A quest for clarity
At first glance, “Raise a Little Hell” by the Canadian band Trooper has to be one of my all-time least favorite songs. And for obvious reasons, I suppose. For I am much more into heaven-raising than hell-raising.
But more than that, part of the problem with this particular song is that it is crafted well enough to have a musical hook; it seems to be designed to draw people in. Usually this is a good thing. In this case, however, once you are in, listening, alert…there doesn’t immediately appear to be much of value to hear – except the same old line over and over and over again. Which could make for a dull, boring, song.
On the surface, it is also disappointing. There is a sense of wasted potential. It could have been good. Or considerably better, anyway. A celebration song. An energetic anthem, perhaps, to liven people up and rally the troops for a worthwhile cause, etc. Or at least an inspirational beach-walking song if nothing else (e.g. “Find a pretty shell. Find a pretty shell. Find a pretty shell. Hey!”). A little on the loud side for a peaceful beach setting, but a lyrical improvement nonetheless. Anything would be, you might think. Anything except maybe “Let Viterra Sell.”
And with a few adjustments, this creative product from southern British Columbia had the potential to become a classic family reunion song. I can see it now: Just as cousin Melody and uncle Melvin walk into the family gathering, the guitars cut in and the band sings out strong and clear, “Say hello to Mel. Say hello to Mel. Say hello to Mel!” The whole building shakes. Styrofoam cups go flying as distant relatives scramble to their feet, hands in the air, cheering wildly. In a moment, people who had been practically strangers are now united in song and bonded by the same colour of Kool-Aid.
Talk about making memories and making a mess.
On second thought, this new version would mean saying good-bye to the tradition of subdued introductions, polite applause, and possibly even old uncle Mel. Too much enthusiastic support could cause a coronary before the night is through; his ticker may not be able to take it. Might need to tone it down or get everybody’s hearing-aids turned down for an introduction of the whole extended family – especially if you are from a large family. And yet, can you see the positive potential?
While still assuming the precarious position of a music critic, a third problem – and for the purpose of this post, the main problem – is that the initial lyrics lack clarity. What does this overused phrase mean anyhow? Yes, I know, this is probably just another get-rowdy party song. And, of course, songs like this shouldn’t be treated like profound life mission-statements. But, for the purpose of illustration, would you agree that this song title doesn’t seem to say much at all? If you were looking for clear career direction, you likely wouldn’t expect to find much here to guide you towards a specific destination.
Clarity appears to be lacking. And when it comes to a career or a positive life calling, that is not a good thing.
If this song became your life theme song, what precisely would it inspire you to do? What would people around you expect to observe? If my experience years ago in northern British Columbia is any indication, I can tell you.
Imagine that you have been camping for close to a month. Not in a campground, mind you; in the wilderness, in the Rocky Mountains, and far from suburbia and civilization. Very far, indeed. You have been working hard day after day. Battling the bugs. Planting trees. And you are exhausted. Famished. Picture dusty dirt roads, rugged 4×4 trucks caked with mud, and wild-looking men who haven’t shaved for days. Imagine what your laundry situation might look like after so long. Take your worst bad hair day and multiple that by ten. You look like…well, you don’t look very good.
Now, picture yourself walking into an isolated mountain cafe with approximately 30 other ruffians who look (and smell) just like you. There are a handful of locals in the place, and they all – in unison – slowly turn and stare. Given the number of people now gathered it is strangely quiet. Tense. One fellow, at a table in the corner, seems to grab his fork a little more firmly – just in case. And then Ed, a member of your motley crew, walks up to a 1950s-style jupe box to choose a song. He pops in a quarter, more out of curiosity than anything else. But he didn’t push the right button and he got the wrong song. I think you can guess which one.
The poor people in that rustic cafe didn’t know exactly what to expect, but now they had even more reason to be suspect that it wasn’t going to be good. “I am sorry,” Ed said, over and over. “I am sorry, everybody…I got the wrong song.”
Listen to the whole song, and you will discover that Trooper is actually advocating making a positive difference in the world. But unfortunately that isn’t immediately obvious. Could have picked a chorus that communicated their intentions a bit more clearly.
Many people (perhaps you are one of them) want to make a difference with their lives and change the world. And this is very encouraging. It is great to hear when someone wants to do something to lift the world up rather than drag it down. But a general desire or vision like this will only take you so far. More clarity, much more clarity is required.
If you are going to “go negative” it might actually be positive to have hazy or general goals. This way, hopefully very little will get accomplished. But if you want to raise a little heaven down here on earth…try to gain as much clarity as you can.
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