“BECAUSE OF YOU”—What does it mean to you?—e.g. a male bias corrected
By Kevin Stoda, a parent—a father
I was pondering how both the author of any song’s lyrics and the listener relate to texts, tune and/or lyrics.
In many ways, how one interpret texts initially is based upon the biases of one’s own prior experiences and observations of the world around us. We are biased by nurturing and by gender—as well as by society and loved ones. Let’s take the tune, “Because of You” by Kelly Clarkson, for example.
Here is a version by Reba McEntire and Kelly Clarkson:
I have been listening to this song, “Because of You” (and its lyrics) for several years now—and many of you have, too.
MY MALE BIAS?
Until I looked up the meanings of the text for “Because of You”on line today, I certainly demonstrated a “strong male bias” as I interpreted the song by Kelly Clarkson, which originally came out in 2004 .
This was possibly because both artists, Kelly Clarkson and Reba McEntire are female, and they seemed to be talking to one another. So, from the very beginning, I had assumed—for whatever reason–that the text or lyrics of “Because of You” was ONLY a message from a daughter to her mother.
NOTE: Let me add that until today, I had never seen a video of the song, “Because of You”, because at the time this song came out for the second time in 2007 –and subsequently shot to Number 2 on the U.S. Country Charts and to number one in the UK and elsewhere–as a duet by Reba McEntire Kelly Clarkson, I had no access to TV in my apartment where I was living (in Kuwait). I thus have listened to the song only on the radio for most of the past 4 years.
My male mind focused on this portion of the lyrics and this refrain almost every time I heard the tune.
“Because of you, I never stray too far from the sidewalk
Because of youI, I learned to play on the safe side so I don’t get hurt
Because of you, I find it hard to trust not only me, but everyone around me
Because of you, I am afraid and I lose my way.”
In my imagination, the girl singing the lyrics (or writing the lyrics) was telling her mother that her mother’s pain and overprotectivness had overshadowed her own self-esteem and personal self-development or self-realization.
I imagined a mother raising a girl by herself over the years and passing on her fears and distrust of men and of others on to this female offspring of hers.
I imagined that the offspring was pointing an accusing finger at the mother and saying that her mother’s overprotectiveness and overconcern of and for other’s hurting her was still suffocating her personality. (Nonetheless, the tone used by the singer seemed to demonstrate a hope that the girl would be able to break from the limitations of her pasr or from the walls built up around her by her mother.)
However, when I went on line today to finally look up meanings of the text, “Because of you”, my male and possibly fatherly biases were revealed.
Without doing much research, I discovered—according to one insider—the following:
“I can tell you exactically what the song is about because I heard it from the horses mouth. At Kelly’s “Behind These Hazel Eyes” concert, I was able to go backstage and see Kelly. When I asked her what (my favorite song) Because of You was about, she told me that she wrote it when she was 16, and it was “sort of a diary entry at first”. She said that she comes from a broken family, like many children around America, and she wrote it about her parents divorce. She also commented that she doesn’t think that adults realize the effect divorce has on children. She told me that she didn’t want anyone to think she was sad or depressed – that writing the song was the way she got over the depression of her parents divorce. She’d gotten a lot of fanmail regarding the topic of divorce, and she said that she thoguht maybe God had her write the song in hopes that children who were dealing with the issue of divorce could relate to it; and, that the song could possibily help them like it helped her. She also said (in an interview – not to me this time) that she discussed releasing the song with her family and, although the song covers a painful territory, they also thought the song was better to be out -possibily helping people, than stuck in some notebook.”
In other words, the pain and memories revealed in Kelly Clarkson’s lyrics was about the pain of being a child of divorce. By definition of divorce—which involves a male and a female normally—conveys that the message of “Because of You” was directed at both men and women—as well as to marrieds, divorcees, and their children.
In short, I had been blindsided to this more global perspective on the song by my focus on the fact that the singers and the songwriter were women. In contrast the fact remains that both parents—male and female–can have the ill-effects on a child (even after that child becomes a grown-up) as revealed in the frustrated rantings conveyed through Clarkson and McEntire duet of the song, “Because of You”.
On the one hand, it is a universal song for all parents and potentially divorced families. Another revieweror interpreter of the text notes, “’Because of You’ is about the negative legacies parents leave their children with. They enforce their ideas and bad experiences they’ve had on their kids without realising the true impact of their words. It’s about the vulnerability they create within their children.”
On the other hand, though, the same interpreter concurs with my original biases, i.e. that the song, “Because of You”, is “about the way Kelly has been influenced by her mother leaning on her in a way that a child shouldn’t have to deal with. I believe Kelly wrote this song for the future generations when we have children.”
However, I feel only partially vindicated, as that same intepreter returns to universalizing the lyrics to all sides in marriage and family. The interpreter notes that the song was created “[t]o make people understand the true impact their words have on their children and to tell us it’s not ok; kids need stability and encouragement to go out and experience things for ourselves.”
In short, it is not only the mother who can pass her fears, pains, and stress onto the daughters and sons. Fathers can, too.
We—as parents–need to be aware and more encouraging, i.e. not building walls around our children nor helping them build walls around themselves.