“Let’s Not Shit Ourselves (To Love & To Be Loved)” Narrative Essay


I’m analyzing the song “Let’s Not Shit Ourselves (To Love & To Be Loved)” by the band Bright Eyes.  The indie-folk song is ten minutes long and declares the singer Conor Oberst’s views on different topics within the world.  It is the final track on the album “Lifted or The Story Is In The Soil, Keep Your Ear To The Ground”, wich was released in 2002.  I’m using the Narrative Search Model and my goal for the essay is to explain how Oberst used several techniques to get his message across, what message he tried to get across, and good reasons offered in support of the claims being made.

In the song, Oberst emphasizes his views on society, life, media, and most notably, politics.  His singing becomes more forced when he tries hardest to stress a certain view.  He lists every negative criticism he has as if it is fact.  Due to the album being released in 2002, he discusses dislike for the Bush administration through several of his lyrics “…cowboy presidents so loud behind the bullhorn, so proud they can't admit when they've made a mistake”(Let’s Not Shit Ourselves (To Love & To Be Loved) in order to express his opinion on the state of the nation and blatant disrespect.

Oberst actively demonstrated against the Bush administration during the time before and after the release of the song.  He appeared on the “Tonight Show” with Jay Leno to perform another protest song “When the President Talks to God”, and joined R.E.M. and Bruce Springsteen on 2004’s Vote For Change Tour, where he encouraged the audience to vote for John Kerry as opposed to George Bush, stating "It is obviously amazing to get to play with such great bands, two artists I admire a lot and, more importantly, making sure that John Kerry is the next president," (Untitled Bright Eyes Review)

In the song, Mahatma Ghandi is paraphrased in the lyric “they take eye for an eye, until no one can see”.  This reference to Ghandi is used to show his opposition to the “War On Terrorism” that had recently began, and show his yearning for peace. 

Within the song, one lyric alludes to Bob Dylan “We’re still the pawns in their game”.  Since Oberst started releasing records, music critics have compared him to Bob Dylan due to his folk style, and outspoken view on current issues.  The line is a nod to Dylan’s “Only A Pawn In Their Game”, as if Oberst is saying that corruption is not over with, that we still have something to fight about.  It seems as if he’s saying that he’s ready to fill whatever shoes need to be filled, even if they’re Dylan’s.   

Also within his lyrics he discusses very personal aspects of his life “Weak from whiskey and pills in a Chicago hospital” (suicide attempt) in order to display his honesty by being upfront about his life.  By showing his secrets, he hopes to gain the listeners trust and possibly persuade opinion.   

The track is decorated with a wide assortment of instruments that are used in order to help convey the songs message.  Pounding snare drum and brass are prevalent, almost displaying a sort of militarized feel throughout (which is what he’s opposing).  Organ plays in the background displaying a “Like A Rolling Stone” vibe.  Acoustic guitar is also used, going against the electric guitar to emphasize a folk feel.

The song opens by emphasizing how bizarre human nature is.  This is used to set the stage for the entire rest of the song.  Oberst discusses how animals can live happily in the dark wilderness but babies cry in apartment complexes.  This is used to show irony in human existence, implying that we have it all wrong.  This theme expands into the rest of the song, when Oberst discusses the wrongness of the government, the wrongness of his failed suicide attempt, and the wrongness of the media.  He then goes on to try and clarify, that the best thing in all of this was when he learned to love and to be loved. 

The song was written at a time when the majority of the left wing was completely frustrated with the right wing president.  Oberst sided with the left wing viewpoint and released his ideas about the Bush Administration.  He wrote the song in order to tell people what he believed was really going on within the government.

The setting for the song is the most important out of all of the narrative elements.  Without the setting, he is preaching to an audience that doesn’t exist.  If this song was written at a time when there was no problem within government, or media, or humanity, then it would be absolutely pointless to have written.  It’s a protest song, and without nothing to protest, it would be a waste.

The effect that the focus of the narrative has completely influences the audiences response.  The lyrics greatly emphasize the points that he is trying to make, explaining them in an order to where people can follow along with ease.  If he used extremely vague metaphor, the audience wouldn’t be able to articulate what he’s trying to express as easily.  The direct focus on what he’s emphasizing allows the aim of the piece to be consumed entirely, instead of partially, thus allowing the audience to know exactly what he’s stating.  The aim of the dialogue is extremely important.  He’s singing directly to the listener throughout the song, aiming each statement to your ears.  

The narrative seems probable, yet it’s a political viewpoint, so many listeners may be weary to completely digest the viewpoints that are expelled and agree with them without deeper basis.  Politics aren’t easily shifted, yet one can have an open mind and consider what a person has to say about them.  It is evident in the song (and other songs) that Oberst truly believes the politics that he’s preaching, never going against his own beliefs and standing up for what he perceives as right.

The claim that Oberst is trying to support is the wrongs in life, the media, and the government.  He never gives a direct alternative to the situation, but it’s implied based on the fact that he did point out the wrongs.  If suggestions were offered, then the statements made might hold more worth, yet just addressing the problem alone are the claims Oberst is making.  They are based on good intention though, and are “good claims”.  He sees the problem and corruption in the world and is displaying them so that the listeners will be able to see them for how he perceives they really are.  The good reason is that as Americans, we are being treated unfairly and are being lied to.  This needs to stop for the greater good of humanity.  They are made based on noble values, yet some may see political opposition as being dishonorable.  To determine whether or not his viewpoints are good or bad are determined by your own view of the politics and the world.

The narrative is seemingly completely true.  Whereas several of the lyrics are merely opinion, he lists them as facts because he truly believes them.  Oberst is singing from his heart, being completely passionate about what he’s trying to enforce.  Whether or not one agrees with what is being said, one has to agree that Oberst means what he’s saying.

The narrative works at persuasion by listing the current problems, and letting the listener understand what is wrong in everything.  “ABC, NBC, CBS bullshit, they give us fact or fiction, I guess an even split” is a clear statement that will force the listener to think.  He gives the companies credit by saying they are right 50% of the time.  The apparent audience will hear the lyrics and at least think about the arguments being made, and the problems addressed.  I believe a person will not clearly alter their opinions or views based on what’s said, yet it may open their minds to see a different side of everything.