Pearl Jam's "Jeremy": Why This Song Sucks
[Editor's note: Why This Song Sucks determines why particular tracks blow using science. It appears on West Coast Sound every Wednesday.]
Song: Pearl Jam's "Jeremy"
History: Pearl Jam was a band that people liked a whole lot in the early '90s but then tried to pretend otherwise when Kurt Cobain killed himself* and Eddie Vedder didn't. "Jeremy" was the third single from Ten, their debut album.
*This is ironic because "Jeremy," regarded as one of PJ's best-ever songs, is about how a kid who killed himself made the wrong** decision.
**Suicide is extra weak, yo. Eddie Vedder had that part right. He was wrong about basically everything else though. I mean, are you even looking at his hair in the video?
Historical aside: It took Pearl Jam fourteen years to make a video after they made the one for "Jeremy." I'm almost certain it had something to do with Vedder spending a significant portion of his time on camera for "Jeremy" trying to appear insane.
Atmospherics: Bluesy, predictable rifts; taut snares; Vedder's grumble-grumble growls.
"Oh, wait a sec. You mean if I kill myself then I'll be dead? Well fuck me. Suicide is bad. I had no idea. I guess I'd better not do it then. Thanks, Pearl Jam."
You know who said that? Nobody. BECAUSE EVERYONE KNEW THAT ALREADY.
You can argue that this song is visceral, sure; that seems reasonable enough. But "Jeremy" as scientifically valid? Nope. Its whole premise is something people already knew. It probably only took one guy killing himself before people were like, "Whoops. He probably shouldn't have done that."
I mean, sorry, Eddie, but it's like, do you know who the second person was to discover radium? Of course you don't. Because Marie Curie rocked the balls out of that discovery first. And you don't get shit in science for discovering something that's already been discovered, except maybe a dictionary so you can look up the definition of "discovery."
Plus, also troubling: the main character might've unraveled the whole thing anyway. The lyrics (and video and everyone on the planet) imply that Jeremy was the victim of bullying and an unstable home life, and that that's probably what drove him to kill himself. And that's a pretty terrible thing. The song talks about his dad not paying attention to him and his mom not being interested in him and his schoolmates picking at him, so on and so on.
But here's the first thing Vedder says about him, which gets glossed over:
"At home, drawing pictures of mountain tops with him on top, lemon yellow sun, arms raised in a V, dead lay in pools of maroon below."
Mountains? The sun? Making the letter V with his arms? Here's what that picture might look like:
That's hella weak, son. Maybe all of his problems spiral back to him just being a bad artist? I mean, this ain't a 5-year-old we're talking about. He's gotta step his picture game up. Check these out. I made these while listening to Digital Underground's "Humpty Dance" on replay.
That's a spot on picture of me -- I look EXACTLY like that -- eating a bottle, washing it down with blood from the noses and limbs of fallen henchmen from Road House. Total drawing time: 19 minutes. Total percentage of awesome: 100. Number of scenic mountains: 0.
Just me being a good dad, is all. No biggie.
There are two mentions of Jeremy's dad in "Jeremy." The first: "Daddy didn't give attention." The second: "Daddy didn't give affection."
I have two sons. My wife is pregnant with a third. Boys just fall out of her uterus whenever the fuck they feel like it. I know a thing or two about raising them. Dads have to make sons tough. It's in the manuscript. That's probably what Jeremy's dad was doing. This is a representation of what's going to happen to New Baby* Serrano about two hours after he arrives; super punch right to the sternum. And he'll probably grow up and be president.
*I've been trying to convince my wife to let me name this new baby Yolo Serrano. No go. I also wanted to name it Mixtape, but only for the duration of the pregnancy, that way I could be like, "YO! MIXTAPE DROPS THIS NOVEMBER!" Pretty much the best pregnancy-related idea I've ever had, I think.
Polar bears aren't on the endangered species list. Yet.
Here's a picture of me pulling the heart out of a polar bear's chest. (He was talking slick so I had to get him.) Jeremy should've maybe stayed away from drawing mountains and done more pictures of himself wrecking bears' shit. It's about a million times cooler. Plus, it's sciencey too; hearts, aortas, circulatory system, all that.
This is me just exercising a bit, doing some no-arm pushups with a U-Haul truck with boulders on it on my back, using wavelengths from my eyeballs to pick myself up. Again, these are all (basically) accurate. This one only took, like, maybe 40 minutes. No art classes either. Self taught. In your face, Jeremy.
Rest easy, planet Earth.
(I) Eddie Vedder makes a lot of noises, some of which are words, most of which are not.
(II) Marie Curie was an A-1 playa.
(III) Road House is aces.
(IV) Nobody told me when I was getting my college degree that I'd spend an hour drawing a picture of myself as a viking punching an alien dinosaur using Microsoft Paint.
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.