Swearing Like an Adult

It is so refreshing to see a musical artist who can swear like an adult. Most use profanity like 12 year olds, giggling to themselves every time they say some naughty word and trying to say as much as possible to show how bad they are. I have nothing against swearing, but its not something you do every couple of words. That's something kids do because they are so giddy about saying words they's not supposed to say. That's what makes Ben Folds such a great artist.

Folds uses swears very casually. They come up, not to show he can swear, but because that's how people talk. That's really the brilliance of his song-writing. The lyrics are meant to be profound, but that's what makes them profound. They are simple, honest, casual, and meaningful. Sometimes, the simplicity lends to intriguing reinterpretations. Sometimes, it offers a purity of message. Sometimes, it can even obscure the meaning. "Brick" is that kind of song. Its his break-through hit, probably the only one most people know of his. The meaning is obvious, yet unstated. By not directly confronting the issues discussed, he can get away with being direct about the emotions. Its the kind of song that when you find out what its about, it becomes very obvious, but you probably will need to be told before you can see it.

It just works. So, his swears are not simply to convey rage and resentment, as with some singers. They represent many emotions. From anger, like in "Song for the Dumped" where he sings:

So you wanted to take a break.
Slow it down some, and have some space.
Well, fuck you, too.

It not rage, really. More annoyance. Its actually become one of my favorite internal lines when I someone is demaning me without being direct about it. Its that, "too" that takes the line from mere bitterness to an inspired mock tirade.

Other times, he tosses them off to express bemusement, frivolity, and a whole host of emotions. Its not there to be intimidating, but to be natural. Because normal people sometimes swear when they are frustrated or amused or saddened. Its not in every song he writes, but he's not afraid to use them to capture the reality of the songs. I don't know of another contemporary artist who can express so much. Pain, love, unrequited love, lost love, resentment, emptiness, apathy, joy, and so much more.

And don't even get my started on how the piano is the most underated instrument in rock. All too often left to easy-listening, Folds reminds us how vital a rock instrument the piano is. He even does a cover of Elton John on his live album, which reminds us what the piano can do in Rock and Roll. Folds is the only artist I've really gotten into in a while, and if you haven't heard his stuff, I highly recommend it. "Whatever and Ever, Amen" with the Ben Folds Five is probably his best, and also most well known album. Borrow it from a friend and take a listen. Its great stuff.

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