We’re breaking the ru-ules! Sin and Miley Cyrus

The other day I heard some students behind me laughing and chanting “we’re breaking the ru-ules!” in that desperate, nervous tone that says “I totally wouldn’t be doing this if it wasn’t against the rules. I don’t even like this. I’m only doing this to spite you!” I’m not sure what they were actually doing. I think they were climbing on a staircase they had been told to avoid. The next moment, their teacher was redirecting them back to class. Why did they do it? Why does anyone do things they dislike simply because they were told not to?

Something in the tone of these kids’ voices reminded me of a song I’d heard earlier in the year. I was assigned to a student in a general ed gym class. They always played the latest pop songs over the PA, carefully adjusted to junior varsity regulation distortion. Above the squeak of shoes and the smack of over zealously dribbled basketballs, I kept hearing this one song that just sounded wrong. You could tell from the slow tempo, the minor chord progression and especially from the desperate tone of the singer that this was definitely a song about loss, despair, bitterness… It had to be a breakup song. But I caught a few words here and there despite the ubiquitous adolescent sounds. “La da dee da dee, we like to party / dancing with Miley, doing whatever we want!”

Was this heavy, dark, desperate plea for recognition really a party song? Where was the upbeat tempo that makes you want to move your feet? Where was the heavy back beat that makes you want to move your hips? Where was the seductive voice that makes you want to lose yourself in the ecstasy of dance?

In this song, the singer is forcing herself to enjoy something she clearly hates. Everyone has come to her house to “have so much fun now,” despite an obvious tinge of sadness. In spite of the nervous waver in her voice, she asserts that “this is our house / this is our rules.” She asserts her authority over nature: “We run things, Things don’t run we / We don’t take nothing from nobody.” She defies the standards of poetic verse, writing lines that don’t scan. Why be bothered with the rules of grammar when “it’s we who own the night / Can’t you see it we who bout’ that life?”

The partygoers refuse to go home, to return to their lives. They own this place and they’ll kiss who they want, see who they want, love who they want. They get in line for the bathroom not to relieve themselves but to “get a line in the bathroom,” recklessly defying that line’s ability to draw them in and ensnare them. They deny the sway of social norms because “only God can judge ya.”

And yet they’re condemned by their actions, regardless of their intentions. The next day, their party will be over but the effects of the “Red cups and sweaty bodies” will remain. They may freely choose to drink; they may not choose to avoid a hangover. They may freely choose to do drugs in the bathroom; they may not choose to avoid addiction. They may freely choose to love who they want; they may not choose to avoid the risk of disease and the responsibility of pregnancy.

We often have a simplistic and childish view of sin. We think that being “naughty” really feels good and anyone who says otherwise is just a prude. In reality there’s an order to nature and any time we violate that order we meet with suffering. No matter how desperately you scream “we’re having fun!” you can’t change the reality of sin. Actions have consequences, regardless of our intentions. You might think I am being a “hater” when I tell you not to get in that line for the bathroom, but I’m not in charge of natural consequences, they just happen.

This song is very important. The tone, so out of sync with the message of mindless partying, shows the sadness of sin in a way most party songs don’t. Most party songs present a compelling and attractive view of immoral acts. These songs can be dangerous, they distort the truth, tricking you into thinking there’s no real harm in sin. But this song undermines these distortions. In this song, the facade of glamour is so paper-thin it reveals the intimate anatomy of evil in all its ugliness. The professions of power are unraveled by the vibrato of conscious self-contradiction. The affirmations of happiness culminate in a final extended “yeah!” in which we can clearly hear the cry of a soul seeking the freedom it has lost. The song’s title reveals the real message: the partygoers “CAN’T stop,” they have lost the ability to make that choice.

Sin isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. You think it’s going to be so fun; you’re going to run up those forbidden stairs yelling “I’m breaking the ru-ules!” and you will show everyone how free you are, how much you are in control of your own destiny. But in the end, not only is it not fun, but you end up with less freedom. I might wish it wasn’t like that; if I had my way I’d probably just let you walk on those stupid stairs of yours, but I’m not in charge. Like the song says “remember only God can judge ya.”

Miley Cyrus – We Can’t Stop
Lyrics
(Source: directlyrics.com)
It’s our party we can do what we want
It’s our party we can say what we want
It’s our party we can love who we want
We can kiss who we want
We can see who we want (2x)
Red cups and sweaty bodies everywhere
Hands in the air like we don’t care
Cause we came to have so much fun now
Bet somebody here might get some now
If you’re not ready to go home
Can I get a hell no
Cause we gonna go all night
Till we see the sunlight alright
So la da di da di, we like to party
Dancing with Miley
Doing whatever we want
This is our house
This is our rules
And we can’t stop
And we won’t stop
Can’t you see it’s we who own the night
Can’t you see it we who bout’ that life
And we can’t stop
And we won’t stop
We run things, Things don’t run we
We don’t take nothing from nobody
It’s our party we can do what we want
It’s our party we can say what we want
It’s our party we can love who we want
We can kiss who we want
We can see who we want
To my home girls here with the big butt
Shaking it like we at a strip club
Remember only God can judge ya
Forget the haters cause somebody loves ya
And everyone in line in the bathroom
Trying to get a line in the bathroom
We all so turned up here
Getting turned up, yeah, yeah
So la da di da di, we like to party
Dancing with Miley
Doing whatever we want
This is our house
This is our rules
And we can’t stop
And we won’t stop
Can’t you see it’s we who own the night
Can’t you see it we who bout’ that life
And we can’t stop
And we won’t stop
We run things
Things don’t run we
We don’t take nothing from nobody
It’s our party we can do what we want
It’s our party we can say what we want
It’s our party we can love who we want
We can kiss who we want
We can see who we want
It’s our party we can do what we want to
It’s our house we can love who we want to
It’s our song we can sing if we want to
It’s my mouth I can say what I want to
Yea, Yea, Yeah
And we can’t stop
And we won’t stop
Can’t you see it’s we who own the night
Can’t you see it we who bout’ that life
And we can’t stop
And we won’t stop
We run things
Things don’t run we
We don’t take nothing from nobody
Yea, Yea, Yea

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One Response to We’re breaking the ru-ules! Sin and Miley Cyrus

  1. This morning I passed the same students. Their teacher was saying “you may WALK up and down the steps once.” Which they did. In my mind I thought “because of the hardness of your hearts, Ms. Johnson let you walk on the stairs, but from the beginning it was not so.”

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