Two Barenaked Ladies Slideshows about Mental Illness

[Previously posted–in slightly different form–on my Unofficial: Barenaked Ladies Facebook fan page.]  I am a little hesitant about putting this up, partly because I am very aware that I have consciously skewed the more or less straightforward meaning of this absolutely breathtaking song. The vast majority of the time, I try to be true to what seems to be the songwriter’s intent, and I realize I am opening myself up to very justifiable criticism by creating a visual context that actually alters this meaning (I certainly have sometimes criticized movies for not being faithful to their source, although much less so these days than in the past). I have done this in other slideshows a few times (Warren Zevon’s “They Moved the Moon” and Loudon Wainwright III’s “Unhappy Anniversary” come to mind), but it’s really the exception rather than the rule. The other reason for my hesitancy really has to do with how I altered the meaning, essentially taking a love song (albeit one with some darkly evocative undercurrents) and making it into a song about mental illness, specifically bipolar disorder. Although I do not have this particular mental problem myself (yeah, I have others), I have known people who do, with the illness often manifesting in the late teens or early twenties. I hope the slideshow expresses empathy, if not always tact, and an understanding of the kind of pain and suffering that often seems to be beyond the victim’s control. I am certain I decided to take this approach in part because of last week’s “A Different Sort of Solitude” slideshow, which meant doing a little research about Steven and why he left BNL. He has said, apparently, he suffers from this condition, although I don’t know if that is a self-diagnosis or one made by a medical professional. Given my past experience with people who were bipolar, I suddenly began to see his leaving the group, this song, and especially the relationship between Steven and Ed, in a new light, and this slideshow is the first of the results of that.

 

This is a pretty direct followup to “What a Good Boy.” In fact, it makes explicit the idea I only implied in the earlier one, which is that you could interpret the song as being about Ed and Steven’s relationship. Ed has apparently said that he wrote the song below at least in part with Steven’s departure in mind, so I don’t think I am really bringing any thing to the song that isn’t there. Frankly, back when I first heard the song, which I immediately liked, I actually thought it was written from a parent to a child–it’s only very recently that I came to realize that it could be construed to be about relationships within the group. In some ways, if “What a Good Boy” gives you an inside perspective on being bipolar, “You Run Away” gives you an outside perspective, the perspective of those having to deal with the bipolar person. Having heard BNL’s new song, “Canada Dry” (its been officially released on YouTube now) which will be on their next album, I realize that it is a subject that continues to be on Ed’s mind (it’s also a fantastic song). I realize this is a sensitive subject for some BNL fans, with some people blaming one or the other of the parties involved, but I actually mean what I say at the slideshow’s end. All the best to all.

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