Ever since I heard Arianna Grande’s hit song, “Break Up With Your Girlfriend, I’m Bored,” it’s fascinated me.
It’s not a particularly good song at the musical level. It lacks layers, subtlety and novelty. The beat is basically a throw away, a cobbled together combo of the record studio’s royalty free beats and this old ‘N SYNC song.
So what’s so fascinating about it?
Again, not because they’re particularly good lyrics, filled with poetry and rich metaphor.
It’s the sheer audacity of them.
And it’s more than audacity. There’s a dark nastiness hidden beneath the syrupy sweet surface of this pop hit.
The plot of the song is simple. Grande wants a guy to break up with his girlfriend, not because she’s pining over a lost love or a relationship that got away (like the ‘N SYNC she interpolates), but because she’s bored and wants to fuck.
What’s even more fascinating:
Nobody banned the song. There was no outrage. It didn’t get dropped from radio stations or streaming channels.
Oh sure, if you Google “break up with your girlfriend + controversy,” you’ll find a few articles calling it controversial but that doesn’t mean much these days. Outrage is practically a cottage industry now. You can find a few pissed off people for almost anything, so there’s bound to be a few folks trying to manufacture outrage to get clicks.
But make no mistake, there’s no real outrage here.
Mothers aren’t marching and telling their daughters they can’t listen to the Devil’s music. Nobody is burning records.
If you want to see real controversy over a song, listen to George W Bush call out Cop Killer, or watch Straight Out of Compton about the rise of NWA and you’ll see people lose their minds over lyrics. Or go back even further to the 1960s and you’ll find whole swaths of society threatened by rock music and what it represented about the deep divide between traditional values and the sexual revolution.
But this? Crickets.
Maybe you think I’m a little puritanical and there’s nothing all that controversial about the lyrics? So what if Grande wants to have a one night stand with some hot guy in a club? She’s a badass modern alpha woman. She can do whatever she wants.
But it’s more than that. There’s something else at work here.
Ever since I read the amazing blog series, The Gervais Principal, about the ruling class of sociopaths in the world, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about sociopaths and personality disorders in modern life.
Throughout history, sociopaths have always been with us. They’ve driven the greatest changes in society, waged wars, and created fantastic inventions, all while leaving a trail of chaos in their wake.
But today sociopaths seem to be on the rise.
Somewhere in between the funhouse mirror of social media and breakdown of traditional sexual roles that the agricultural revolution wired us with, we’re seeing a gale force cultural wind that’s warping personalities with ever accelerating speed.
What slowly dawned on me as I listened to this hypnotically catchy pop tune again and again is that we’re witnessing a new kind of sociopath, fearless ones who openly flaunts their power and dominance like the vampires in True Blood who have their own political parties and TV shows and can hypnotize any regular human into submission if they get too curious about the inner workings of vampire lives.
In some ways, this is not new. Sociopaths are always working in plain sight. As Venkatesh Rao writes in part two of his series, “The bulk of Sociopath communication takes places out in the open, coded in Powertalk, right in the presence of non-Sociopaths.”
But something about this song hit me as very different.
Most sociopath talk is subtle, layered with hidden stacks of meaning and encoded messages that other sociopaths pick up on but regular people completely miss. There’s nothing coded about that line. It’s totally direct.
The song is completely vicious. And it’s right out in the open, it’s cruelty barely disguised.
Yet it still flew right under the radar of regular perception.
A few token slight of hand tricks in the video, a generic beat and the silky sweetness of Grande’s voice was all it took to have it slip right past the blood brain barrier of the average human without it raising the slightest red flag or protest.
These ridiculously transparent tricks misdirect clueless marks like a master street grifter who has you looking right where she wants you to, all while she swipes your wallet.
And she gets away with it with ease.
You Can Hit in the Morning, Like It’s Yours
Before we go any further, let’s give Grande the benefit of the doubt and call the person in her song a “character.”
She doesn’t write most of her own songs, even if she collaborates on them and gets writing credit. And of course, artists aren’t their creations, even if they project a lot of themselves into their work. If every song were an accurate reflection of reality than just about every rap star would be in jail for murder and/or beating their girlfriend bloody.
It’s also crucial to understand the difference between sociopaths and psychopaths. The terms are often used interchangeably but they’re not the same.
Some psychologists don’t use the terms at all and the DSM handbook of psychiatric disorders doesn’t include either word, preferring more precise classifications like antisocial personality disorder but historically these words have a real meaning.
And the main difference is awareness. A psychopath doesn’t know the difference between right and wrong. Their moral wiring is utterly broken. They can kill someone and not feel the least amount of emotional turmoil. In fact, they may look at the tangled remains with fascination, like their spilled guts are a puzzle.
A sociopath knows the difference between right and wrong.
They just don’t care.
As in: “I know it ain’t right, but I don’t care,” one of the refrains of the song.
It was those lyrics that tipped me off that we’re talking about sociopaths. But not just any old sociopath. There was something so blatant and bold about this line that it struck me like a diamond bullet between the eyes and told me we’re dealing with something totally new:
An open sociopath.
We’re talking about someone who can directly admit a complete lack of shared morality and get away with it with zero repercussions.
Imagine if you, a regular non-sociopath, stole a laptop at work. When your boss caught you, you said “I know it’s wrong, but I don’t care.”
Would you get away with it?
No way. You’d get led out in handcuffs.
But Grande’s character absolutely gets away with what she’s doing here in the song. She’s totally up front about it and she can do it without any consequence whatsoever.
She’s going to steal a man right out from under the nose of his girlfriend, get him to break up with that girlfriend so she can fuck him for one night and walk away unscathed.
And that’s just the beginning.
The true nastiness of this song comes out the deeper you look.
Think about the way this scene would play out in real life.
What’s the purpose of getting the guy to break up with his girlfriend?
There is none. It’s just brutal dominance, a spider playing with a trapped fly. She wants to wreak total havoc in the guy’s life for no reason at all, other than to show her power.
It’s not enough to tempt him to sleep with her in a clandestine rendezvous. She wants him to dump his girlfriend too.
And what does he get out of doing that?
In fact, he loses. It’s like trading a diamond for a shard of glass.
Think about it. Is she looking to have a relationship with him? Is he someone she’s deeply interested in, who she hopes to spend time with moving forward so she has to remove a rival woman to get to him? Nope. She just wants to screw. And then be on her way.
We know that from the lines, “break up with your girlfriend, ’cause I’m bored,” and “you can hit in the morning, like it’s yours.”
Her reason is super simple. She’s bored. There’s nothing else behind it at all. And she’s going to let him fuck her again in the morning “like it’s yours” even though it’s not. He doesn’t get to keep her good loving, they’re just pretending it’s his, like a girlfriend experience, the world’s most popular sex service for men.
We all love illusion.
Now think about what the guy is trading here, a woman that he’s in a relationship with, a relationship that could be a month, a year, five years, or more, all for a one night stand with a woman who has zero intention of ever seeing him again. After the one night stand he loses the relationship and the one night stand.
Now of course we could focus on the guy. He’s not innocent here in going home with her.
As the night unfurls, he has a few relatively moral choices to make. One is to not go to bed with the Grande succubus at all. Or if he really doesn’t want to be in a relationship he could break up with his girlfriend and start dating again.
But let’s say he goes to bed with Grande. He cheats on his girlfriend. If he’s like Grande’s character in the song, he may be another sociopath who doesn’t care about right and wrong. He has a one night stand, flips the script on Grande and doesn’t break up with his lady, going right back to her after getting some clandestine action and she is none the wiser.
But what if he’s not another sociopath and he’s just another regular Joe, a clueless or a loser, in Rao’s parlance?
He spots a beautifully hypnotic woman who wants him and it’s a dream come true. He goes to bed with her hoping for something more. Maybe his relationship is already on the rocks or deeply dissatisfying and he didn’t know he wanted out until the very moment he met her. He doesn’t know Grande’s character is a sociopath in disguise and even worse she gives him an indicator that she likes him more than she does when she casually whispers to him “break up with your girlfriend” something you might do if you really liked someone and wanted them for yourself.
He goes home and breaks up with her only to find that Grande ghosted him. He never hears from her again.
Why would a sociopath do that to someone?
For fun. And to see if she can.
The Art of Seduction
Let’s face it, a part of you isn’t bothered by any of this at all. In fact, you like it. It turns you on too.
It’s tremendously seductive.
The hypnotic beat, Grande’s smoldering eyes and long legs, and the utterly wanton abandon of her lyrics all set our lusty hearts on fire.
Because the art of seduction is about power. It’s about push and pull. It’s about dominance and submission.
It’s about taking control.
And there is something unbelievably erotic about power. Wouldn’t we all love to be so hot and so bold that we could get away with anything without any consequences whatsoever?
Wouldn’t you like to fuck anyone who turns you on with no trouble at all? Wouldn’t you like to be so fucking sexy that you can steal a guy or a girl right from under their significant other’s nose with ease?
There’s a true sociopathic duality of coded messages in the lines “then I realize she’s right there, and I’m like damn it’s not fair.”
On one level, it could mean that Grande sees the rival woman is close by, so it’s much harder to steal him. The girlfriend has the apple of her eye locked down and it’s not fair. Grande can’t swoop in and seduce him now.
But there is another way to hear that line.
Grande sees the other girl and smirks, dismissing her as an insignificant bug, thinking to herself, “it’s not even fair how easily I can sweep this bitch aside and take her man.”
It reminds me of the old country western classic by Dolly Parton, Jolene.
“Jolene, Jolene, Jolene, Jolene
I’m begging of you please don’t take my man
Jolene, Jolene, Jolene, Jolene
Please don’t take him just because you can.”
Grande is Jolene in this song. She can take her rival’s man and she will.
Most people would never dare approach a couple with the goal of breaking them up but Grande saunters right across the floor and goes for it, even dancing with the girl in the video, perhaps considering a threesome until the girl bores her and she looks to eliminate the girl from the equation so she can have the hot guy to herself that night.
Beware the Slight of Hand
What’s even more interesting is how few people have noticed any of this in the song.
Grande herself masks the true nature of the song with this brilliant little misdirection tweet:
‘i added a fun one (lol) to replace one that i decided i don’t think wanna share w the world.”
In other words, she’s saying to her fans, it’s just a fun and funny little song, don’t think about it at all.
The video goes further. It uses a few absurdly simple tricks to throw the clueless and losers off the trail.
The video is basically white noise. It means nothing at all but it’s designed to make you think it means something.
I’ve seen interpretations that she was really singing to the girl and it was the girl she wanted all along, but it doesn’t track with the lyrics at all. She’s singing about a guy and taking that guy from his girlfriend. If you close your eyes and listen to the song alone, you’ll see there is nothing in the lyrics to support the video’s interpretation.
There’s another “twist” in the video too. The girlfriend slowly changes shape. By the end of the video she looks exactly like Grande, a perfect doppelgänger. That caused some fans to wonder if the song was somehow about “self love.”
Again, close your eyes and there is absolutely nothing in the song lyrics to support that interpretation.
So why is it there?
Just to misdirect, confuse and create ambiguity.
In ambiguity lays true power. If people spend all their time trying to figure out your true intentions and don’t know what you mean then they have you in their clutches.
The video and the “twists” are all designed to make the song’s real meaning fly right under your radar. While the average person focuses on the fake twist about her singing the song to the girl, they never stop to actually consider that the twist doesn’t match anything else in the song or the video in the least. It’s nothing but a fake out.
Again, she’s not secretly singing to a girl or singing about self love. The lyrics are direct in their utterly nasty audacity.
Here’s the plot of the song in all it’s explicit glory:
She spotted someone she doesn’t even know in a club, “I never even fucking met you,” and she wants him “took one fucking look at your face and I want to know how you taste.” He’s there with his girlfriend, “and then I realize she’s right there” and she wants his ass anyway. She wants him so much that she’s ruminating on how to take him from his girl. “Why can’t we just play for keeps? Yeah yeah. Practically on my knees.”
And like a classic sociopath she feels zero guilt and even projects the blame onto him.
“You know what you’re doing to me. You’re singing my songs in the streets. Acting all innocent. Please. I know you already thinking about it.”
In other words, this is Grande is full diva vamp form. She intimates he knows who she is, a famous pop star, and it’s his fault for wanting her. He’s singing her songs and acting “all innocent” but she knows he’s not so the message is clear, “stop pretending you have morals, stop playing around and come fuck me because you know you want to because you fantasized about me on screen.”
Playing for Keeps
It’s possible I’m wildly misinterpreting this fun little song.
But I seriously doubt it.
Today we’re seeing a brand new class of sociopath and psychopath. Donald Trump says things daily that would have brought down politicians of the past if they said even one of those things.
Democracy is on the decline. Once again the vicious and cruel are coming to power everywhere. Darkness is gathering in the world like a slow moving storm. Old morals are collapsing, as are old collective belief systems about what’s right and wrong.
We’re gaslighted daily, barraged with deranging messages relentlessly from every direction. Nobody knows who to trust. All the news seems slanted and biased, not just fake news, and our ability to tell real from fake is failing.
And into the chaos steps a new kind of hero.
As Littlefinger said in Game of Thrones, “Chaos is a ladder.”
In other words, if you know how to climb it, you can make use of the chaos and profit from it.
Chaos is the playground of the sociopath.
As chaos increases in the world, they’re coming out of the shadows and openly flaunting their power.
Where does it all lead?
I don’t know but if history is any teacher when people in power don’t need to mask their power we’re in trouble. Big trouble.
Sociopaths don’t die on the battlefield or starve to death when companies collapse. The rest of us do, as we get caught in the crossfire of their power games.
In the end, we’re pawns in their game.
There’s only one way out. Or rather up.
Climb the ladder.
Become a sociopath yourself.
Shed your morals. Shed your illusions. Shed your fears. And live out a wild and bold story according to your own invented morals. Forget higher powers. They’re illusions. Know that you’re the only real power in the universe and nobody can stop you but you, if you’re smart enough, fast enough and clever enough.
Be good. Be evil.
Join the great game as a player instead of a pawn.
Draw your power from emptiness.
“Play for keeps.”
Shape your own reality in the chaos to come.
“Only the ladder is real.”
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