Masterpieces of Pop Music Video Clips, part 2: Evanescence's 'Going Under'
Even without the clip Evanescence's song 'Going Under' is a masterpiece. This is unusual.
It is far more common that the music clip is better than or the same quality as the song itself. The excellence of the song is greater than the clip simply because there is just no practical way to represent the sublime daemonism of the song in images.
To represent this song visually, you would have to be one of the Great Masters. If we were able to simulate an eigenstadt of the Flemish artist Breughel, I have no doubt he would do a superb film clip that does justice to the song. That gives I suppose some measure of the high esteem I hold this song in.
'Going Under' is superb. The song outstrips almost all popular songs in emotional intensity.
'Going Under' falls into a simple traditional five-act structure used by theatre. The form of this song is what is known in literary criticism and psychoanalysis as an enantiodrama, a staging of inner impulses in the external world in order to process and heal them.
Act I, the introduction, first 25 seconds:
Now I will tell you what I've done for you
Fifteen thousand tears I've cried
Screaming, deceiving and bleeding for you
And you still won't hear me."
Act II presents the main theme: emotional salvation versus sexual loss of self in these lyrics:
"Just when I thought I'd reached the bottom
I - dive - again."
Note the play on "dive" - it almost turns into the word "die", implying an orgasm.
The overwhelming intensity of this lyric is stunning. These words "I dive again" seem to float out of nowhere like fragments of a shattered sense of self and for several timeless seconds the words hang suspended against the apocalyptic backdrop of the guitar riff, the astonishing rippling piano notes like a forceful exhalation loaded with excess emotion, and underneath the main song the physical throbbing of violins which produces a superb subliminal evocation of the sensation of physical arousal in the vagina.
All this in eight seconds! The words "I dive again" infer sexual arousal, explosive emotional release, spiritual despair, and a sexual intimacy which at once destroys and paradoxically heightens the sense of identity as emotional expression. This kind of condensation and concision of meaning in this song is a big part of why it is sublime. It reminds me of Emily Dickinson's poetry.
Act III, the first chorus, is also the first catharsis, a false release because it leads not to freedom but to the next verse from the frustrated lyrics, "And I can't trust myself anymore".
Men cannot generally imagine the common female experience of a "failed" orgasm, which is implied in this part of the song. This false catharsis is a trigger for heightened aggression against self, and hence greater despair. The intensity of the song is impossibly high already, loaded with female libido and aggressive and despairing urgency, and yet this failed musical orgasm amps up the emotional intensity of music way higher than it needs to be.
Act IV brings the resolution of the song. The key to this emotional-sexual drama is the emergence of a cold and aggressive determination to walk through negative feelings without being destroyed by them. This choice to accept feelings without being overwhelmed by them is a sublime act of self-definition. Most astonishing of all, this empowering recognition of a sense of self free from emotional ups and high arises OUT OF and THROUGH the intensity of emotional expression itself:
"So go on and scream, scream at me, so far away,
I won't be back again
I've got to breathe
I can't keep going under."
This leads to the true catharsis, which is the free acceptance of the natural flow of feelings resulting from a self-defining choice.
Act V repeats the chorus, but the feeling is more celebratory than trapped. The singer has won free of negativity as a result of making a conscious choice to accept feelings AS IS.
I would like to briefly examine the song in the context of the Western sublime.
A critic can immediately locate the song culturally in the Feminist and Romantic streams of thinking and feeling. Prior to Romanticism this kind of Western identity did not exist. So this self is a uniquely modern person, who uses relationships to imaginatively express inner emotional conflict (Feminism) and thereby resolve it in a non-rational way (Romanticism).
Swept up in existential angst, modernist anomie, postmodern image-culture, the Romantic search for self-identity is reduced from a magnificent Wordsworthian 'excursion' to the equivalent of a musical tantrum.
The power of the song lies in the evocation of the daemonic and the uncanny - ground amply covered by the poets Coleridge and Keats, but not from the perspective of female sexual and emotional self-definition. Also unlike Coleridge I appreciate the lack of any sexual or moral content in the song. It sticks right in experience with unwavering committment.
Where male sublimity tends to represent highs and upward motion, the female sublime is here encapsulated perfectly as 'Going Under'. There is no final illumination, no simple answer, no externally-located source of authority or clarity as in the Bomfunk MC song. The gritty emotional intensity of the process of the song, in and of itself, is transcendent.
'Going Under' represents a female adolescent intiation into sexuality. The overwhelming power of female sexual aggression against the self is the fuel for the smallest beginnings of the definition of an adult sense of self.
The clip to this sound founders pretty badly when it tries to represent the lyrics with drug-like and psychotic-style facial distortions. It is fails because it is camp and funny. Probably the best bit of the clip is the part where the lead singer throws herself into the audience and in the next shot she is floating underwater gazing with wide open eyes at the camera: this confirms the impersonal and collective nature of emotional storms, by equating the mob of the audience with the water the singer floats within.
For the esoterically literate the song is (obviously) Neptunian and Venusian in nature; it correlates to the glamorous potential for self-delusion and self-destruction indicated on the Tree of Life as Netzach.
I want to be absolutely clear on this. You would have to be profoundly ignorant of your own welfare to evoke these forms directly. I strongly recommend avoiding any esoteric work around these forms if possible. If the shattered sense of personal identity portrayed in 'Going Under' is not enough warning for you, then consider the cost of spending the first half of your adult life recovering from the adolescent glamours of fatal cool and terminal hipness. Understood?