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“Girls not Grey” by AFI Essay


Musical artists often respond to personal and social situations in their lyrics. How they portray that situation is sometimes deliberate and highly symbolic. While portraying the situation, they create a unique perspective that enables their listeners to view the situation in a deliberate manner; what experts call the artist’s agenda.

Often, artists respond to situations in their lyrics to either: Celebrate a specific belief or faith, Invite listeners into a culture to experience it authentically, sometimes dispelling any misinterpretations outsiders may have, criticize traditions or current events within a culture and often call for reform or change, and force readers to question their beliefs and values.

This paper will analyze a song titled “Girls not Grey”, which was composed by the A Fire Inside (AFI), and explain the band’s agenda with regard to this song. “Girls not Grey” has been seen by many as a campaign by AFI to enlighten musicians and the rest of the society on the dangers of drug use.

A Fire Inside (AFI) is a rock band based in California, USA (Ovguide Editors 1). The current society faces numerous challenges that are caused by drug addiction.

Drug use is common among the young people and most importantly musicians. The use of drugs such as cocaine and marijuana is often advertised in the mass media and this attracts the attention of many potential users. Musicians are often forced to use illegal drugs so as to gain courage and energy to face huge crowds. According to Tiegel, rock musicians are the most vulnerable artistes (56).

Tiegel notes that the culture of drug use is very common among rock musicians and warns young rock artistes to be on the lookout. “The music industry’s love affairs with drugs, from uppers and downers, to the smoking of marijuana, which musicians, producers, and long haired general mangers and doctors agree should be classified separately from the hard drugs, has caused numerous problems” (Tiegel 58).

Drug addiction has caused the deaths of several musicians, and it has crippled the careers of many. The deaths of Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix were believed to have resulted from the use of drugs. Despite the death of these two musicians, the use of drugs by musicians is still is worrying. Tiegel argues “the rock musician’s world at best is a house of dreams and cards. He has a short life and he does not know how long it will last, so he wants to be up for every performance; he wants to be on top”(58).

Dr. Birnbaum, an expert of drug addiction, indicates that musicians often use drugs because “drugs are so much a part of the youth scene, and the musician thinks he needs the drug to survive, work under duress, be functional on the road, work long gigs at absurd hours, record at odd hours, and tolerate the sound of music; musicians need drugs to start their motors going or to calm down their anxieties” (Tiegel 58). Drug use significantly affects the lives of musicians.

Having worked with musicians who use drugs for quite some time, Dr. Birnbaum argues that drug use has led to the breakage of many groups due to the fact that some members of the group are unable to cope up with the behaviors of their colleagues. In addition, drug use affects the relationship between musicians and their producers and managers. Thus, drug use does not only harm the health of musicians and other drug users, but also cripples their working relationships and careers.

The problem of drug use has become so common that it is regarded as a lifestyle. Music can be used to enlighten the society on the dangers of drug use. Musicians have many followers thus they can use their music to campaign against the use of drugs. AFI is a group of musicians which has taken the initiative of enlightening the society and most importantly their fellow musicians on the dangers of drug abuse. This goal has been achieved through the group’s single titled “Girls not Grey”.

“I’ll lay me down tonight,

Much further down.

Swim in the calm tonight.

This art does drown.

What follows me as the whitest lace of light?

Will swallow whole

Just begs to be imbrued?

What follows has led me to this place where I belong with all erased?

What follows?

All insects sing tonight the coldest sound,

I’d send God’s grace tonight, could it be found?

What follows me as the whitest lace of light?

Will swallow whole.

Just begs to be imbrued?

What follows has led me to this place, where I belong with all erased,

I’ll lay me down tonight,

Much further down,

Watch stars go out tonight,

On sinking ground”.

(Source: )

According to Lyrics Interpreters, Girls not Grey highlights how drug addiction ruins the careers are lives of musicians. Lyrics Interpreters note that the use of “girls” “or grey” is metaphoric (1). “Girls” means cocaine while grey has a number of meanings. In the drug addiction world, the term “girls” is often used in reference to cocaine. In the first stanza, the line “This art does drown” is used by the group to indicate to their listeners that the art of music does drown in case the artist is a drug user (Lyrics Interpreters 3).

The use of illegal drugs has numerous effects to the user. If the user is a musician, it has been found that drug use often distorts the musician’s career .This line is used to warn musicians who use illegal drugs, or those who intend to use cocaine that drug use is likely to ruin their careers.

The second stanza is a continuation of the artists’ wider message. The lines “What follows me as the whitest lace of light? Will swallow whole, just begs to be imbrued? What follows has led me to this place where I belong with all erased? What follows?” emphasize AFI’s message (Lyrics Interpreters 3).

Musicians are seen as the light of the society. They are seen as role models by many. The use of cocaine will swallow its user and finally erase him or her. AFI warns their audience that “what follows the use of cocaine…anyone that use it is just begging to be imbrued. It leads to death” (Lyrics Interpreters 3).

In the third stanza, the line “All insects sing tonight the coldest sound” also highlights the group’s message (Lyrics Interpreters 3). In this case, insects represent drug users, and the music of drug users is likened to a cold sound, indicating that it has no meaning. In the last stanza, the line “Watch stars go out tonight, on sinking ground” means that God is watching as the stars (musicians) sink into the ground.

The song “Girls not Grey” by AFI represents one of the many ways in which sober musicians reach out to their colleagues in the music industry. Most musicians have a lot of money which they use to purchase illegal drugs like cocaine. In addition, the society is so permissive that musicians often get away with some crimes such as the use of illegal drugs.

There is a need to inform musicians that they can succeed or overcome pressure related to music without using drugs. Generally, the musical career has many challenges. Musicians need counseling and guidance so that they can make informed decisions and live fulfilling lives.

In conclusion, it can be argued that musicians often compose lyrics in response to events or situations, and this is usually done in a symbolic manner. While portraying the situation, they create a unique perspective that enables their listeners to view the situation in a deliberate manner; what experts call the artist’s agenda.

Often, artists respond to situations in their lyrics to either: Celebrate a specific belief or faith, Invite listeners into a culture to experience it authentically, sometimes dispelling any misinterpretations outsiders may have, criticize traditions or current events within a culture and often call for reform or change, and force readers to question their beliefs and values. “Girls not Grey” is an example of a song that responds to a situation. This song was composed by AFI in response to the worrying trend of drug abuse in Musicians.

A number of factors which force musicians to use drugs have been documented. Drug use is common among young people and most importantly musicians. The use of drugs such as cocaine and marijuana is often advertised in the mass media and this attracts the attention of many potential users.

Musicians are often forced to use illegal drugs so as to gain courage and energy to face huge crowds. According to Tiegel, rock musicians are the most vulnerable artistes (57).

Experts of drug addiction indicate that musicians often use drugs because “drugs are so much a part of the youth scene, and the musician thinks he needs the drug to survive, work under duress, be functional on the road, work long gigs at absurd hours, record at odd hours, and tolerate the sound of music; musicians need drugs to start their motors going or to calm down their anxieties” (Tiegel 58).

Drug use significantly affects the lives of musicians. Having worked with musicians who use drugs for quite some time, Dr. Birnbaum argues that drug use has led to the breakage of many groups due to the fact that some members of the group are unable to cope up with the behaviors of their colleagues. In addition, drug use affects the relationship between musicians and their producers and managers. Thus, drug use does not only harm the health of musicians and other drug users, but also cripples their working relationships and careers.

Most musicians have a lot of money which they use to purchase illegal drugs like cocaine. In addition, the society is so permissive that musicians often get away with some crimes such as the use of illegal drugs. There is a need to inform musicians that they can succeed or overcome pressure related to music without using drugs. Generally, the musical career has many challenges. Musicians need counseling and guidance so that they can make informed decisions and live fulfilling lives.

Works Cited

Lyrics Interpretors. AFI: Girls not Grey meaning. Jan. 2007. Web.

Ovguide Editors. “The Art of Drowning Video”. Ovguide 7 April 2011: 1-10. Web.

Tiegel, Eliot. “Young Musicians Fall prey to Addicting Drugs.” Billboard 6 November 1971: 55-60. Web.

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