What Comes Around…

16 08 2017


Sixty years isn’t a long time for art to roll around on itself, unless of course you are a Hollywood film mogul. To compare and contrast the songs ‘I Want to be Evil,’ Earth Kitt 1954, and ‘Purple, Yellow, Red and Blue,’ Portugal, the Man 2013 doesn’t even take that much insight. Curious that no one else seems to have compared them though. Though it may be a better exercise to compare and contrast the videos, since technology has changed since Kitt’s video. Truthfully, with the expressive Kitt as the story teller, Portugal the Man’s video might over rely on tech to tell the story.

As a musician myself, I don’t interpret the use of evil here as an implication of hatred and warmongering, nor even as the opposite of live. Evil in the case of both these songs is used as societal critique. This might be a good time to point out another flipped word correspondence, that of Amor, meaning love, and Roma, meaning Rome and the home of the Vatican, perhaps the singular richest and longest standing religious institution which remains today. Not of course that money, power and cultural dominance over nations lead to profiteering, genocide, or establishment of a military industrial complex entrenched in global economics.

BAM! Eartha comes out swinging in this incredibly ‘diabolical’ critique. ‘I’ve posed for pictures with Iv’ry Soap.’ From a mixed race person most likely descended from slaves, using the companies name brings to mind the ’99 44⁄100% Pure’ slogan.  Beauty then, is not limited to purity. Interestingly, according to the lyrics, she has overcome most of the socio-economic struggles one might think she would have experienced in those days. Then again, considering that what is touted as evil in the song may be the types of things that a common well behaved middle class woman may well want to do on occasion (read assert ones self,) it may be that the humor of the time would accept a mulatto woman singing about the evil of stepping on toes and playing pool.

As it so happens, ‘Purple, Yellow, Red and Blue,’ is a true artistic inheritance of the song. ‘But I can’t focus feeling hopeless So I’ll just sit back, try to look mean,’ parallels what feelings artists writing their own songs in the 50’s may have experienced. Being creative in a cash rich nepotistic industry only works if you are already on the inside. Since the entertainment industry ‘then’ contained the ‘seeds’ of today’s entertainment industry, the words in the next verse aren’t mind blowing, but point of fact. ‘When I grow up I wanna be A rich-kid born celebrity It’s not greed, but necessity.’

The stronger similarities of course being the phrases  ‘I wanna be evil,’ and ‘I just wanna be evil,’ emphasizing that instinctual behavior though perhaps not appropriate socially, will in fact assert boundaries that can not be disputed. Remembering that information is power, be careful with your evil love. Don’t go all Roma on people, we already have enough of that running around the universe.