I’m lucky enough to have a few very good friends in my life. People who have been here for me during some pretty rough times. One of the best of those friends is fellow standup comedian Tirumari Jothi. We’ve been friends for about 7 years now, despite me making one of the all time worst first impressions ever. And through this entire friendship, Tirumari has been trying to get me to watch his favorite anime, “One Piece.”
I’ve resisted watching One Piece in various ways throughout the years while still attempting to prank Tirumari. Some of my favorite ways have been by doing just a little bit of research on the topic, then working it into conversation and waiting to see how long it takes him to notice. I’ve also taken video of myself on Hulu Plus navigating away from the One Piece page. Pranking Tirumari is one of my favorite things, and he cares so much about One Piece that it’s sometimes too easy.
When I told Tirumari I was going to be writing about One Piece this week, he gushed. He was so excited that he got the kind of emotional I’m not really great at dealing with. He told me how great a friend I am. And I think that’s what makes this next part so hard.
This is not going to be a blog about One Piece. I could say April Fool’s, I could say “gotcha,” I could say “HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.” Actually, on the real outline for this week’s blog, that last one is what I wrote at the top of the page next to the words “does he really think I’m finally going to talk about One Piece?” But the real struggle was figuring out what topic to write about that would really drive home the “nope, not talking about One Piece.” And I figured it out.
This is the blog about Matchbox 20. Matchbox Twenty? I don’t know how they’re writing out the “20” these days, because they are just the fucking worst. Seriously, how pretentious do you have to be to change the spelling of a word in your band name? Now add to that how pretentious you have to be to decide to change the spelling of a goddamn NUMBER. I hate them. I hate them so much. Like, I’m almost 400 words in, and I don’t think all of these words are enough to express how much I hate them. Hate hate hate.
In an effort to narrow this down, I’m not going to do what I did with Avril and attack every song. I’m going to specifically write about Matchbox 20’s “hit” song “Unwell.” I’m doing this in a style similar to what I did with Nickelback, because Matchbox 20 is worse than Nickelback. That’s right, I said it. For those of you just joining us, let me clue you in to something about me. I have a lot of very strong opinions, and no real middle ground. For me things are either Space Jam or they’re Matchbox 20. And if you’re not sure which one of those two things is the good one, then you’re Matchbox 20, and I hope you die in a fire. I hate Matchbox 20 so much that I hope Rob Thomas gets a peanut allergy and forgets how to read ingredient lists.
So let’s talk about “Unwell.” This song is the second single from Matchbox 20’s third album. Someone keeps letting them release albums, and then keeps letting them put out singles! And what’s worse is that you people keep listening. Rob Thomas has a solo career, and he somehow managed to get the credit for a great Santana song because he crammed out bullshit lyrics like “just like the ocean under the moon, it’s the same as the emotion that I get from you.” Fuck that, that lyric is complete nonsense and should NOT deserve the credit for making a song great. That song is great because of the beautiful guitar played by Carlos Santana. In fact, I am willing to say it is a sign of inherent racism in the system that “Smooth” got all those accolades when “Maria Maria” (an objectively better song) got nothing. Seriously, the guitar is phenomenal in “Maria Maria,”the lyrics are much more complex, and The Product G&B will always be a better vocalist than Rob “I wanna push you around” Thomas.
I’m sorry, that got off track. The topic of this post is “Unwell,” not a general castigation of Rob Thomas and the music industry in general. “Unwell” isn’t lyrically as nonsensical as “How You Remind Me” by Nickelback, but that doesn’t mean it’s good. “How You Remind Me,” as you may remember, is like a lyrical Mad Libs. They just took a bunch of words and said “these rhyme, right? Awesome!” Well, “Unwell” has lyrics that do fit together, but the narrative they create is just as nonsense as anything Nickelback may have given us.
The basic gist of this song is that the narrator is having a pretty rough time, but that this isn’t all he is. People might think that he’s crazy, but it’s not true. He’s just a little bit off, but if you stick around you’ll see that there’s more to him than that! That’s actually a really great message to get out there, which is what makes this song so goddamn harmful. They give us a great message, but delivered in a terrible way. I’ve said this to friends before while discussing politics: some of the most harmful people are the ones who think they’re allies but say stupid things. (Note: I’m not going to use this blog to discuss politics.) (Second Note: I might change my mind later. You’re in my world.)
“Unwell” begins with the phrase ‘all day staring at the ceiling, making friends with shadows on my walls.’ Dude, I dropped out 3 years in to a degree in psychology, but staring at the ceiling all day is a sign of depression, and personifying the shadows is just a bad thing. In that same verse, Rob says that he’s hearing voices all night telling him that tomorrow might be good for something. So now we’re at him hearing voices, and rounding the track right back to depression. Next he asks us to hold on because he feels like he’s heading for a breakdown, but he doesn’t know why. Because he’s not crazy, he’s just a little unwell. That kind of fatalistic attitude kind of sounds like a cry for help from someone who’s about to kill himelf. It’s true that calling someone in this situation “crazy” is kind of a dick move, but at the very least someone should be telling him to talk to someone about his problems before he hurts himself.
Hell, the second line of the chorus is “I know that right now you don’t care, but soon enough you’re gonna think of me, and how I used to be.” That is a very direct vocalization of suicidal intent, and at no point in the song does he ever go get help. Instead he just keeps talking to this girl (or guy, I don’t know the sexual preference of the character in this song) about how she’ll miss him.
As we get into the second verse, there’s more discussion of his symptoms. Rob is talking to himself on a train and dodging glances from people he just knows are talking about him. With every passing line, this song seems more and more about a killer from Criminal Minds. He says he thinks there might be something really wrong with him, and that he spends hour thinking that he may have lost his mind. Then, before the narrative gets to its natural conclusion of him flipping out and declaring that he’s not broken, just bent, the song goes into another chorus. But this chorus feels different because of all the symptoms we’ve now seen. Now when he tells the girl he’s singing to that if she stays awhile, she’ll see a different side of him, it seems like we’re listening to the internal monologue of the main character from Split.
The song ends with the main character being taken away, but we don’t know if it’s really happening or if he finally snapped. As someone who has struggled with depression and PTSD, I hope that he got the help he needs because nobody should be forced to live trapped in their own brain like that. As someone who lives in the world, I hope he got the help he needs before he flips and starts pushing people around because he will, oh he will.
The chorus of this song implies that you should just stick it out and get to know people with mental health issues instead of pushing them off to the sidelines of society. I agree with that, but the idea of not judging people for their issues and the idea of getting help are not mutually exclusive. I have plenty of friends with mental health issues. If you’ve gotten this far into this blog, you’re probably one of them. I love all of you. That was too strong. I think all of you are pretty alright. But if one of my friends came to me and said “look man, I sit in my bed all day and talk to shadows, and all night I’m hearing voices,” I would tell them that while I’m not qualified to help them, I will go with them every step of the way while they get the help they need.
And making some girl your lifeline against your rapidly worsening mental illness? How stupid are you, Rob? You know what? Don’t answer that. I know how stupid you are, I read your public statement after you got caught saying a bunch of really racist shit in Australia. You’re pretty fucking dumb. Anyway, you can get plenty of support from your significant other in times of need. But they can’t be the only reason you’re trying to get better, and they can’t be what makes you better. No one person is strong enough for that. And what about when she decides that even though you’re all better, you’re not really a compatible match? Then you’ve gotta talk to your shadows about a failed relationship.
So in addition to being a shitty song with a nonsense narrative, this song is ultimately incredibly harmful to the field of mental health. Fuck you, Rob Thomas.
I’ll see you all next week. Love and kisses!
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