Wide Awake

The best thing that ever happened to Katy Perry was she got divorced.

Have you read David Brooks’s essay "The Power Of The Particular" in the "New York Times"? I recommend it, even if you’re not a Springsteen fan.

That’s what it’s about. Flying to Europe to see the Boss. Brooks marvels at all the young people singing "Born In The U.S.A." when they most clearly were not. But they embrace Bruce’s myth, the full-blown story, which has so many twists and turns, from shunned schoolboy to star to divorce to marriage and family, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Springsteen delineated his journey, and that’s what attaches us to him.

We’re unattached to so many celebrities. As soon as the buzz moves on, we’re going to forget them. Because there’s no story. That’s what the Kardashians have done so well, create an entire world, however phony. We’re intrigued by the story.

Brooks posits if you want to succeed you should stop being everyman and just be yourself. Romney should can the jeans and stop talking about loving to hunt. Hell, despite the right wing hysteria, whenever Obama cites Jay-Z or references another hip-hop artist it actually benefits him, it humanizes him, he’s a human being with tastes.

Not that my goal here is to politicize the discussion. I just want to say prior to "Wide Awake" Katy Perry was just a girl with big tits singing songs written by committee. But now there’s a thorn in the fairy tale. They had his and hers tattoos, and now he’s gone?

"Wide Awake" is similar to Gloria Estefan’s "Coming Out Of The Dark", which referenced her bus accident. A good track, the overly sappy "Coming Out Of The Dark" was a smash because the public rallied around Ms. Estefan.

And they’re rallying around Katy Perry right now.

Forget the hype, the endless stunts, the ridiculous outfits, suddenly she’s just another girl who’s been hurt. And in case you didn’t know, girls stick together.

I’m wide awake
Yeah, I was in the dark
I was falling hard
With an open heart
I’m wide awake
How did I read the stars so wrong

You see, that’s how we all feel. How did we not see the warning signs? How did we allow ourselves to get so hurt? And the lyrics might not be groundbreaking, but the sound of the track is similar to nothing so much as Madonna’s "Live To Tell". The latter is a classic, but "Wide Awake" has a chance of surviving, unlike so much of the drivel populating the Top Forty today.

She’s wide awake. Isn’t that how it always is after heartbreak? You can’t sleep. You can’t eat. You can’t shut your brain off. You can call your friends but it doesn’t soothe the pain. The male rappers talk about kicking their exes to the curb and crawling from the wreckage into a brand new car, but that’s not how it happens at all. You can try to be Jerry Maguire, keep trying to move forward, but that eventually stops working for everybody.

I wish I knew then
What I know now
Wouldn’t dive in
Wouldn’t bow down
Gravity hurts
You made it so sweet
Till I woke up on
On the concrete

You’ve got to hear Katy sing it, from deep in her heart, belting "on the concrete", as if she sings loud enough all her troubles will disappear, they’ll be blotted out.

Thunder rumbling
Castles crumbling
I am trying to hold on
God knows that I tried
Seeing the bright side
But I’m not blind anymore

Trying to hold on… I sat almost right next to Katy a couple of months back, at the MusiCares dinner. She had her purple wig on, and a bunch of makeup. She was surrounded by old men who were really not her friends. They were business people, responsible for her career, but they don’t keep you warm at night, because you’re not number one, they are, they’re protecting their jobs. That’s what we hope for in love, someone who’ll put us first, who’ll sacrifice their job, be there when we need them.

You can’t be so set in your ways that you can’t admit you were wrong, that you can’t change course, do a one eighty and embrace that which you detested.

I used to keep Katy Perry at arm’s length. For multiple reasons. The rip-off of Jill Sobule’s song title with a far inferior song. The bright, sunny disposition, the duplicitous interviews. She was just another manufactured product. Here today, gone tomorrow, like New Kids On The Block and so many before.

But if "Wide Awake" doesn’t touch you, you’re dead inside. Sure, it was written by committee, it’s not quite personal enough, but the pain of her breakup informs the track. She’s laying down the vocal of her life. It’s important. In a pop music world where not much is.

Yeah I’m falling from cloud 9
Crashing from the high
You know I’m letting go tonight

Letting go. There’s so much pain in giving up hope. You never recover from a divorce. You stood up in front of friends and family, the clergy, and declared it was forever. But it was not. So what else isn’t? You’ve got to readjust your whole perspective.

But at least you made a commitment. Too many are afraid to dive in. Or serially date and ultimately keep their loves at arm’s length, for fear of being hurt. But hurt is part of life. It does make you stronger. But it’s hell to go through.

Which is what the endless repetition of "wide awake" is all about. It’s like there’s a chorus in your brain, constantly repeating the refrain, you keep reworking the details in your mind, you can’t forget them, if only you did this, if only they did that.

I can’t stop playing "Wide Awake". It’s got an emotion that they just can’t get in right in movies or TV, the human condition. That’s what Katy Perry’s talking about here. She nailed it.

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