Just Give Me A Reason (Fisking Pop Songs)

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It is no exaggeration that I fisk everything, even songs I adore. So without further ado, here is Pink’s “Just Give Me a Reason”

 “Just Give Me A Reason”

(feat. Nate Ruess)

(Verse 1: Pink)

Right from the start

You were a thief

You stole my heart

And I your willing victim

Pink uses a lot of violent imagery in her lyrics, and this is a rather mild example. Victim is not really a word I would use to describe a participant in a love affair, especially the female, and it grates here (especially since it makes a rather weak assonance with “fixed them”). However, there are many songs that use the “thief” stealing hearts as both good and bad.

I let you see the parts of me

That weren’t all that pretty

And with every touch you fixed them

That’s a lovely thought, but it unfortunately reinforces the idea that the non-pretty parts need fixing by a man, or that a woman needs to be made pretty once entering a relationship.

Now you’ve been talking in your sleep, oh, oh

Things you never say to me, oh, oh

Tell me that you’ve had enough

Of our love, our love

This is a wonderfully complicated idea. On the one hand, a person might say things they have been thinking about in their sleep. Many a story has revolved around someone saying something while unconscious that they might not have done otherwise. On the other hand, the sleep talking idea gives room for the woman to allow that it might be a misunderstanding, that the context of the person’s mind matters, which cannot be determined while the person is asleep. I think if the next lines had something accusing the man of being unfaithful, or patronizing or lying, this would be a different song. But instead she just launches into one of the most hopeful and realistic choruses I’ve heard in pop radio this year.

Just give me a reason

Just a little bit’s enough

Just a second we’re not broken just bent

And we can learn to love again

It’s in the stars

It’s been written in the scars on our hearts

We’re not broken just bent

And we can learn to love again

I love the idea that relationships aren’t either together or broken, that they can be bent, but healing can happen. The name of the song and the first line of the chorus are rather ambiguous, however. “Just give me a reason” could either mean “What is the reason you think we are over?” or it can mean “Just give me a reason to keep working with you on our relationship.” Either way, information is being asked for, and unfortunately it’s not clear how the other person should respond.

I should note, that up to this point, any of these lyrics could have been sung by a man, as in there are no gendered phrases to make sure the audience is catching that it’s a hetero relationship. If you aren’t familiar with pop music, you might wonder why I’m pointing this out, but in the pop world, often times the duets that top the charts make a point of writing gendered lyrics for the woman, who sings first, just so that the man can sing almost identical lyrics but with the gendered action changed (See Lady Antebellum’s “Need You Now” where the woman can call because she just “lost all control” because she was alone, but the man can’t lose control unless he’s been drinking, then its ok).

(Verse 2: Nate Ruess)

I’m sorry I don’t understand

Where all of this is coming from

I thought that we were fine

(Pink: Oh, we had everything)

This is valid, he’s confused as he doesn’t remember saying any of the things that are making her worried. Also, unlike a lot of songs where one party sings echoes and the other person doesn’t seem to hear or ignores it (“Take Me (Or Leave Me)” from Rent) Nate actually responds to the interjections.

Your head is running wild again

My dear we still have everythin’

And it’s all in your mind

(Pink: Yeah, but this is happenin’)

Yeah, this sounds like gaslighting. Yes, she may be overreacting, and he has a right to call her on that, but he doesn’t have a right to say that its ALL in her mind. So far there have been no gendered terms, but that doesn’t mean Nate’s part isn’t adhering to a male narrative in some ways. I love that Pink calls him on it, and contradicts him, saying that it IS happening right now, which may be her saying “so maybe I overreacted about that, but what is happening right now is also not ok”.

You’ve been havin’ real bad dreams, oh, oh

Used to lie so close to me, oh, oh

There’s nothing more than empty sheets

Between our love, our love

Oh, our love, our love

Here’s where it gets murky. Either he is telling her that she didn’t hear him saying things in his sleep (“Who you gonna believe, me or your own ears?”) or Pink’s part of the narrative WAS based on a dream. If he left it at that, he might look like he was being mean either way, but I like that he moves on to the problem that HE notices. Namely that there might be a cause to this confusion that is purely physical, that they aren’t sleeping as closely together as they used to, and that the problem can be worked on.  This shows he took her seriously when she says “Yeah, but this is happening” which points out that if there wasn’t SOME problem they wouldn’t be having this discussion.

Pink: Our tear ducts can rust

Nate: I’ll fix it for us

Together: We’re collecting dust

But our love’s enough

Another slightly gender specific line, with Nate singing “I’ll fix it for us.”

Nate: You’re holding it in

Pink: You’re pouring it dry

Nate: No nothing is as bad as it seems

Pink: We’ll come clean

And just to contrast, here’s a gender reversal in the line “You’re holding it in”. Usually it’s the man who is accused of holding in emotions, but in this case, the woman is being tightlipped and the man is “pouring it dry” which I believe is supposed to mean that he’s letting everything out all the time.

The last two lines before the chorus repeat are really simplistic, but useful for understanding the song. In this, the couple makes up, works it out and is able to repair everything. In total, a very hopeful and real song.

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