life. And she knew I was insecure about being too thin. As a result, I gave up my life-long vegetarianism and began eating MickDonald's and Olive Oyyul's Chicken twice a day (that's right, both of them). I started gaining weight. My mother never even mentioned the weight thing again. Well, around this time, my mother was becoming as moody and erratic as I was. To make matters worse, out of nowhere, my girlfriend at the time left me. She left a note on the front door that read, "I'm leaving." That was it. All her stuff was gone, and, for some reason, she took all of my fishing gear (and nothing else of mine?!). Two weeks pass, and I've eaten nothing but fast food and, curiously enough, haven't heard a word from my mother, who used to call me every day. Then, out of nowhere, she calls, telling me she's on vacation at Niagara Falls. She tells me she has a surprise. She puts my ex-girlfriend on the phone who proceeds to tell me that she's in love with my mother and that they plan on moving to Massachusetts to get married. My pride and masculinity crushed, not to mention being totally weirded out by the Freudian smorgasbord of jacked up family issues at work with this whole scenario, I went to a Patrick Swayze Roadhouse near me and vowed to eat one of their 64 ounce steaks in a hour. Within twelve minutes, I was clearly full and had more than 3/4 of the steak to eat. I decided to jam one rather healthy hunk of the New York Strip down my gullet. I quickly realized this was a bad idea right as I started to choke. I tried to signal to the wait staff that I was choking, but they were all doing a line-dance to Big and Rich's "Save a Horse (Ride a Cowboy)." As I almost slipped away, the song stopped and the PA system in the restaurant went right to the chorus of Paris Hilton's "Stars Are Blind," when she sings, "Even though the gods are crazy / Even though the stars are blind / If you show me real love baby / I'll show you mine," and, I kid you not, the song wrapped its arms around my diaphragm and thrust its fists, immediately ejecting the piece of grisly meat from my windpipe. I was saved, thanks to Paris Hilton and her amazing song. She is right on the money when she sings, "It could get physical," and, later, "This moment is critical." Without the physical application of the Heimlich Maneuver at that "critical" moment, I would probably be dead.
Because of that near-death experience, I now see that song in a totally different light. What she's saying is that we are filled with dualities, competing drives, and though we usually choose one over the other, these choices are never so easy, like when she sings, "I can make you nice and naughty / be the devil and angel too / got a heart and soul and body / let's see what this love can do." Before, I just thought the song's lyrics were told from the perspective of a person who was only using poorly-phrased rhetorical pleas to beg for sex. But now, I realize it is so much more than that, its tropical musical backdrop merely providing a mental vacation from the unconscious hard work of our conflicted minds. Even if, as the dead Lester Bangs points out, "There has never been a song that has sounded so much like Blondie's 'The Tide is High' since Blondie's 'The Tide is High,'" that doesn't dispel the true fact that "Stars are Blind" saved my life. Maybe it will one day save yours.