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A most misinterpreted song: Push by Matchbox 20

She said « I don’t know if I’ve ever been good enough
I’m a little bit rusty, and I think my head is caving in
And I don’t know if I’ve ever been really loved
By a hand that’s touched me, and I feel like something’s gonna give
And I’m a little bit angry »
Well, this ain’t over
No not here, not while I still need you around
You don’t owe me, we might change
Yeah we just might feel good
I wanna push you around
Well I will, well I will
I wanna push you down
Well I will, well I will
I wanna take you for granted

Matchbox_20_-_Push

Recognize these lyrics? Yes? No?

They’re from Matchbox 20’s 1997 hit ‘Push’. It’s one of the band’s most popular (and misunderstood) songs.

Yes, as the lyrics and the song title suggest, it is a song about a man being physically abusive towards his partner. Yes, it’s about a man who wants to take a woman « for granted » and push her around.

Or is it?

With an album cover of five guys brimming with conceit in their eyes, this 20-year old song sparked controversy and outrage among feminist groups when it first came out. Labeled as a ‘misogynistic’, groups of feminists once tried to ban the song because it encouraged violence and hatred towards women. However, this didn’t stop the song from hitting the top of the Modern Rock Tracks and thus, became one of the American rock band’s most successful singles.

Upon learning that people’s interpretations of his song somehow didn’t align with his original intentions, Matchbox 20’s front-man Rob Thomas stressed the importance of ‘reading before reacting.’ He spoke in an interview that the man in the song (possibly Thomas himself or some fictional dude) is the one being abused physically and emotionally. It’s the man who is experiencing the suffering. It’s the man who is being pushed around by the girl.

What’s that, Jodie? I hear you say…

Read the lyrics again.

The guy is basically narrating what the girl said to her throughout the entire song, making it as if these were his words. Lyric-wise, this is actually a creative way of conveying a strong message to the listening public. Notice how the song starts with « She said… » This goes on for the rest of the song. Thomas said so himself that he turned around the song’s viewpoint to make it more creative and interesting. This subtle nuance, which most  people failed to see pushed the song along the long lines of misinterpreted lyrics (No pun intended there). Still not convinced? Watch the official video and you’ll see Thomas in a dark alley playing with a stick puppet, his face buried in his hand, busking, in chains and in a room with no windows at all. The video has barely anything to do with being abusive towards women. It’ all about emotional manipulation.

Now, I’m not taking sides here. Well, okay. Matchbox 20 is a classic favourite of mine, but I was also victimized by this song. I was only a pre-teen when I first heard this song. Initially, I fell in love with the melody, especially the intro’s guitar riff. In fact, it was one of the driving factors behind my passion for playing guitars. However, as I matured I, too, jumped down Thomas’ throat. I came to the point where I even questioned myself for listening to this type of song.  It was only recently did I learn the true meaning behind this controversial song.

So guys, read before you react.

Simple as that.