Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Top 11 Creepy Stalker Songs of All Time

When we think about heaven and hell, most of us presume that they are as different as any two things could possibly be. Yet what is often missed in this overly facile evaluation is just how frequently one is mistaken for the other. After all, who would Satan deceive if he simply appeared in all his "gory"? You need look no further than love ballads in order to encounter this strange phenomenon. Who among us has never had the experience of singing a beautifully crafted romantic song only to realize that there is something a little (or a lot) off about the lyrics? Obviously there are quite a few songs that could fit into this category, but in this particular list I wish to focus principally on the phenomenon of stalking. All of these are "stalker songs" to one degree or another, but some are more "stalky" than others. Indeed, while not every song is about a creeper per se, what each demonstrates is that sometimes there is a very fine line between a romance and a restraining order, between the passionate unblinking gaze of a lover, and the unblinking gaze of a surveillance camera.

11. I Can't Stay Away From You  - Gloria Estefan

Not technically a song about stalking, it nevertheless possesses many of the same characteristics; "Anything for you, though you're not here. Since you've said we're through, it seems like years...I can pretend each time I see you, that I don't care and I don't need, and though you'll never see me cryin', you know inside I feel like dyin'... I hope you find someone to please you, someone who cares and never leaves you. But if that someone ever hurts you, you just might need a friend to turn to..." Within a few lines she seems to have accepted her fate, and then the next moment she's plotting how she can get back into the picture. I'm baaaaack! Both the monster in the horror flick and the stalker have an incredibly terrifying way of coming back from the dead. Not exactly the type of rational consistent thinking that you're looking for in a lady. In the song I Can't Stay Away From You (same song, different title; which is another sign of obsession, disguises and repetition); "Look over your shoulder/ I'll be there. You can count on me to say. But I can't stay away from you/ I don't want to let you go/ And though it's killing me that's true/ There's just some things I can't control... I know you're telling me the truth/ I know it's just no use/ But I can't stay away from you..." You'd better stay away from me, woman, or I'm calling 5-0! A little advice for men and women who want to win back a love: you don't do it by desperately pleading with them to love you! These people remind me of the Jim Carrey character in the movie Dumb and Dumber, especially when he asks the Lauren Holly character if there is a chance that they might get together. She responds by saying that there is about a one and a million chance that this could happen. To this rhetorical face palm, he replies enthusiastically; "So you're telling me there's a chance..." When it comes to groveling and begging people to love you, a "one in million" chance is proabably far too generous an estimation. Indeed, once you have that smell of desperation about you, it is quite difficult to get the stench of loser off of you. Moreover, Ms. Estefan describes the man's disaffection for her as something which is "killing her", and then she also adds that "inside she feels like dying". And though she doesn't mention suicide per se, the fact that she twice resorts to mentioning death could suggest some form of emotional blackmail, which is always part and parcel of the stalker's play book.

10. I Found Out About You - The Gin Blossoms

This particular song is about the profound humiliation that one feels, not only when one is cheated on, but when one discovers that they are the last to know. Understandably, this can create all sorts of conspiracy theories in the mind of the one who is prone to stalking. As it relates to the subject here, the one who was cheated on has no doubt spent a considerable amount of time imagining how this deception went down; "Whispers at the bus stop/ Nights out in the school yard/ I found out about you..." The last verse in the song is a veritable compendium of what a stalker might do (and think) when once he finds himself on the outside of a relationship (incidentally, no matter what the circumstances, the stalker always believes himself to be on the outside of things, which is why he/she can't ever be in a lasting relationship). "Street lights blink on through the car window/I hear the time too often on an AM radio/ Well, you know it's all I think about/ I write your name/ Drive past your house. Your boyfriend's over/ I watch the lights go out..." In spite of the fact that the ideas in this final verse seem more or less inchoate, they make a certain poetic sense when placed in the psyche of the stalker who is going out of his mind with jealousy. Another common characteristic of the stalker is a kind of repetitive childish narcissism (viz. "I write your name/ Drive past your house"). Indeed, it is somewhat reminiscent of the scene in the movie The Shining where the lead character, played by Jack Nicholson, also seems unwilling, or rather unable to let go of certain repetitive tendencies (see above).

9. Maniac - Michael Sembello

Taken from the soundtrack to the movie Flashdance, this song was in fact originally about a stalker; "He's a maniac, maniac that's for sure/He will kill your cat and nail him to the door." The subject matter of the song was inspired by a movie of the same title, which was about a killer in New York City who stalked his victims. However, when he received an offer to appear on the soundtrack of the movie, they were more than happy to change the stalking maniac into a dancing one; "It can cut you like a knife (I wonder what this originally related to?), if the gift becomes the fire. On a wire between will and what will be. She's a maniac, maniac on the floor, and she's dancing like she's never danced before." What is most fascinating to me is the fact that you can turn a song about a serial killer who stalks his victims into a song about a young woman who is wildly passionate about dancing without ever changing the title and only slightly altering the songs lyrics. Perhaps there is some lesson to be learned here about how the only thing that really separates a success story and a serial killer is the end to which they channel their "maniacal" passions.

8. Eye in the Sky - The Alan Parsons Project        

One of the classic science fiction metaphors for government surveillance is the so called "eye in the sky". An idea inspired originally by the totalitarian state as described in the novel 1984, this all-seeing surveillance device keeps everybody in check and prevents the citizens from behaving in any way that would undermine the public order (or at least as the state defines it). In essence this all-seeing eye becomes a rather grandiose Peeping Tom, which "...Sees you when you're sleeping/ Knows when you're awake/ Knows when you've been bad or good/ So be good for the sake of the State." When applied on the state level it becomes a kind of substitute for God. When applied on the individual level, as in this song, it becomes the Mini-me version of an all-seeing eye; "I am the eye in the sky, looking at you/ I can read your mind/ I am the maker of rules/ Dealing with fools/ I can cheat you blind." God complex, anyone? Obviously it is terrifying to imagine that someone is watching you even while you are alone and/or unaware of it (what would horror movies be without such a premise), but even more terrifying is the notion that even your secret thoughts are no longer private, and that someone villainous "can read your mind". It is bad enough to have a stalker following you everywhere, but how about a stalker with the power of being able to invade the most intimate part of yourself? The stalker is all about control, and so whatever he can use to bring his victim under it, he will no doubt exploit. After all, he is, at least according to his lights, the "maker of rules."      

7. Into the Night - Benny Mardones

There is a distinct difference between a romantic song like "Someone To Watch Over Me" and the songs that appear on this list. Some may look at the title and argue that it amounts to the same thing, but look a little deeper and observe just how far apart they really are. The first involves an invitation on the part of a "little lamb that's lost in the woods", not to be spied on by an unwelcome visitor, but one that is based on a desire for intimacy. A true romance does not seek to take advantage of a perceived vulnerability in another individual. To the contrary, it seeks to safeguard it. Sometimes, however, it is not so simple to distinguish the one from the other. Once upon a time if someone wanted to kidnap a young child, you offered them candy; but in our day and age, candy has gone viral. For example, a show like To Catch a Predator highlights just how easily young girls (and boys) can be manipulated into putting themselves into dangerous situations via internet relationships. Likewise, this little gem written by Benny Mardones seems to offer a similar scenario. Lyrics like this just goes to prove that as long as they comes with a pleasant tune, it really doesn't matter what you say. "La La La... statutory rape... La La La... kidnap the girl from her parents house while they're sleeping." Ah, the sweet hint of first love! "She's just sixteen years old, leave her alone they say/ Separated by fools who don't know what love's about... If I could fly/ I'd pick you up and take you into the night and show you a love like you've never seen... It's like having a dream where nobody has a heart..." I do apologize to you, Mr. Mardones for the heartless and ruthless laws that exist on the books to prevent older men like you from whisking away younger impressionable girls back to your lair. Maybe one day soon the state will grow a heart and finally give your sacred romance the go-ahead, but for now you must wait in agony for a few years until she is legal before you can, like a bird of prey, "lift her up into the night". The question is, will the relationship be as interesting for you when there is no danger involved?      

6. Sweet Caroline - Neil Diamond

If you are ever looking for a little insta-karaoke, all you need to do is crank up a little "Sweet Caroline" in the middle of a crowded room and then the next thing you know out of nowhere people will put their arms around each other and start belting out "BA BA BA" at various intervals. At some point in the last decade or so this song has turned into an anthem of sorts, one in which people feel no qualms at all about singing along together like some kind of unexpected flash mob. Nevertheless, if I were to change the words in such a way so as to accurately depict from whence the orginal inspiration came, you might get a slightly different reaction; "Where it begin/ I was watching TV one day/ And I saw Caroline Kennedy's 11 year-old daughter there. And for whatever reason/ I got inspired to write a love song about her/ Now I've just ruined the song for good. Warm, touchin' warm/ reachin' out/ touchin' me, touchin' you. Sweet Caroline good times never seemed so good... that is until the Secret Service were tipped off and arrested me for writing this messed up ballad about the president's daughter... BA BA BA!" I can only hope that it was her purity and innocence that initally inspired the song, and only later did it become a song about "warm, touchin' warm", and nights that are "filled up with only two".

5. Animotion - Obsession

When people find themselves in an unhealthy relationship, they often describe it as a drug. This is a good metaphor for describing just how quickly a relationship can go from a pleasurable attraction to an unhealthy attachment. Those who are the victims of this "obsession" quite often make the mistake of thinking that if they just appease/feed this beast a little more then it will eventually satisfy that other person's need for that drug... I mean person. But just as someone addicted to drugs is never appeased, so also the stalker is not appeased. And the problem can become even more acute when sex is added to the equation. On a list of things that will serve to pacify the obsessed, this is the least likely to do so (in case you were unsure of that); "You are my obsession, yes my obsession. Who do you want me to be, to make you sleep with me?" What is terrifying about this type of person is that they have so little self-respect, that they will do just about anything to share a few intimate moments with that person (i.e. I'll subjugate myself, just be with you). Yet what is so pitiful about this approach, is that whatever happens in the end, the person will inevitably be worse off than before. Even if the person acquiesces and agrees to sleep with you, you still have "lost your religion", "given up the ghost", and "shown your hand." No one wants to give themselves to that kind of neediness and desperation. And thus the conclusion to this saga is more than a little predictable; "My fantasy has turned to madness/ All my goodness has turned to badness. My need to possess you has consumed my soul/ My life is trembling/ I have no control... Just like a butterfly, a wild butterfly/ I will capture you and collect you." Cue the psycho music. Incidentally, this behavior need not necessarily be associated only with a love interest- one can see this same behavior in unhealthy friendships as well.

4. Every Breath You Take - The Police      

It is pretty much common knowledge that this song is about Sting's ex-wife and about how in the midst of their divorce there was a bit of stalking going on (though in interviews he doesn't say on the part of who). When asked about the song he describes it as a "nasty little song about surveillance and ownership". What's most fascinating to me (and apparently Sting as well) is just how many people have it played on their wedding day to represent their love; "Every breath you take/ Every move you make/ Every vow you break/ Every step you take/ I'll be watching you." It doesn't get any sweeter than that, does it? I mean who would have suspected that such brooding music could be about something so menacing and grim? However, even if one does read love into these lyrics, what type of person would deem twenty-four hour surveillance as desirable? Perhaps the most important lesson here is not so much about paying close attention to music lyrics (though I think there is value in that) as it is about how fine the line is between Godly love and one that borders on obsession. A lover finds repose in staring at the beloved, examining carefully all of her features (physical and otherwise). So also does a stalker, but in a very different kind of way. Indeed, even a couple that is married, or getting married, can mistake the freedom that love brings with its evil twin, possessiveness and co-dependence. A "love" such as this inevitably swallows up the individuality of the other person in the vacuum of mistrust.

3. Stan - Eminem    

When we think of stalking we generally envision some man or woman harassing and/or threatening some unrequited lover. In the case of "Stan", it is more the case of a man-crush gone terribly wrong. The lyrics detail a series of letters that are sent to Eminem by his "biggest" fan, but when this fan receives no immediate response from the object of his affection, his letters become progressively threatening and violent. Interestingly enough, Eminem was inspired to write this song when he heard a composition by a relatively unknown artist by the name of Dido. The song was called "Thank you" (which later became a hit in its own right), a delightful little ballad about offering encouragement in the face of life's little disappointments. However, when Eminem heard the first verse, something very different occurred to him; "Tea's gone cold I wonder why I got out of bed at all. The morning rain clouds up my window and I can't see at all/ And even if I could it would all be gray/ But your picture on my wall/ It reminds me that's it not so bad..." Once again we come face to face with how short of a leap it is between devotion and craziness. Obsession mimics many of the same things that love does ("put your picture on my wall..."). What is missing in the mind of a stalker when it comes to a relatioship is that fundamental notion of freedom that must exist between the two, without which love is not "love" at all. If there is no respect for the other person's freedom, then infatuation quickly becomes Fatal Attraction. The obsessed party is always idealizing the one he loves to the point of delusion. And so when that object of affection fails to respond in accordance with their grandiose dreams, the deluded one cracks along with his dreams. In extreme cases, as depicted in this song, the individual will even begin to threaten to harm the person (or themselves) they claim to love, hoping that they can somehow coerce them into responding the way that they wanted them to in the first place. Indeed, how futile their position, for they want to force the other individual to love them freely. There is nothing wrong with a little hero worship as long as the one engaging in it doesn't imagine that the "hero" is capable of doing what only God can do; namely filling the void that is in their soul. Sadly, these situations don't generally end well. Either they in end in the death of the performer (as was the case with the singer Selena), or what is more typical, they end with the one who is obsessed taking his (or her) own life.

2. Crash - The Dave Matthew's Band

When first one hears the beautiful instrumentation of this next song, one cannot help but to expect to hear an exquisite love ballad. Heck, as beautiful as the music is, all you would really need to do is tease a few phrase out about the woman's hair, eyes, nose hairs, whatever. But no, Dave Matthews had to write a song about a Peeping Tom creeping around some woman's house and leering at her through the window; "In a boy's dream/Oh I watch you there through the window and I stare at you/ And you wear nothing and you wear it so well. Tied up and twisted the way I like to be/ For you, for me/ Come crash into me." Well isn't that special! In some ways that isn't even the worst of the lyrics, but that is about all I really care to repeat. I suppose there is something highly appropriate about the fact that the peeping Tom is regarded as a kind of perverse adolescent in the song, for oftentimes individuals who succumb to these kind of infatuations have the psycho-sexual mentality of a middle-schooler. Indeed, he spoken of as if he were some thirteen year old kid gawking at some nude images of some woman on the internet. At any rate, what the Dave Matthews Band does to this lovely melody is ultimately what all perversity does- it takes something that is pure and wholesome, and completely chokes and defile what originally was quite good and innocent. You can be sexual without being exploitive, but a song cannot be sexually exploitive and remain in any way romantic. The only way that that can be the case is if you ignore the lyrics as well as blog posts like this that ruin songs for you. OK, one more line; "I'm the king of the castle/ You're the dirty rascal..." Wow.

1. Possession - Sarah McLachlan                    

What other song would be number #1 on this list but the one that actually contains real poetry from a stalker? The double connotation of the title only makes the listening experience all the more unsettling; "And I would be the one to hold you down/ Kiss you so hard/ I'll take your breath away/ And after I'd wipe away the tears/ Close your eyes dear." Certainly once you understand what this song is about it brings a dark significance to the words and phrases in the song that would otherwise be dismissed as hyperbole. Hmmm, why is he holding her down again? What does he mean when he says that he will take her breath away? And wait a second, did you say that she was crying? Um, why is she crying? All of these lyrics might have a normal explanation in the context of normal love, but in the face of abnormal love, they take on a whole new meaning. Likewise when you talk about "possessing" someone in the context of genuine love, there is nothing disturbing about what it means for two people to give themselves entirely in the context of matrimony. They belong to each other. However, possession in the darkest sense is a form of physical, psychological, or spiritual hostage taking. The most extreme example of this can be seen in Satanic possession, wherein the person is so utterly "possessed", or taken over, that there is no longer any "they" there to respond (or at least they are so utterly taken over that they are not at liberty to express themselves). And that's the point in the end. The stalker really is not so much interested in the one that they are stalking as they are in projecting themselves onto and into that person. Thus, it makes perfect sense then that when Ms. McLachlan released this album, her stalker sued her for $350, 000, and the opportunity to do an interview with her where they "discussed the lyrics to the song." So much for a stalker's integrity, right? Notice, he is not interested in so much meeting Ms. McLachlan as he is in talking about the words he wrote to/about her. Me, Me, Me. In some way, I do think that he captures the romance of hell quite well in all this. The Satanic impulse thrives on eternal separateness, and the idea, not the reality, of getting what you want. The true fulfillment of this romance is to never be filled at all; "Listen out your window, from across the great divide/ Voices trapped in yearning/ Memories trapped in time/ The night is my companion/ Solitude my guide/ Would I wait forever here and not be satisfied?" One final key to the stalker's delusional behavior is isolation. The man who spends too much time by himself can create his own world as he sees it. The problem is once he is confronted by reality, which has a way of disagreeing with our own version of it, such individuals may either be provoked to violence, or they may retreat even further into the dark cave of unreality; "into the sea of waking dreams I follow without pride/ 'Cause nothing stands between us here/ And I won't be denied." Sadly, this "sea of waking dreams" did lead to violence, though not towards Ms. McLachlan. Shortly before the case was to come to trial, the crazed fan, Uwe Vandrei, killed himself, a tragic reminder of what such isolation and unreality can lead to.        


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  2. Fun Fact: "Every Breath You Take" was actually written by... James Taylor! Who thought it was too creepy even for him.

  3. That is a fun fact, or at least as fun as any fact about stalking can be...

  4. My vote is for "Pretty Girls" by Melissa Manchester. Bouncy pop song with some downright creepy lyrics about a guy working in a drug store who "loves to stroke the curls of pretty baby girls".


  6. Still think Benny Mardones takes the #1 Spot with flying colors!
    note: Not only is the song a bit eerie, but the video also possesses an even stranger description of his feelings for that 16 year old that he won't just leave alone, even though he's wearing a wedding band, stalking her, was told by her parents to stay away, peering in her bedroom window and just happens to be 18 years older. Big Time No No! Any 34 yr. old watching my 16 year old daughter is gonna see the stars fast.

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