the sweet 16:
(16) natalie imbruglia, "torn" defeats (4) house of pain, "jump around" 249-76
Read the essays, watch the videos, listen to the songs, feel free to argue below in the comments or tweet at us, and consider. Winner is the aggregate of the poll below and the @marchfadness twitter poll. Polls closed @ 9am Arizona time on 3/23.
analysis by zaza karaim
"Jump Around": While I wouldn’t exactly consider myself a connoisseur of all things rap, I do appreciate a good rap song. This song was enjoyable. I like the scream-like sound in the background. I don’t remember if I’ve heard it before; it’s not extremely memorable. I’ve listened to it a few times now, and, although I’m still firmly planted on the couch, I can imagine a situation in which it might inspire someone to literally jump around. Zaza’s rating: 6.5
"Torn": I’ve heard this song many, many times. I still like it, even though it does seem a little generic. I wouldn’t choose to listen to it, but I wouldn’t switch the channel if it came on the radio. This is another song that brings out my emo teen feelings (once again, I will note that this is no Herculean task). Zaza’s Rating: 7
throw the lights away: farid matuk on "jump around"
I was 18 years old in 1992 when House of Pain released “Jump Around.” It’s a party jam with staying power and maybe that’s all there is to say. That year in Southern California white men were setting each other free all kinds of ways. It was a tradition.
Traditions march proud, or they march in complicated ways. Sub rosa: everything under the cover of something else, something prettier? Goddamn 1998’s American History X. What passed as an unflinching look at white supremacy always seemed to me more of a visual love letter to the physicality of Ed Norton’s Derek Vinyard character. Do you remember the film’s opening sequence? Derek’s little brother Danny, played by Edward Furlong, sleeps in one room while in another Derek violently tops his skinhead girlfriend, his boots still on. What was it with boys’ feet as substitutes for their dicks in these kinds of scenes from the 90s? Three years earlier Larry Clark’s well used eye made sure we saw a similar shot in Kids, only that time it was Telly’s sweaty socked foot looking for purchase on the bed sheets as he pushed further into the next virgin girl we knew he was exposing to HIV. Thinking without subtlety, trading in only the cheapest likenesses of categories, I ask, if white boys are dangerous in a viral way, who’s the host?
By the time Derek disentangles himself from his girlfriend to confront two young black men who were messing with his car we know their black bodies will be the film’s first sacrifices to our civil sympathies. Beneath the cover of that sympathy the camera eagerly enlists its high contrast film in the passion of Derek’s nearly nude, glowing white body stalking the night itself. Beneath that, we get the still more operatic passion of glances exchanged between Derek as he gives himself over to be cuffed by the police and Danny, whose grow-in buzz cut and swan neck make him look like some misplaced Joan of Arc (to borrow a phrase from Patty Smith) trying with his big eyes to pull his brother back from a moral abyss I’m still not sure ever really opens up to interrupt the paths of white men.
When Derek gets out of jail, the film needs to show him arguing with his mom’s liberal boyfriend about the “L.A. Riots.” I was among those nerdy poor kids of color who, despite our deep immersion in police surveillance, mostly avoided encounters with actual officers, a streak that gave me a sense of what it must have been like up in the hills and along the coast where SoCal WhiteLife looked like nothing but expansive possibility. In retrospect it seems that whether we felt some claim to that expanse or not, we nonetheless spent the rest of the decade talking in one way or another about the last days of April and first days of May 1992. We were experts on policing and on staging civil disobedience, we knew the names of all the officers who beat black motorist Rodney King and we knew the names of the men who beat white trucker Reginald Denny, we had opinions about how batons should work. Or if we kept our mouths shut, we were still steeped in the air of those who affected this expertise, chiasmus as fuck in our host and virus dialectic.
Based in L.A., House of Pain released “Jump Around” only six or so months after King’s attackers were acquitted and many years before Marshall Mathers’ internal rhymes would expand the pantheon of emcees to include the outline of an ideal white boy. So when House of Pain’s Everlast claimed, “I never eat a pig, cause a pig is a cop/ Or better yet a Terminator, like Arnold Schwarzenegger,”  we heard him making a sympathetic overture to kids like me who already knew how to sleep through the glare of the LAPD’s helicopter search light.
Categories persist in failing. Failure can be a kind of street style, or it can be a particular street’s style if that street is the place where poor and lower middle-class folks of different ethnic and racial backgrounds share air and time and materials. The Internet tells me that only a handful of years before “Jump Around,” Everlast was just a kid trying to be a graffiti artist. He came out of Taft High School in the Valley where, incidentally, Ice Cube was a peer. On the graffiti scene he fell under the tutelage of a revered black artist going by the name of Divine Styler (née Marc Richardson). Divine was just a kid too, but his work across graffiti, genre-blending experimental rap, and graphic art would make him a legend in the West Coast underground hip-hop scene. It was Divine who introduced Everlast to Ice-T who in turn welcomed both boys into his Rhyme Syndicate collective.
None of the ways those men failed, which is to say exceeded the boundaries of their categories really complicated how their images were marketed to me in 1992. If we wanted to jump around my freshmen dorm, we already had Black Sheep’s “The Choice is Yours” and Tribe Called Quest’s “Scenario.” But House of Pain was white. And while they nodded to the ways the Irish neighborhoods of their heritage had once been policed the way mine was policed, beneath that overture I only wanted to see them as rude and proximate embodiments of white masculine power. It was privately electric the way that song made me feel my relation to public whiteness, like I could be at once in their crew and one of the “ho’s” they might smack. I heard misogyny in some of the songs by my favorite black hip-hop acts, I heard misogyny everywhere, and I was boy enough to think it served me. But I was brown enough to know House of Pain was white. Have you ever felt the whiplash speed with which you can convert being hurt into wanting to be hurt? It can still draw saliva into my mouth, even though I’m old enough and queer enough to know sex can even be simple. From where could a brown kid marshal enough critical grace to treat white thuggery like just another pop pose when more than twenty years later white men still need “Jump Around” to set each other free in the stands of hockey and football games? Yes, I know all kinds of bodies are in those stands and that all kinds of bodies like to jump around to that song. Such is the capacious poetics of white dick, and white dick is nothing if not a universal work of lasting value.
Would violent masculine whiteness (or violent white masculinity?) have had a weaker claim on me if I’d never been an undocumented immigrant, if I’d never overheard a stray detail or two about the rapes my mother survived, if I’d never been sexually assaulted myself? Poor little wound sack, the literature of the object is already stacked high with the likes of me. In the place of a fuller rendering of my stories I’ll finish annotating not so much “Jump Around” but the labor of listening to it with transcripts of homemade intimacies between white men and of white “alphas” offering their dominating services to willing customers. I don’t care to police or shame anyone’s consensual power play; I know all manner of care and calibration can be worked out under the cover of something else, something uglier. The point here is the surface of the coin, so I will mention as a heads up that these transcripts frontload white supremacy, misogyny and base, hateful homophobia, but so does what passes for freedom in this country, and I’m trying to learn from James Baldwin who said, “I know one thing from another… so I give you your problem back.” 
“fuck yeah” found on the porn site xvideos.com
good fuckin mouth take that white cock take that fuckin dick nice and hard suck that dick fuck yeah pig suck daddy’s white dick hell yeah suck that dick, pig, suck it suck it fuck yeah fuckin faggot suck that dick bitch deepthroat that mutherfucker deepthroat it bitch suck it suck it faggot suck it fuckin suck my big fuckin dick sick bitch fuck yeah suck that dick fuck yeah fuck yeah suck my big fuckin dick fuck yeah oh fuck yeah mutherfucker fuck suck it suck it suck daddy’s dick fuck yeah fuck yeah pig, [spit spit] fuck yeah suck my dick suck my big fuckin dick fuck yeah suck it suck it suck it fuck yeah suck it suck it suck it dayum suck it suck it yeah good pig spit good pig suck a dick faggot fuck yeah bitch smoke it [gives joint] good pig good pig [sniffs poppers] say its Monday bitch I suck off daddy on Monday on it on it fuckin gag on it bitch you gag on my dick bitch gag gag vomit bitch fucking vomit bitch good boy good boy good boy want fucked yes sir you want fucked or you want raped I want raped sir you want raped yes sir good answer you want knocked up yes sir you want my baby yes sir get on your fuckin hands get on your knees get on your hands and knees you want fucked yes sir you want fucked bitch I didn’t hear yes yes sir ugh ugh ugh ugh fuck ugh ugh ugh ugh ugh ugh ugh ugh fuck yeah fuckin pig fuckin bitch [spit] [spit] you want fucked you want fucked yes sir beg me to fuck you yes sir please fuck me sir you want fucked bitch huh you want fucked with my dick in your ass say please sir please sir fuck me sir beg me motherfucker yes sir give me that cock sir you want that fuckin big dick fuck you motherfucker you’re getting a big dick big dick in that fuckin ass fuck you bitch fuck you that’s daddy’s ass that’s daddy’s muther fuckin ass you want it bitch yes sir fuck you motherfucker fuck you spit fuck you mutherfucking cunt fucking faggot cunt you want fucked yes sir you want hard yes sir gotta say fuckin hard daddy yes sir fuck me hard daddy huhu you gonna get fucked hard bitch yeah ugh fucking take it faggot mutherfucker fucking take it take that dick bitch fucking faggot mutherfucker take that dick fuck yeah fuck yeah fuck yeah fuck yeah you got daddy’s dick fucking throbbing mutherfucker come’re fuck yeah [sniffs poppers] fuck yeah bitch fuck yeah work my fuckin dick faggot fuck yeah fuckin fuck that face faggot fuck the face faggot fuck the face faggot fuck it fuck it work it work it you got long dick big dick suck it faggot fucking knock you up on that fuckin floor you want knocked up yes sir fuckin bitch I’ll let you know when I’m ready to knock you up bitch suck it suck daddy’s hard fuckin big fat fuckin cock fuck yeah bitch fuckin breedin that hole you want that hole bred then suck it bitch swallow it I said fuck yeah mutherfucker swallow it fuck yeah mutherfucker swallow that mutherfucker fuck yeah fuck yeah mutherfucker suck it suck it suck it work daddy’s big fuckin dick yeah you fucking faggot pussy bitch fucking faggot worthless piece of shit suck it get it hard get it hard fuck yeah suck daddy’s big fuckin mean dick you getting knocked up bitch fuckin knock you up fuckin rape you so fuckin hard you want raped bitch yes sir beg me yes sir I want raped sir you want raped how hard you want raped hard sir yeah I’ll rape you so fuckin hard get on your ass lie down on your stomach fuckin you don’t even live bitch yeah good pussy good fuckin hole good fuckin hole faggot you like that fuckin dick in your ass yes sir fuck yeah tell me how much you want my fuckin dick in your ass yes sir tell me how much you want my dick in your ass yes sir be a good faggot fuck you faggot mutherfucker fuckin piece of worthless shit fuckin bitch that’s my pussy I own that pussy fuck yeah fuck yeah oh fuck him good pussy I’m breeding that fuckin bitch hole I’m gonna breed that bitch hole fuckin bitch mutherfucker fuckin take my fuckin big daddy dick am I the fuckin best fuck you ever had yes sir I’ll always be the fuckin best fuck you ever had fuckin bitch fuckin pussy yes sir want my cum yes sir want my cum want my fuckin load in your ass fuckin bitch yes sir beg for it yes sir give me your cum sir yeah yeah faggot fuckin fag you want my load in your ass yes sir give me your beg for it cum sir fuck alright awh fuck uh huh cheese cheese I fuckin love you so much good fuckin pig good fuckin pig peace out bad boys ga-gow!
YouTube Muscle Stud Verbally Cocky
What up there boi? Name’s fuckin Josh, I go by fuckin YoungInCharge. I’m a dominant motherfucker, as you can see, fuckin ripped to the fuckin core, got your fuckin jeans on, yeah, that’s what I’ma fuckin ‘bout, boy, get on your fuckin ass knees and get ready to see this mutherfucker get pumped the fuck up, yeah I know you like that shit, lick those mutherfuckin abs, bitch, say you’re not offended by shit, now fuckin sit back and enjoy the mutherfuckin show. These are sixties and that I’m fuckin ‘bout to pick up. Let me adjust this lighting. Yeah, there we go. Lookin’ great as ever. Sixties ‘bout to be fuckin in your fuckin face. Ooh yeah, you fuckin like that mutherfucker. Fuckin all day pick your ass up over my fuckin head fuckin toss your ass up. Fuckin admire the fuckin biceps. No one got abs like me, bitch. I’m the fuckin most dominant mutherfucker you’ll ever meet. Yeah, look at those fuckin triceps. Yeah, fucking beg my ass to take those off, show you fuckin these, ha ha ha. You wanna lick those fuckin veins? Fuckin get on your knees and lick those fuckin veins. What we’ll first starting to do, we’ll go down to the fuckin, get down to some fuckin boxers, boy. If you wanna purchase these boxers, fuckin beg my ass to fuckin purchase them, bitch, you won’t be the first mutherfucker you fuckin wants them. Yeah, look at that fuckin’ “v.” Straight off of, straight off of the movie 300, boy. Yeah, oh yeah, you fuckin like that? Fuckin faggot. Ha ha ha. Like I said, don’t be offended, I’m fuckin perfect in all ways, my smile and my fuckin physique, we’re gonna do it again, get even more fuckin pumped up. Pumped up, bitch. Curl some more sixties. Oh yeah, you like that shit. You like when I’m in your face. Callin you out, boy, like fuckin, c’here, test me, test me mutherfucker. Ugh I lost count. You countin, boy? cuz I’m not, I’m just curling, I’m just fuckin you up. Ugh. Look at those fuckin traps. Yeah, oooh, these are fuckin deathly fuckin traps. Fuckin beg me to take this shirt off, mutherfucker, beg my ass. Yeah, love fuckin dominating little pussies. Fuckin little pussies get on the fuckin floor. That’s what I love to say. Get on the fuckin floor, mutherfucker, and fuckin worship at this fuckin god right here, I’m a beat. Ugh yeah, you like that? You like that traps? Fuckin lick those veins, boy. Yeah. Ahh. Oooh, I’m startin to fuckin sweat. Yeah, that’s right, you’re comin back for more, I know you are. This is only my 720 hp, hd. You ready, mutherfucker? Huh. You’re gonna be on the ground as I do my fuckin one-handed push-ups, bitch. Yeah, that’s right, that’s how I do ‘em. Ugh, ugh, ugh, yeah, bitch, fuckin bam, bitch. Now some more. Who’s counting? Ugh, yeah. I’m a fuckin beast, bitch. Can’t you fuckin tell? Here we go. Yeah that felt good. What you think? You thinkin you wanna fuckin step to me, boy. Fuckin feel these fuckin abs? Lick these fuckin veins? That’s what you fuckin think? I think not. 173 pounds, and I’m fuckin training to be in the Mr. Olympia fuckin try-outs, boy. You can be my first fuckin sponsor, bitch, cuz I’m fuckin com’in for your ass. Time to do the fuckin sixties. Like I said, fuckin support this mutherfucker right here, cuz this guy? this guy’s fuckin goin places. Ugh, motivated. Celebrated. Progressin’. Aw yeah. Get on your knees, faggot, get on your fuckin knees. Let me pull these up. Yeah, that’s how it’s gonna look in them trials. Yeah, there we go. See my fuckin junk like a real fuckin alpha. Yeah, feels good to be fuckin alpha. Oooh, Oooh, Oooh, Oooh, Oooh, Ooh, Oooh, Oooh, ugh, yeah. Dayum no one can fuckin handle me. I don’t think you can, Gary. Was that your name? Is that your name? Is that your fuckin fake-ass name? Ha ha ha. I want you to lick these abs, Gary, I want you to lick these abs, these rock fuckin solid abs. Let’s put this shirt, or these pants back on. Sometimes they look sexy when you got a beast mutherfucker like me. See what it looks like. Imagine me in the … [unintelligible]. What I really want you to see, I want you to see the veins. The fuckin vascularity, mutherfucker. How fuckin dominant I am when I enter the room. Let me get fuckin pumped. Ugh. breath, mutherfucker. Now fuckin thank me… [unintelligible]. And whenever you want the fuckin beast like me, I’m here, and I’m ready for your ass. Let’s see if I can even fit this shirt back over after I just pumped up. If I break it, you owe me a fuckin new $45 shirt. Ugh yeah, Aw, yeah, bitch.
YouTube Master Ginger here. Straight alpha GOD
What’s up, faggots. Master Ginger here. I’m here to fuckin control and run every fuckin aspect of that fuckin pathetic little life of yours, you fuckin worthless little piece of shit. Bow down and worship a real fuckin man in every aspect of my fuckin alpha lifestyle. I’m here to fuckin control you, rape you, and fuckin dominate you, you fuckin degraded worthless piece of dogshit is what the fuck you are. You fuckin understand me, homo? US dollars, great British pounds, Australian dollars, euros, I want fuckin all of it. I deserve all that fuckin hard-working cash that you bust your fuckin ass 9-5 doin, give it to me so I can spend that fuckin money, you piece of shit. Fuck you and pay me, mutherfuckers!
Spit in the mouth, posted by dippingthatdip
I’m ready to spit in this boy’s mouth. Skoal! Go for it. Open wide. Show the camera. Awh Jeezuz. Now, how you gonna spit? All over my fuckin face, like I’m fuckin juicy ass shit.
 Everlast, DJ Lethal, Danny Boy as House of Pain. House of Pain. Tommy Boy Music, Inc., 1992. CD.
 Take This Hammer. Prod. Richard O. Moore. Perf. James Baldwin. National Educational Television/KQED, 1964. DVD.
Farid Matuk is the author of This Isa Nice Neighborhood (Letter Machine) and, most recently, of the chapbook My Daughter La Chola (Ahsahta). He serves on the editorial team at Fence, on the board of the conference Thinking Its Presence: Race & Creative Writing, and on the MFA faculty at the University of Arizona. With the support of a New Works Grant from the Headlands Center for the Arts, Matuk is currently at work on two books of poems that in their distinct ways consider the question with which Orlando Patterson’s ended 1982’s Slavery and Social Death: “must we challenge our conception of freedom and the value we place upon it?”
AARON SMITH ON "TORN"
I was supposed to be writing an essay about Natalie Imbruglia’s song “Torn” when my mother was diagnosed with kidney cancer. It was in the back of my head that I had a deadline approaching. Over the course of three weeks, I sat in rooms waiting to see what each doctor would say about my mother: urologist (You have a big mass in your kidney); urologist again (Your lungs are clear); oncology urologist (You’ve had this tumor for at least fifteen years); and the post-surgery room where they take you and you worry the news is bad because they’ve isolated you. Thankfully, my mother’s prognosis is good: after the doctor cut her in half, pulled out her kidney, he said: Good news and She did great. He even drew us a picture with a pencil (kidney mass as a big scribbly circle and a “thrombus” (a new word we learned) moving toward her liver). My whole family listened rapt and confused and relieved. I kept thinking: those hands have been inside my mother.
Every day after the diagnosis I told myself I’d work on the essay at night before bed. I’d hum the beginning of the chorus: “I’m all out of faith. / This is how I feel.” And then I’d get distracted or too tired or someone in my family would need something or I’d think: what if her cancer is as bad as we are afraid to imagine. I’d say to myself on the back porch: “I don’t think I can leave her body in the ground and drive the fourteen hours back home to Boston.”
I first encountered “Torn” on MTV when I was in graduate school. I mostly wanted to fuck the guy in the video, whom I found out is gay in real life when I bought an expensive British magazine in a gay bookstore on Pittsburgh’s South Side that put everything a person bought into a brown paper bag. The bag told everyone you had a secret and it was sexy. This was right as the internet was beginning: bare-bones email and picture-less gay chat rooms, but nothing elaborate, and porn was still a tangible thing on VHS that my friends and I passed to one another, a kind of intimacy knowing which scene a friend liked and exactly what they were into. But it wasn’t just sex I hid. It was anything that marked me as a fag. My shame then was a tumor as big and sick as my mother’s.
Like I imagine many guys who grew up gay in the late 70’s or early 80’s, I got used to imagining myself in the place of women in movies, television and videos. Every shirtless stud was on top of me. That man was bringing me flowers. The guy, Jeremy Sheffield, in the “Torn” video might actually love me if I had glossy lips, a pixie haircut and tugged my sleeves like Natalie singing about being “naked on the floor.” I didn’t know then that guys like Jeremy—muscled, gorgeous, floppy-haired—don’t usually date chubby, balding guys like me who wear glasses; they usually date guys who look like them: Narcissus pinching his own nipples, staring into the stream. I hadn’t had sex with a man at that point, but I’d been every woman fucked by every sweaty man in every movie: Sharon Stone in Sliver, Melanie Griffith in Working Girl kissing Harrison Ford out of his dress shirt, Kim Basinger in 9 ½ Weeks.
Everyone kept praying for my mother. Each text from her friends: Praise god! We have everyone praying! Wait and see what god can do! And I kept thinking: why did god let her get cancer and carry it around in her body for over fifteen years? Why did she have to have cancer while her mother was dying? Why did she have cancer when she scrubbed the kitchen cabinets on Saturdays? Why did she have cancer at my parents’ fortieth anniversary party my sister and I threw when she looked so pretty and happy and cancerless. I’m all out of faith. This is how I feel.
Natalie Imbruglia’s “Torn,” written by American alternative-rock band Ednaswap, survives because of the melody, the springy guitar at the beginning, the catchy, spin-around-your-room-in-a-circle push of it, the chorus and the electric guitar leading us out of the song while Natalie thrashes in her blue hoodie (the blonde homo in the baby-blue sweater and nineties corduroys who, for obvious reasons, can’t seem to get the kiss right).
The lyrics really don’t make sense: “I thought I saw a man brought to life. / He was warm, he came around like he was dignified. / He showed me what it was to cry.” It’s as if the writers needed a rhyme, something to fit the established structure. What does dignity have to do with crying in this scenario? “Illusion never changed / into something real” leads us eventually to “You're a little late. / I'm already torn.” Wasn’t he, like my mother’s cancer, already there?
I look at these lyrics and feel like I can make sense out of them sometimes, but then I feel like my writing students who try and try to understand a poem that makes no sense, that only the writer (barely) understands, and then try to convince me with republican-spin that it’s obvious, common sense, not confusing at all. I always say: “Sounds like you’re writing a poem instead of reading one.” I guess wanting to believe in anything requires a bit of spin—like Natalie twirling on that set—more work than we should be asked to do and still not quite making sense.
“So I guess the fortune teller's right. / I should have seen just what was there /and not some holy light.” Now that things are looking good for my mother, everyone keeps saying that god had a hand in the result. I keep thinking about the doctor’s hand opening her torso. I asked a lover once which finger he put inside me, and he flipped me off across the bed: fuck you and this is how I fucked you. How to make sense of what’s inside us? How to make meaning? Do we need it?
Maybe some songs just feel good. Maybe it’s okay not to understand, not to pick at the threads. Maybe it’s not necessary to point out whether a thing is poorly constructed or not. Maybe songs like “Torn” let us fuck a British guy in a video and imagine a life, even briefly, where we can have everything we want just the way we want it. Maybe the point is to belt out with passion silly words that sound good together because we don’t have the right words for things we don’t even know are inside us?
Perhaps songs like “Torn” are aptly titled “one-hit wonders.” There’s no need to really think about them, but year after year they come back to us because it just feels good to sing, because it just feels good to get fucked. They help us deal with the fact that there isn’t a god who gives a shit about us. We don’t need to waste our time hiding the things we want in brown bags.
Just because “the perfect sky is torn” doesn’t mean we have to look.
Aaron Smith is the author of three books of poetry: Primer, Appetite, and Blue on Blue Ground. He is assistant professor in creative writing at Lesley University in Cambridge, Massachusetts.