Read Sound of Pen’s essay about Maggie Lindemann’s ‘SUCKERPUNCH’ and fuel your own investigations into the literature of love.
- MUSIC FOCUS: Maggie Lindemann.
- ACTIVITY FOCUS: Read our essay. The ideas about Maggie Lindemann’s music are so relevant to the love stories you’re studying in the English classroom.
How does Maggie Lindemann present ideas about love on her ‘SUCKERPUNCH’ album?
There’s nothing more intoxicating than the idea of falling in love: after all these years, the rain will stop being a nuisance and instead become the perfect backdrop for your whirlwind romance; at last, you will be a complete person; finally the idea of dying will seem less like the end of everything and more like a completely appropriate metaphor for your everlasting devotion.
None of the above, however, feels relevant to Maggie Lindemann’s ‘SUCKERPUNCH’. For the Texan singer, the experience of being in a relationship has very little to do with the notions on sale in The Notebook and more to do with the agonising struggles that make up the narrative of The Revenant! In a world where people love nothing more than a fairytale ending, ‘SUCKERPUNCH’ serves as something of a reality check.
Essentially, Maggie Lindemann presents love as a fight. Listen to when she sings about being treated: “like a game” on ‘phases‘. The simile underlines the conflict inherent in the singer’s relationship with her lover. Games require participants to compete against each other, and even if the competition is light-hearted, that hardly makes it any better! Rather, it suggests that Lindemann’s partner is with her simply for the amusement and fun she offers. Plus, of course, there’s the reality that games always end pretty quickly. Things get worse for Lindemann on ‘you’re not special‘. “You stick your knife right through me,” she sings. She isn’t just being played with by her partner – she’s being hurt by them. The “through” preposition underlines how significant the resulting damage must be. The “knife” has been pushed with significant force and the wound will need serious attention. And it’s not as if the “knife” attack is a one-off. On ‘break me‘, Lindemann’s use of that word: “Every” (“Every time you try to break me, I feel my heart decaying”) creates the clear sense that this kind of abuse is a permanent presence within this relationship. No wonder she sounds furious. She’s not being loved, she’s being attacked! The pain of the experience is clear in the “ow” sound: “Every time you try to break me down / Dow-ow-ow-own / Dow-ow-ow-own / Dow-ow-ow-own.” Love clearly feels like a battle and by repeating that “ow” phoneme over and over, Lindemann articulates the pain that comes along with being with someone who makes a relationship feel: “like (a) fight club” (‘she knows it‘). The image is striking, especially given the idea that fight clubs were created by – and for – men who couldn’t find a way to express their mental struggles in less dangerous ways. Here, then, we get a clear picture of how Maggie Lindemann’s partner’s issues have become such a dominating force within her own life (just as they were for Marla Singer in Chuck Palahniuk’s era-defining novel). “I’m the casualty of your dreams,” she says – and this absolutely makes clear her position as a victim within this relationship – and also within society as a whole. The illusion that romantic love is bigger and better than it possibly can be is sold to us from the moment we’re born. Lindemann’s metaphor highlights how her partner’s own expectations of love – and of her – were just too impossible. On ‘hear me out‘, Lindemann notes that she’s: “just a rag doll on your shelf.” She’s an ornament, expected to always look perfect and play the part Disney and co. helped to define for her. The fact that Lindemann won’t play this part is to her credit, but the result is the song, ‘i’m so lonely with you‘, and the lyric: “the room is getting colder.” We know that a warm room symbolises a happy home. Sadly, when being in love turns out to be the same as being in a fight, the happy home evaporates.
And so love becomes about survival. First of all, Lindemann tries fighting back. On ‘self sabotage‘, she sings: “Hurt you for no reason, I won’t call you back / Then I break you into pieces so I don’t get attached / Get so caught up in my feelings, float until we crash.” The fricative alliteration hints at the frustration that’s been building up inside her – and it’s that frustration which serves as the catalyst for the fierce way in which she now acts. The “float” metaphor is indicative of the freedom Lindemann should be able to enjoy, and she wants to fight for that feeling of liberation – and not give in again to what, up to this point, has felt like the inevitable relationship “crash”. The rage she feels as a result of having to shift her outlook and behaviour is evident in those harsher ‘c’ (“caught” & “crash”) sounds, as well as in the rhetorical question: “Whatever happened to the girl next door?” She is the girl next door, and she changed because she had to; the expectations of that invented ‘girl next door‘ stereotype were too restrictive and too impossible. And so, on ‘novocaine‘, she says she’s: “So done with feeling low.” The experience of love has become such a negative one and that idea of “feeling low” has connotations of being reduced and somehow lesser. No wonder Maggie Lindemann is trying to change things up. Not that she can move past her romantic feelings completely. Underneath the notion of love as a fight is the idea, also, that it’s a permanent condition. Which is why she still keeps her lover’s “sweater at the back of (her) drawer” (‘we never even dated‘). The sweater symbolised the warmth she craved from a relationship, the comfort, the layer of protection – but it also came to be a prop she relied on in that cold room referenced earlier. And so she puts the jumper in a drawer – and she gets out of that room! “Lions aren’t meant for cages,” she reasons and it’s interesting that, in this image, she positions herself as the metaphorical lion. For too long, the lion has signified male power, male courage, male leadership – but in one quick swoop, Lindemann claims those qualities for herself – and, more widely, for women. She may have been, “Up against the undertow” (‘take me nowhere‘) of gender inequality, unrealistic expectations and all those other things that make love less sugary – for women, at least – than the movies suggest, but now she’s fighting back.
By the end of ‘SUCKERPUNCH’, then, we can see that love is presented – at first – as a fight with a partner, a wrestling match with someone who’s holding Lindemann accountable to a set of unreasonable standards. By the end of the record, though, the indefatigable Maggie Lindemann has engaged in a different battle – a battle with the underlying prejudices and Disneyfied ideals that defined those standards in the first place. Win that second battle and perhaps everyone can start to forget about the eighth and final Fight Club rule. Maybe one day – even if it is your first time at Fight Club (i.e. your first time in love) – you WON’T have to fight at all.
Now see how easily you can use the main ideas from the essay above in an essay about how love is presented in ‘Othello’, ‘The Great Gatsby’ or any of the texts you’re studying at school. Replace the purple sections below with details appropriate to the text you want to write about, then pick and analyse three quotes to support each of the core ideas in orange. Essentially, copy out the orange sections below and then insert your own ideas wherever there is purple text.
Essentially (insert your course author/poet/playwright’s name here) presents love as a fight. Look at when they write that: (insert quote and analyse the techniques that emphasise the idea of love as a fight). Also, (insert your course author/poet/playwright’s name here) notes: (insert a second quote and analyse the techniques that emphasise the idea of love as a fight). The same point is underlined by the line: (insert quote and analyse the techniques that emphasise the idea of love as a fight). Sadly, when being in love turns out to be the same as being in a fight (summarise the results of love actually being a fight).
And so love becomes about survival. Look at how this is shown when (insert your course author/poet/playwright’s name here) writes that: (insert quote and analyse the techniques that emphasise the idea of survival as more of a priority than love). Also, (insert your course author/poet/playwright’s name here) notes: (insert a second quote and analyse the techniques that emphasise the idea of survival as more of a priority than love). The same point is underlined by the line: (insert quote and analyse the techniques that emphasise the idea of survival as more of a priority than love).
Do send your essays (or questions) in. We want to publish the most exciting writing and offer advice.
Watch this interview with Maggie Lindemann. And also this one!
You might also want to check out this much-missed, much underrated band – named after Fight Club’s very own Marla Singer.