Too Much of Mine: The Black Keys’ “I Got Mine”

March 20, 2013 at 1:04 am, by

A public confession: Many of the CDs I purchased during 2010 and 2011 are from Borders stores that were closing and having clearance sales with low, low prices.

Those were the days.

Those were the days.

I figured that that would be as good a time as any to try out some new music.

And trying out new music is always the best time to give the benefit of the doubt.

So, that’s the short version of how I’ve ended up with two Black Keys albums on my iPod: Brothers and Attack & Release.

And Paramore‘s All We Know Is Falling.

My rule is: If I have purchased anything with the hope of writing about it for Jewish Eyes On The Arts, then I’ll listen until I can find something to discuss.

I wish I could count how many times I’ve listened to these albums hoping to find something deep that resonates with me religiously.

After all, I like to identify with Bruce Springsteen being a “Born To Run” misfit, as a minority, for I am a “Hebrew,” and in Hebrew, “ivri” means something like either “a person passing by nomadically” or perhaps something more akin to “outlaw.” Or, I can see myself as part of a people living in Exile, calling out for a sympathetic Listener on “Radio Nowhere.”

Paramore's All We Know Is Falling.

Paramore’s All We Know Is Falling.

So, Paramore is basically a Christian band (or at least Hayley Williams is a Christian), and they do thank Jesus in the liner notes of All We Know Is Falling. I don’t place any of my faith in Jesus, but I have often envied Christians who feel comfortable thanking Jesus publicly. I wish Jews could get up there at the Grammy Awards and thanked God, or at least the rabbis who officiated at their b’nei mitzvah.

And… that’s the stopping point for anything profound Paramore says, or that I have to say about Paramore. At least, for now.

When it comes to the Black Keys, there are zero semi-touching shoutouts to Jesus. (And that might be expected given lead singer Dan Auerbach‘s partially Jewish ancestry.) Jesus aside, the lyrics of the songs appear to have nothing in the way of religion for me to cogitate.

This is an album that is not called Brothers.

This is an album that is not called Brothers.

The Black Keys’ original lyrics rarely have deep religious significance. Is “Psychotic Girl” perhaps about a witch? Is Auerbach’s commitment not to get involved with a psychotic girl code for a vow to fulfill Exodus 22:17‘s commandment that we not let witches live? No. Almost certainly not.

Perhaps what actually most bugged me about both the Black Keys and Paramore is how I could relate to so little of their repertoire. The songs rarely have a complex story. She’s a psychotic girl. I’ma stay away. No surprises, and hardly any content.

On “I Got Mine,” it appears to me that the Black Keys might be hinting at some sort of moral: Don’t try to satisfy others; just satisfy yourself.

If I hadn’t already deemed Attack & Release a disc of lyrical drivel, then it would be because I hadn’t thought about “I Got Mine,” which is so antithetical to my values.

For my Jewish identity to exist in the collective, I need to strive to satisfy both others and myself–not just one or the other.

Pirkei Avot 5:9 lists different understandings of what is whose:

There are four types of people. One who says, “Mine is mine, and yours is yours”–this is the median person, and there are those who say that this is a person of Sodom and Gomorrah. One who says, “Mine is yours, and yours is mine”–this a foolish person. One who says, “Mine is yours, and yours is yours”–this is an exceedingly gracious person. One who says, “Yours is mine, and mine is mine”–this is a wicked person.

My read: If the protagonist of “I Got Mine” (whom I think the Black Keys wants us to like) is against satisfying others (fans, lovers, and so forth), then he is declaring others’ emotions no longer his responsibility. His fans, lovers and such are all now at the whim of what he determines his own satisfaction. So now, what he does for others is just what he does for himself.

The message of “I Got Mine” is “Yours is mine, and mine is mine.”

Feel free to do the math.

Jonah Rank's favorite part of the Black Keys.

This is actually my favorite thing so far from the Black Keys: this album cover.

One of the purposes of Jewish Eyes On The Arts is to seek those pieces of pop culture and the arts that express or hint at values in deep ways.

It’s disappointing to hear an album by a beloved artist, only to discover how superficial a work is.

Fortunately, this is the first time I’ve written such a damning blogpost for this site. (Even my post on Babies was kinder.)

Given that we’ve been around for over 2 years and have over 100 posts, perhaps there’s a blessing in the rarity of this kind of “glitch.”

I’ll blog more soon about something way more awesome.

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