Song of the Week: “Better Man” (Pearl Jam)

The 2017 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony is this Friday, so I thought it would be appropriate to talk about a song by one of this year’s inductees.

Honestly, choosing Pearl Jam was pretty arbitrary on my part. I looked at the list and thought about which of the artists I was familiar with and what songs I liked, and suddenly I was writing this post.

“Better Man” stands out for me for a few reasons. First off, the lyrics, which are really quite powerful when you look at them. In some ways, both musically and lyrically, the song reminds me of Alice Cooper’s “Only Women Bleed,” which is also about an abusive relationship where the victim stays because it’s familiar and seems like the best option.

This is, of course, extremely realistic and not all all uncommon, to boot. Which is… unfortunately isn’t really a strong enough word, and “a problem” is the understatement of the year.

The other interesting thing about the song is the structure of the music itself. It starts of slow and subdued, with a rather pleasant and soothing guitar part, before taking off in the second verse and becoming a full-fledged rock song. Something about that progression just works for me, and I think it’s hard to pull off that transition well. It’s really smoothly done here, and unlike many songs that attempt this, there isn’t a discernible break — the parts just flow together. For an example where that smooth change is missing, consider such tracks as the Foo Fighers’ “The Pretender.” The drums cover the gap nicely, but there is a full stop between the guitar parts in the intro and verse. Grohl has performed the song in at least one solo acoustic performance, and without that break, the transition is pretty messy. So Pearl Jam gets major props in my book for executing that change so well.

What it comes down to is that I really like this song. It falls under the category of “songs that immediately grabbed my attention and stuck with me from the first listen.” Which is admittedly a rather long list, but that’s neither here nor there.

Congratulations to Pearl Jam and the rest of the 2017 inductees. May you forever be immortalized in the annals of rock & roll history.

If you know anyone who is in such a position, I urge you to do whatever you possibly can to get them out safely. No one should have to spend their life being abused; too many lives have been lost that way, and countless more will be lost without aid. If you need help and can safely seek it, reach out to local women’s shelters and organizations built for the purpose of providing aid to women in abusive relationships. As for men who are being abused, I can only suggest reaching out to someone you can trust, and if you can do so, see if there are any local organizations designed to help you. I know it’s never spoken about and that there’s a stigma against talking about it, but men can and have been abused — physically, verbally, emotionally, sexually — and their abuse should be brought to light as well. Anyone at any time can be subjected to abuse by someone they care about and who claims to care about them. It is our duty to help victims get to safety and do what we can to bring abusers to justice.

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