The Crystals, “He Hit Me (It Felt Like A Kiss)”Though intended by writers Gerry Goffin and Carole King as a sympathetic story—inspired by their onetime babysitter, pop singer Little Eva—about an abusive relationship, 1962’s “He Hit Me (It Felt Like A Kiss)” was largely perceived as an endorsement of domestic abuse.
To be fair, the lyrics do seem to glorify the relationship, as a woman exults in her lover’s reaction to her infidelity: “If he didn’t care for me / I could have never made him mad / But he hit me, and I was glad.” Music spookily arranged and produced by—you guessed it—Phil Spector. Bessie Smith, “Outside Of That”Blues legend Bessie Smith beat The Crystals to that sentiment by decades: Her 1923 song “Outside Of That” writes off her lover’s abuse as just one minor sticking point in their relationship. heartless and also cruel,” she’s so swept up in their passionate love life that she’s willing to forgive him his bouts of violence. When she tells him, “for fun,” that she’s leaving him, he blackens both her eyes, blinding her, then pawns everything he ever gave her…
In this case, it’s a scared, miserable kid singing about his dad (“‘Father’ is a name you haven’t earned yet”) repeatedly getting drunk and beating his mom (“She’s just a woman… “Goodbye, Earl” follows the exploits of best friends Mary Anne and Wanda as they plot the death of Wanda’s abusive husband Earl, who, after Wanda files for divorce, “walked right through that restraining order / and put her in intensive care.” (Dixie Chicks lead singer Natalie Maines delivers the line “It didn’t take ’em long to decide that Earl had to die” with particular glee.) Once Earl is poisoned by black-eyed peas, wrapped in a tarp, and dumped in a lake to rot, the police swiftly abandon the case, since Earl is “a missing person who nobody missed at all.” Taking the black humor of the song one step further, the celebrity-laden video features Dennis Franz as the mulleted Earl, who posthumously reappears as a dancing corpse. Miranda Lambert, “Gunpowder & Lead”Miranda Lambert updates the country tradition of female revenge songs by throwing in a dash of braggadocio.“His fist is big, but my gun’s bigger,” she sings, bridging the gap between self-defense and schoolyard taunt.“He’ll find out when I pull the trigger.” Like the other songs on Lambert’s Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, “Gunpowder & Lead” presents her as a kick-ass chick with a hair-trigger temper—definitely not the type an abusive man should come home to when he makes bail.Whether that shot gets fired at his hide or in the air, chances are he’ll get the message. Martina Mc Bride, “Independence Day”Marrying patriotism and pre-emptive strike, Martina Mc Bride’s 1994 hit is narrated by an 8-year-old girl whose mother burns down the family house with her husband still in it.Although subdued by the gun-ho standards of “Gunpowder & Lead” or “Goodbye Earl,” “Independence Day” (written by Gretchen Peters) lands some solid blows, particularly in its condemnation of a community that let the abuse continue unchecked.
“Some folks whispered, some folks talked / but everybody looked the other way,” Mc Bride sings.Trying to head off controversy, the video made clear that the woman perished in the blaze she set, whereas the song leaves her fate open.Evidently it’s all right for women to fight back, but only if they take themselves out as well. Antony And The Johnsons, “Fistful Of Love”Much of Antony And The Johnsons’ I Am A Bird Now revolves around finding pleasure in pain and unearthing profound beauty from overpowering ugliness.As the record’s centerpiece, the doo-wop-inspired “Fistful Of Love” takes that concept to its fiery apotheosis.Following a spoken-word intro from the patron saint of rock taboo, Lou Reed, frontman Antony Hegarty paints a picture of a romance where one party speaks with words and the other with fists.As the song builds to a rapturous conclusion, Hegarty’s fluttering vibrato conveys the truth that not every scar (metaphorical or otherwise) is left with malicious intent. Cheap Trick, “The House Is Rockin’ (With Domestic Problems)”The whole joke of this Dream Police track is summed up in the title: Over one of Rick Nielsen’s simple yet twisty guitar riffs, Cheap Trick belts out what almost sounds like a celebration of a couple’s blowout fight and the “heavy, heavy, heavy troubles” that cause it.