Monday, October 22, 2007
Questioning the Intentions of the Narrator in the Wilson Phillips song “Hold On”
During a recent late-night karaoke session, in between “Living on a Prayer” and “Don’t Stop Believin’,” a couple of chicks got up to warble the Wilson Phillips classic “Hold On.” That was a great song to have around during the turbulent adolescent years, wasn’t it? One you could put on repeat on your stereo and really sob into your Laura Ashley pillow. It had the cryability of R.E.M.’s “Everybody Hurts” but appealed to a wider, less suicidal audience.
But here’s the thing: The “Hold On” narrator is a dick.
The song starts out wholly empathetic. “I know this pain. Why do lock yourself up in these chains?” the narrator asks. “No one can change your life except for you. Don't ever let anyone step all over you.”
She (and I know the narrator is a woman for reasons explained later) adds helpfully: “Just open your heart and your mind. Is it really fair to feel this way inside?” No, it is not fair and thank you for noticing, Gentle Narrator, who offers the following spiritually edifying chorus:
Don't you know things can change
Things'll go your way
If you hold on for one more day
Can you hold on for one more day
Things'll go your way
Hold on for one more day
Then we get to the third verse, and boy oh boy, now it’s time for a little one-two punch of tough love. "You could sustain. Or are you comfortable with the pain?” the narrator taunts before adding: “You've got no one to blame for your unhappiness. You got yourself into your own mess.”
Yikes, where did that come from? Suddenly she's become that girl in high school who lured you into the friendship with compliments on your hair but secretly hated you and would say things like, “Ohmigod, I can’t believe that jerk cheated on you? Do you think it’s because of all that weight you gained during Thanksgiving and Christmas?”
The narrator then spends the rest of the song trying to make it up to you with a few more platitudinal chorii of “hold on for one more day and you break free, break from the chains.” But the damage is already done. Just as you’ll never fully trust that friend again with your problems, you spend the rest of the song waiting for her to throw in another blame-the-victim zinger. At least provide some sort of workable solution that we can apply towards the problem, because “hold on” isn’t really helpful unless one happens to be hanging from a tree branch.
PS: Wow, I totally just realized that James Frey ripped the phrase “hold on” from Carnie, Wendy and Chynna. Is there no end to that guy’s unoriginality?
PPS: You really need to watch this video. There is a xylophone. Also, please let me know if you can decipher the sartorial logic behind the beach scenes. Why is Chynna wearing a spandex lycra shorts unitard while Wendy is in a cocktail dress and Carnie is decked out in business casual? I'm just asking for a little consistency here.
Posted by Noelle Hancock