Chiming In

  • Deborah Straszheim

The Power of Relatable Lyrics

How can you not love a song that starts, “Work sucks, truck died, hot as hell outside, my A/C just broke?”

The words in Chris Janson’s latest song might be about the “Power of Positive Drinkin’,” but what the song really demonstrates is the power of relatable lyrics.

At first, they could be viewed as almost stereotypical country lyrics: My woman left me, my truck died, I think I’ll go get drunk.

But you know why those phrases are so commonplace? Because everyone can relate to feeling like their life in the total can. And the last thing you want to hear when things are terrible is to think positive.

There’s little worse, when you’re feeling spent, overwhelmed or dead-ended, than to have someone lecture you about the power of “positive thinking.” That doesn’t make you feel better. It doesn’t change anything. All it does is make you feel like they don’t get it, like they don’t know the half of it, and there’s no point in talking to anyone. Then you’re really alone.

I should say at the outset, I don’t drink. At least, not unless I’m at a wedding or other event where I might have a glass of wine. It’s not a rule of mine; I just don’t particularly like it much. It doesn’t make me feel better, only hung over the next day.

But that aside, I totally appreciate this song. Because what Janson does is turn this well-meaning but misused phrase on its head, writing a song that effectively says, “Screw the power of positive thinking. I’ll take the power of positive drinking.”

I suppose the song could be viewed as one about drinking your troubles away (which I don’t advocate and don’t believe helps.) But I actually think it’s a song about something else; getting what you really want when you feel awful, which is some relief from whatever pain or situation you’re dealing with.

If you’ve ever been down, you get this right away. And better yet, that turn of phrase makes you laugh.

Plus, the song is so extreme, it’s funny. Most people don’t go into a bar and slam 10 beers, unless they want to throw up.

Janson sings, “Beer one, tastes like a beer; beer two, a little bit better than one: beer three, beer four, yeah that was pretty damn good, so hand me one more.” By beer five, he’s “coming alive” and by beer ten, “life’s good again.”

Two other things about the lyrics that make them work so well: They’re specific. They’re not philosophical or abstract. They’re concrete. And they’re active. His work sucks. The truck died. The woman he loved packed up half his stuff and took off. She’s never coming back.

So he’s going someplace where he knows he’ll be able to sing a new song about his life, which is what he really wants, what he’s really looking for.

And how many of us have ever felt like that?

Power of Positive Drinking ~ Chris Janson

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