Music and Fairytales

I’ve never written a blog before.  The whole concept of writing and allowing the world to  read it makes me uncomfortable but I decided that I needed to grow as a writer and this is one sure way to do it.  This blog is going to be about fairy tales.  I have always loved stories that started “Once Upon a Time…” and in the last couple of years have written a couple of papers for my undergrad career about them.  I find them fascinating; especially how prominent they are within culture currently.

As I have done research for my papers I can’t help but find little known fairy tales that I have never heard of before, my current quirky favorite is “Catskin” by the Brothers’ Grimm (but that is a story for a different time).  What has held my attention lately is the musical renditions of Justin Bieber, NIki Manaj, and Taylor Swift.  No, I’m not some huge obsessed teen fan; merely a casual radio/music listener but when I heard “Beauty and the Beat” and “I Knew You Were Trouble,” I couldn’t help but chalk up another win for fairy tales in pop culture.  One of the last times I was driving around town I heard “Payphone” by Maroon 5, which states that, “All those fairy tales are full of it/One more stupid love song, I’ll be sick.” It was popular last year when it came out only reaching the number two spot on Billboards Top 100 List, but I digress.

Justin Bieber has created quite a fandom within the last few years.  His rise has caused many preteens to fall head over heals for him.  In his latest hit, he joins up with Niki Manaj in “Beauty and a Beat.”  Check out the video: 

The song is a clear spin off of the story Beauty and the Beast, though I’m uncertain who is considered the beauty or the beast in their collaboration. It seems that Bieber is the man of the hour calling on any young woman to fall in love with him or just some “eye candy” that he can take around the town. What’s interesting is that in the original tale neither Beauty or the Beast have this type of superficial-ness surrounding them. Instead Beauty is considered the kindest and most dear among her other sisters; the one who is humble and willing to do anything for her father. The lyrics, on the other hand, suggest that Bieber is looking at life with a more materialistic point of view, “I wanna show you all the finer things in life.” It does not seem that Bieber would willingly indenture his life; his life is more in line with the way that Beauty’s sisters live their lives – filled with parties, suitors, concerts, and other posh things.

This is not Bieber’s first dip into the land of fairy tales and music writing.  Earlier last year he collaborated with Jaden Smith in the song, “Fairytale” which is more about how much a girl “deserves her story book ending” as opposed to being a mere object that looks great dancing and is the “hottest ticket.”  It seems that Bieber has moved from wanting to treat women like a princess to objectifying them.

Taylor Swift, like Bieber, is no foreigner land of fairy tale references in her music. Three years ago the radio heard, “Today Was a Fairytale” which a simple love can be as great as a fairy tale. Swift’s new hit song could not be further from a fairy tale, though she starts off with those familiar words of “Once upon a time.” Instead we get more of the antithesis, what a fairy tale romance should not be: 

Swift has become ever popular for writing songs that are all along similar themes, love and heartache. “I Knew You Were Trouble” is a song along the lines of heartache as a opposed to love, the girl falls in love with a guy she should never have been with in the first place.  It sounds much like Hans Christian Andersen’s original telling of “The Little Mermaid.” In this tale the youngest mermaid because obsessed with a human, someone she should never end up with.  Unlike Disney’s version, this little mermaid doesn’t end up with her love (because she is unwilling to kill his princess in order to become a mermaid again); instead, she becomes sea foam.

It’s amazing to see how fairy tales have influenced our culture; intertwining with aspects that I’ve never even thought of before.  A year ago I would have never noticed some of the most popular songs on “The Hot 100” hint towards something reminiscent of childhood, fairy tales, dreaming, royalty. Fairy tales have found their way out of people’s pasts and have become a part of people’s current lives, music is just the beginning.