Friday, February 27, 2009

Music: BNL as a Spiritual Band

BNL performed at the CBC's Sounds of the Season fundraiser in Toronto, Ontario on 5-December-2008

TORONTO, ONTARIO - On Wednesday, BNL founders Ed Robertson and Steven Page announced that lead singer Page would be leaving the band to pursue a solo career and perhaps acting, and the band would continue without him. In light of the rough year that the band has had, the news could not be called a complete surprise, but the announcement still was widely reported throughout Canada. The band, known for its playful lyrics and performances, remains clearly beloved in its native land.

Like many North Americans, I was first introduced to BNL in 1997 as their hit "The Old Apartment" rose in the charts. Their songs have made a significant contribution to my life, with two songs ("Pinch Me" and "It's All Been Done") in my my lifetime top 25, a feat matched only by Billy Joel.

What drew me so strongly to the band was not their playfulness, though, but the fact that many of their lyrics seem to be straight out of the "spiritual world", which is rare in popular music. As discussed here before, the "spiritual world" is one of four identified worlds in the Meridian Flexibility System, focused on energy, harmony with the world, prone to suffering, and with a "timeless" perspective (as opposed to future, past, or present-focused). The vast majority of popular music comes from the "emotional" world, though I have highlighted at least one artist from the "physical" world.

Perhaps the most obvious example comes from the song "It's All Been Done". The very title implies that life is just repeating itself. The group sings:
I knew you before the west was won
And I heard you say the past
was much more fun
You go your way, I go mine
But I'll see you next time
Alone and bored on a thirtieth-century night
Will I see you on The Price Is Right?
Could lyrics possibly be more "timeless"?

Yet, just about every BNL song has at least one "spiritual" element. "If I Had A 1,000,000 Dollars" has this line:
If I had a 1,000,000
We wouldn't have to eat Kraft dinner
(But we would!)
Most types would give up macaroni and cheese (that's Kraft dinner if you're not Canadian) given a chance; only those with a suffering element of the "spiritual" would continue to delight in it.

Even the hit "One Week" which on the surface seems like a present-focused "physical" number has a spiritual line:
Five days since I laughed at you and said
"You just did just what I thought you were gonna do"
Is that not be straight out of the "pericardium" (a "spiritual" type) playbook of wisdom and laughing at self-destructive behavior?

There also seems to be a real theme of having a "physical"-type partner to deal with, the expected partner of a "spiritual" type, running not only through "One Week" but many BNL songs. Take this passage from "Call and Answer":
But I'm warning you, don't ever do
Those crazy, messed up things that you do
If you ever do
I promise you I'll be the first to crucify you
"Crazy, messed up" is a common description of "physicals" by "spirituals"--and judging them is a common "spiritual" practice.

The apparently-bad news at BNL could a boon for those enjoying "spiritual" lyrics. Both BNL and Page could separately now create such songs with such themes; this seemed to happen with Page's previous side venture, The Vanity Project in 2005. I look forward to more lyrics like this low-energy gem from "Pinch Me":
I could leave but I'll just stay
All my stuff's here anyway.

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