Welcome friends to another installment of RetroPop, the guest blog in which I bring together currently charting female-performed pop songs and the works of great writers of the past! It's a great way to view powerful cultural products of pop music through the lens of female literary legacy, update the relevance of some classic lady authors and, if you ask me, it is just plain FUN.
Today we're going to perform a little compare/contrast action on David Guetta's tune "Titanium," featuring Sia, by jamming it with the poetry of a woman whose work can (and did today, again, several times) make me weep from its heartbreaking awesomeness. Give it up for Anne Sexton! *Brianna claps, snaps, sniffles.*
But first, let's take a peek at "Titanium." Right, so I know that this tune is technically tied to David Guetta, who is, as far as I know, a man. However, the lyrics and the performance of them, which are in my opinion the most significant parts of the song and most pertinent to the RetroPop blog concept, are all Sia, the Australian pop songstress. Her voice has this amazing soaring quality to it that just puts a nice cherry on top of a rockin' dance tune sundae, so let's take a spoonful of that:
As for the historical female writing against which we'll smash that Sia sundae, a beautiful poem by American poet Anne Sexton titled, "Killing the Love." Excuse me while I weep hysterically into my pillow for a few minutes. Thanks.
With "Titanium" we are jiggling our booties to a song whose message is about strength in the face of adversity; specifically, strength in response to hurtful gossip or some sort of assault on the narrator's character, as when she sings, "I'm criticized but all your bullets ricochet/You shoot me down, but I get up." Its message of invincibility and empowerment is couched within a metaphor of gun violence. (Pssst, until today I actually thought the chorus lyrics were, "You shoot me down/ But I'm a bomb/ I am titanium." I was, like, whoah that is some serious magical realism stuff going on there, with the narrator turning into a bomb… but no, I just misunderstood the lyric….).
Anyhoo, It's a really catchy dance tune about a person who refuses to be "killed" by the words/bullets of her attacker, so I started brainstorming about great lady-written poetry or stories that reversed the attacker/victim dynamic. And then I came up with a much better idea and an excuse to spend several hours thinking about a great poem.
In Anne Sexton's, "Killing the Love," the speaker does take on the role of the "attacker." However, rather than just launching a straight assault on someone else, as might occur in a total 180 of the storyline in "Titanium," Sexton's speaker is a serial killer of things that were—as she murders the love she shared with her former partner: "I am the love killer,/I am murdering the music we thought so special,/that blazed between us, over and over…" and murders the people they used to be: "I am murdering me, where I kneeled at your kiss," and "Shall I call the funeral director?/He could put our two bodies into one pink casket,/those bodies from before,/and someone might send flowers,/and someone might come to mourn."
Though the sentiment of "Titanium" is a little aggressive for my liking in a pop song, Sexton takes the act of killing and makes it into something cathartic, and thus endears herself and the poem to me. The killing becomes a necessary part of her healing process as she tries to move beyond the relationship.
My favorite quality of the Sexton piece is how it sways back and forth between cementing an abstract idea and reveling in its abstract-ness, such as when she is discussing the death of former in-love selves: grounding the concept with details of real-life death: "…and it would be in the obits,/and people would know that something died,/is no more, speaks no more, won't even/drive a car again and all of that," and then shifts back to the purely abstract: "When a life is over/the one you were living for/where do you go?"
I would so like to take Sia's character from "Titanium" and hug her and tell her that violence is never the answer, but darn if Anne Sexton doesn't make me think sometimes it should be.