Spenny’s 10: Friend Edition

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The last one of these I did was a little on the serious side, so I thought I’d cheese it up with this edition, and dedicate it to a topic we all hold close to heart… friendship <3.

 

Friends – Flight of the Conchords

The word “friend”, like most words, is tricky to define. What’s the line between friend and acquaintance? What does a friend do that separates him/her from the pack? How do you know if someone truly is your friend? Thankfully, Flight of the Conchords are here to help! Throughout this song- aptly titled “Friends”- they provide example after example of the type of behaviour that characterizes a friend. First they identify the basic features, like the fact that “friends do things together” and “friends are people who are not strangers”. After this groundwork is laid, they quickly move on to the more telling signs of friendship. The behaviour that only an A1 friend would exhibit. One such example is that when your friend is struck by a truck, it is your duty to scrape them up and reconstruct them. Another example is that when your friend is murdered you must find the killer and avenge your friend. These are, without a doubt, the actions of a true friend. If you don’t think your “friends” would go to these lengths then it might be time to redefine your relationship to them.

 

Old Friends – Simon & Garfunkel

Paul Simon paints a picture of two old men sitting on a park bench waiting for the sun to set- the sunset no doubt symbolizing their own lives. It is a beautiful, but sad, song. All the friends have left are each other and the memories they share. To share a memory is a beautiful thing- especially when one has someone whom they have shared a lifetime of memories with- it allows one to live in a bygone moment. For these old friends though, the act of reminiscing is tinged with melancholy because they no longer have the ability to create new memories, they can only recount past ones.

 

How Can a Man With So Many Friends Feel So Alone – Eagles of Death Metal

As a member of multiple successful rock groups (Queens of the Stone Age, Eagles of Death Metal, Them Crooked Vultures) Josh Homme undoubtedly meets a ton of people and makes a lot of “friends”. For Josh, knowing a lot of people does not mean he has a lot of people to turn to. He is scared of being alone. He doesn’t know if his friends will be there for him, or if he will lose them, and this scares the shit out of him. Friendships are often precarious, shallow, and fleeting. They come and go with the changing of the season. Josh is projecting a fear that many people have; the feeling that one’s friends aren’t really there for them and that they won’t be there for them when they need them.

 

With a Little Help From My Friends – The Beatles

Ringo doesn’t share Josh Homme’s anxiety surrounding his friends. When asked if it “[worries him] to be alone”, he answers with a resounding, “No, I get by with a little help from my friends”. He is confident that his friends will be there for him in his time of need. Whether he needs to get by, get high, or try, his friends will help him.

 

No New Friends ft. Drake, Rick Ross, and Lil Wayne – DJ Khaled

True friends are hard to come by. Often it is difficult to differentiate between someone who is genuinely friendly and someone who is only friendly because he or she wants something from you. Drake is well aware of this fact, and because of this, he has decided to leave the friendship game. His friends that he grew up with- from day one- are all he needs to make it through life. Trust is a hard thing to come by for Drake (see: Trust Issues https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wqr2L6HXm8w). When you grow up with someone, you grow together, and a level of trust is achieved that is difficult to develop later in life. Drake isn’t interested in developing new relationships because he is skeptical that he will ever reach the same level of trust with a new friend that he has with his day ones. So, unless you’ve ridden with Drake since day one, don’t expect a response to that twitter message you sent him anytime soon.

 

Best of Friends – Palma Violets

Palma Violets have a problem: girls keep coming up to them wanting a relationship, when all Palma Violets want is to be friends. In popular culture this is referred to as getting “friend zoned”. The friend zone may not seem like a great place to be zoned to, but it is often a necessary move on behalf of the zoner.  Friendships are frequently ruined through zoning miscommunication. One friend misinterprets the relationship and mistakenly believes that he or she has the potential to transfer into a more-than-friends zone. When this is the case it is ultimately best, for both parties, if zoning is clarified and the friend is placed back in his or her appropriate zone (the friend zone). Palma Violets have made this awkward interaction a little easier; when you need to friend zone someone simply play him or her this song; they’ll understand.

 

We’re Just Friends – Wilco

The way Jeff Tweedy sings “we’re just friends” reads like a sigh, a resignation. He is frustrated with his situation, he’s frustrated that he’s “just friends”. Tweedy is trapped in some sort of friend zone*. He feels so strongly for this person that he “can’t imagine even being apart” from them, but at the same time he longs for something more than friendship. This song serves as a reminder that there are limitations on the utility of a friendship. There are certain things one longs for that a friend cannot provide. This is when someone goes from being a friend to “just” a friend.

 

* For definition of friend zone see previous song

 

Waiting On A Friend – The Rolling Stones

Like a previous song on this list, by the oft-compared band The Beatles, The Rolling Stones have written an ode to friendship. Mick Jagger sings with passion about the importance of his friends. He explains that he doesn’t need sex, drugs, or religion; all he needs are friends he can confide in. I don’t really believe him (at least not about the sex and drugs), but I do believe that having friends you can be real with is immensely important, even to a rock star like the Jagg.

 

Dead Friend – Against Me!

As you can probably guess from the title, this isn’t the happiest “friend” song on the list. Laura Jane Grace recalls a young friend of hers (26 years old), who has died, and all the heartache that accompanied the experience. Laura evokes the finality of her friend’s death with the first line of the song, “[you] needn’t worry about tomorrow anymore, because you’re dead”. The message is blunt and to the point: death sucks. It sucks for the person who’s died and it sucks for the people who are left behind. For Laura, the death of her friend leaves a void that cannot be filled. It is a void that she shares with all the other people who knew her friend. In this way the death becomes a communal experience. The death of a friend brings the surviving friends together in a weird and sad, but necessary, way.

 

We’re Going to Be Friends – The White Stripes

There’s a certain pureness that accompanies being a child. Jack White taps into this pureness by profiling two young kids’ first day of school. The two kids walk to school, collect bugs, and learn the alphabet together. When you’re in grade one, this is the kind of stuff that friendships consist of. It’s a time when living beside someone automatically makes you friends, because logistics are the only factor that limit you from being friends with everyone. It’s a nice song and a nice sentiment. Friendships become more complicated as we grow up, but at our core, we all just want someone to walk to school with.

 

And just like that, we’re done! The topic of friendship turned out to be a little bit more serious than I anticipated, but at least we ended it off with a palatably cheesy song. This batch of songs exemplified how many different kinds of friendship exist and how a friend can mean many different things to different people depending on the context. In all contexts though, the immortal words of The Flight of the Conchords ring true: “friends are people who are not strangers”. A friendship is, at its core, a link to another human being, the discovery of someone outside oneself. Keeping that in mind, I would like to bring this week to a close with a quote from the late great C.S. Lewis,  “Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art… It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things that give value to survival.” – C.S. Lewis

Join me next time I decide to do this, when I pick another word and talk about songs connected to it!

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