All My Little Words is The Argus’ love-centric column. We publish personal essays, poems, humorous pieces, and other creative written work that focuses on themes of love, loss, labor, and loneliness—romantic and not. To submit an article, please send 1000-1500 words to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
So, a current or former loved one has written a song about you, or at least you’re 90 percent sure you’re not just projecting. At Wesleyan, this isn’t all that rare of an occurrence: plenty of softboys (and girls) have eulogized their exes over chords they stole from Tame Impala. Sometimes they’re flattering. Most of the time they’re not. Do you go to their concert to listen to it? Do you download it on Bandcamp (or, God forbid, Soundcloud)? Do you pay for it? For those accidental muses, there are steps you can take to process the not-so-divine inspiration and hopefully keep it from getting stuck in your head.
1. Make sure this is actually about you, because not everything is about you.
Musician-types often write lyrics inspired by real events without staying true to every detail—at least that’s what they’ll say when you ask why your name is in a song they wrote. Moreover, many songs are co-written, drawing upon experiences from multiple artists to form a Frankenstein’s monster of lyrical regret. Look inside yourself and wonder what motivation the artist had to write a song about you. Did you sort of ruin their life (and vice versa)? If so, move on to step two.
2. Determine whether you should be flattered or outraged.
It’s not hard to tell the difference between a love song and a revenge plot vaguely set to music. If the lyrics generally contain the phrases “fuck you,” or “fuck off,” or “no one will ever love you,” you can safely assume outrage. Most songs, however, contain the more sublime elements of a relationship, mixing the good with the bad. This is sometimes called artistry, but it requires the song’s subject to fully confront the complexities of their relationship to the songwriter, which is honestly worse than being insulted on stage. Assume outrage purely because you hate being in touch with your feelings. On the off chance someone has written an entirely positive song about you, and your feelings towards them are entirely mutual, I guess you can be flattered, you lucky bastard.
3. Listen to the song on repeat.
This could either be because the song is lowkey a banger, or completely out of spite. Or maybe you just love to hear people talk about you, because it’s almost as fun as talking about yourself. The important thing is to memorize the lyrics for when you eventually confront the songwriter. You can perform this step on Bandcamp, Soundcloud, even Spotify or iTunes, or maybe just get the writer to send you the mp3 because hey, it wouldn’t exist without you. A recommended donation for their trouble could be $0.01, but let’s be real, you’re getting it for free. Inflate their numbers to further let them know how much they rely on your support.
4. Attend the concert.
All that listening will also help you sing along when they perform the song live in front of you, creating a semblance of the two-way communication you never received in your actual relationship. The eye contact you make with them at the concert will trump all previous emotional intimacy (or lack thereof). Remember to cheer and clap extra loud, asserting your presence. Request an encore if you’re a masochist.
5. Confront the songwriter.
Chances are if you’re involved with a musician or otherwise creative-type, you aren’t used to direct confrontation. The only way to get the songwriter’s true perspective is to point-blank ask them about it. You could hang back after the show, shoot them a text, or maybe just cause a scene in the middle of the concert. (Don’t…actually do that). If you’re lucky, they’ll own up to it, but nine times out of ten they will not. An artist never reveals their creative process, even if that process is going through old texts to excerpt specific moments in your relationship.
6. Try not to act too far above the riff-raff.
Now that someone’s written a song about you, you’re automatically more special than other people. You’re an inspiration and a playmaker. That song about you is way better than that song about their other ex. Try not to hold your head up too high when you walk around Usdan, passing all of the regular people. Definitely don’t go up to strangers and say, “Were you at Zonker Harris? I’m the bastard they were singing about” with a gleeful expression. Although you may not act like it, there is life outside of the Wesleyan music scene, and not everyone cares about a bunch of people who choose to cover “All Star” for free.
There are many ways to get over having a song written about you, or so I’ve been told. Some people write columns about it. The best thing you can do is make peace with the songwriter, or, at the very least, hope that their band graduates soon.
Brooke Kushwaha can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.