Let me begin with a confession: I am an enormous fan of Mick Jagger. I spent my contrarian, anti-femininity, please-let-me-in-your-treehouse-guys youth collecting Rolling Stones records and staring into the eyes of black and white Mick Jagger photos. In my eyes, the man can’t do much wrong.
But, alas, even I must admit that I have never, in the words of John Doran at the Quietus, lain awake at night wondering, “Yeah, I get that the social, political, economic and moral climate in the UK is currently pretty bad and things are getting worse on a daily basis but when oh when are we going to find out what Mick Jagger thinks about Brexit, immigration and the amount of fast food we’re all eating?” And yet, here we are.
Jagger has released two new videos – for “England Lost” and “Gotta Get a Grip” – this week. In fairness, the visuals are great! Both feature good-looking people sweating and running around: the first, Luke Evans in a black and white, wartime British throwback chased-to-the-beaches style thing (ah, sure) and the second, Jemima Kirke hassling a DJ in a nightclub and looking really, really amazing under the coloured lights.
Let’s take a look at these political lyrics in a little more detail.
Gotta Get a Grip
Let us begin with “Gotta Get a Grip”, a song that tells us to, well, get a bloody grip. Because what are people like these days? Writing hot takes! Fake news! Something something Isis! (No, seriously, this is as good as it gets.)
The world is upside down
Everybody lunatics and clowns
No one speaks the truth
And madhouse runs the town
Crazy world we’re living in, right guys? Crazy, crazy world.
Everybody’s on the take
The news is all fake
Let ‘em eat chicken and let ‘em eat steak
Let ‘em eat shit, let ‘em eat cake
I really hope “on the take” here also puns on hot take culture. Brb, telling my editor I’m busy “on the take” forever. Anyway, fake news is bad! Let them eat cake (?!) and also chicken, steak and shit. Is this a dig at the meat industrial complex? I hope so.
Chaos crisis instability Isis
Lies and scandals, wars and vandals
Metadata scams and policy shams
I love how vague these first three words are. Lulls you in a false sense of security, doesn’t it? Ah, Mick is just warbling on about the bad things ever-present in fallible human society, chaos, bla bla, instability, yada yada, then – WHAM. He hits you with ISIS. Bloody Isis! The fuckers. Also, more songs should include the word “metadata”, in my honest opinion. Fuck the police! A song about the Investigatory Powers Act 2016 is long overdue.
I went to see England, but England’s lost
Ah, a nostalgic and fatalistic lyric about the fall of England that is also totally meaningless. Someone get Pete Doherty on the line! Jagger uses a football game as a metaphor here, which makes you think, doesn’t it?
I went to find England, it wasn’t there
I think I lost it down the back of my chair
I think I’m losing my imagination
I’m tired of talking about immigration
The nadir. The peak. The climax. Rhyming the words “imagination” and “immigration”. Truly inspired.
It’s a déjà vu
I’ve seen it all before
Different season, same score
Everybody wants your head on a spike
But they were singing your praises the day before
One thing that confuses me about both these songs is whether they seem to think we are living through a genuine turning point in British politics, a true moment of crisis – or just same shit, different day. Surely both cannot be true? And if this is a crisis moment, is the problem the terrible government and geopolitical chaos or just, like, people being mean on Twitter? Unclear.
Skepta, adding his contribution here, doesn’t seem any more sure, ranting about “everybody” running hot and cold on “you” (who?), but immediately afterwards talking about immigration paranoia. (“No new faces allowed in / They said it’s getting overcrowded”.)
Still fighting over houses
So I just pick it up put down and leave it where I found it
Feel like Macaulay Culkin
I’m Home Alone
Come to my window and throw a stone
Because I hate talking on the phone
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?! Does Skepta pick up a house and leave it where he found it? If the housing crisis is so bad why does anyone have a house to themselves, à la Kevin McCallister? Or is Skepta saying that his house feels too big for him when so many people are living like sardines? Who’s throwing a stone? Why? Is that a searing comment on technology’s isolating effects on our lives or does Skepta just really hate talking on the phone? What is going on?!
Had a girl in Lisbon, a girl in Rome
Now I’ll have to stay at home
Ah, the real tragedy of leaving the EU: Mick Jagger potentially losing easy, visa-free access to sexually available women in mainland European cities.
Truly, poetry of our times.