A 90s deep dive: The Gin Blossoms, “Hey Jealousy”
“And if you don’t expect too much from me
You might not be let down.”
--The Gin Blossoms
If you turned on a radio in the mid-90s, chances are you recognize the chorus of “Hey Jealousy.” The singer cheerily offers, “Tomorrow we can drive around this town / And let the cops chase us around.” If you listen no further, you bop along to the bright guitar line while you drive down the highway and belt, “Hey, jealousy!”
And for years, that’s all I heard—disposable pop rock glee.
And I was wrong.
The song opens with a request for a place to stay. The singer, “in no shape for driving,” asks if “I can just crash here tonight.” He has a history with the woman he’s asking: the singer declares her “the best I’d ever had.” But he blew it, somehow or another. (Booze seems likely, given the scenario, and another line hints toward infidelity.) Whatever substance-induced screw-up he committed, the speaker blames it for his being alone, looking for a roof.
And then that bright chorus kicks in.
You can’t help but be caught up in it. “Tomorrow we can drive around this town / And let the cops chase us around.” Which of us hasn’t, at least once, daydreamed about the kind of mischief that chorus advertises? The long arm of the law isn’t a real threat here. The chase is a game of cat and mouse starring Barney Fife as the cat. More mall guard than menace. Between this crystal-clear assurance of a Keystone Cops chase and the unmistakable “Hey, jealousy!” it’s easy to miss the line in the middle: “The past is gone, but something might be found / To take its place.”
And that’s the song’s hidden heart. In among the frivolity and the hooks and the playful bassline, there is a hole. The morrow’s mischief— if it happens—wouldn’t be a spontaneous frolic. It will be planned, and therefore fake. Think of the craziest story of your youth. Did you pencil it on your calendar? Chances are, it was sudden, splitting instantaneously from the ordinariness that preceded it. And that’s what the singer is missing here: he can’t manufacture the new joy. The past is gone, he recognizes, but he still wants to bring back a piece of it through force of will. And hijinks aren’t born from determination. Or loneliness.
The song’s second verse is heartbreaking. The first four lines:
“And you can trust me not to drink*
And not to sleep around
And if you don’t expect too much from me
You might not be let down…”
He has broken his first promise before he made it; a man too drunk to drive is asking for confidence in his sobriety. In this context, the promise of faithfulness sounds just as empty. He means to reassure this girl who got away, but with his intoxication having gotten the better of him, his words are more likely reminding her of his past sins. And yet it’s not exactly dishonest because as he stands there on her doorstep, he means every word. He wants so badly to measure up for her and to her, but at least in his own mind, he is destined to fall short. Hence the sad hope that “if you don’t expect too much from me / You might not be let down.” There’s a subtextual question in those lines. He’s a failure; he knows it. But surely, he pleads, he can still be worth something. Right?
The next two lines reveal the full extent of his desperation:
Cause all I really want’s to be with you
Feeling like I matter too
Whether that’s the bottle talking or not, it’s the truth as he feels it.
The song was written by Doug Hopkins, the Gin Blossoms’ lead guitarist. He co-founded the band in 1987 and saw it become a big enough draw in the Tempe area to lure a record deal. “Hey Jealousy” was the first single off the major-label debut, New Miserable Experience. The album eventually went quadruple platinum, but Hopkins never lived to see it: he shot himself on December 5, 1992, a few weeks after A&M Records sent him a gold record for his song. An alcoholic, he had been out of the Gin Blossoms for months. Reportedly too drunk to stand in his final recording sessions, Hopkins was receiving treatment for alcoholism at the time of his death.
A listener’s first impression of “Hey Jealousy” will be of high spirits, both because of the melody and the most audible lyrics of the chorus. That’s the façade. The truth becomes clearer if one more closely examines the intonation of the title. The optimism sounds a little forced, the voice a bit more plaintive than pleasant. A drunken man is trying so very hard to sound hopeful.
But “Hey Jealousy” isn’t really a love song, or even a devil-may-care invitation. It’s a confession.
*According to Wikipedia, the band changed the lyric to “trust me not to think,” but Hopkins originally wrote the version printed here.
She offered me a fruitcake at Christmas, before Christmas I guess, and said... if you want one. The oven is broken and we’re getting a new one, they took eight hours to bake.
And I said of course I want one, I just didn’t think I was worthy of a fruitcake...
“It’s only a fruitcake.” She replied
And I said you can’t make seven with love and one with hate, and if you are going to make all with no heart at all then what was the point anyway? So there is no such thing as only a fruitcake, and
I will take one. Thanks.
outbursts of crumpled-up solar lights
I enjoy the ramble of stars against my chaos
hey, if it's already loud,
why not make it louder
why not cause an E x p l o s i o n
between me and the sun
there is always room for a blazing orange
and maroon, copper-filled outbursts,
so in fireworks, color this canvas skin
in flames, paint my tarred soul in crimson and burgundy hues
this chaos of mine
is permanently sewn into these veins, into these fingertips
it is written within my deepest structure,
just because its too far away too see the storms
within the Jupiter's heart with a mundane eye
it does not mean that it is not there,
The Great Red Spot still resides within this heart
on most days in slumber
but on others, growing
getting ready for an E x p l o s i o n
Swordfights with sytle
I slashed at him. He blocked, then he stabbed me in the stomach.
"Ow!" I said. I grabbed his sword and fell backwards. We fell off a cliff and into the sea.
Crusted blood marred the salmon-orange hues of the sunset mirrored in his blade. I drunk deeply of my last moments: the salt of the ocean breeze, the graveled stones beneath my feet, the thunderous waves carving the cliffs below. His blade descended--I closed my eyes. Calm flushed away adrenaline. The twisting grip on my sword loosened. Dipping against the harsh wind rolling up the sheer drop below, I allowed gravity to direct my fall.
Instinct drove my foot forward and my sword up. Metal clanged against metal. Like the waves, my blade sheared up his own, throwing the tip skyward and exposing his belly. The ocean again crashed against the rocks below; my blade buried deep into his gut.
With a howl akin to a cornered animal, he grasped the blade. painting it wine red as his palms slid down to the hilt.
My strength gave out. As though he could sense the grasp of death upon me, he twisted, plummeting us both to the sea below.
I smiled. I had taught him well.
Salmon-orange hues of the twin suns descending behind the Blackart Mountains mirrored in the Blade of Heavens. Leth'nard drunk deeply of his last moments: the salt of the Crescend Ocean, the graveled stones beneath his feet, the thunderous waves carving the Drecar Cliffs below. The Blade of Heavens fell, flames igniting upon its edge. Leth'nard closed his eyes. Calm flushed away adrenaline. The twisting grip on his old sword, Uthgart, loosened.
The tingle of Spice filled his veins. Movements became a blur. Metal clanged. Uthgart burst in a shower of ice; metal shards struck Blackfaart's exposed belly.
With a howl akin to a Craven Woolf, Blackfaart grasped Uthgart, the blade of ice painting his palms wine red.
The Spice sapped away strength. As though Blackfaart could sense the Spice consuming what little grasp Leth'nard had left on the Almswald, he twisted, plummeting to the Crescend Ocean below.
Leth'nard smiled as he fell with his old friend. The Blade of Heaven commanded death, as the prophecy stated, after all.
An evening of lush salmon-pinks and deep
hues the blade.
Waves below roar for death;
Skies above watch with their misty breath
We meet in the middle,
colors our friendship.
We ride the wind into the sea.
Silly rhyme poet:
I slash him;
He slashes me.
We slash each other
into the sea.
There are seven ducks in the pond.
Look at the ducks, George, look at the ducks.
George looks at the ducks.
i am, in most contexts,
a sliver of human,
a spec of light in a
i am, at times,
a locked box of emotion,
for fear, for fear,
and silent as a void.
i am, when i'm lonely,
wilted and jaded and
angry at the world
for leaving me in this life.
i am, at night,
a whirring, ticking time-bomb
of a brain, clacking away
thoughts like a broken typewriter.
i am, while i'm alone,
i am, around many,
breezily agreeable and
an orderly façade.
i am, with few,
bubbling with wonder,
spilling words i never ever say.
i am, at my best,
a mere human being,
a shimmer of light in a
vibrant and boundless sky.
Gary missed the imaginary friends he used to have as a child in stately old Victorian home, with whom he would spend the nights making up scary stories and whispering beneath the plush blankets until the morning rustling of his parents banished his friends to silence.
When he later learned the police pulled no fewer than a dozen bodies from the crawlspaces in between the walls of the old house, Gary wept with unfathomable grief, partly out of guilt for his complicity in the crimes, however unwittingly, and partly because even now, he missed the voices still.
When the bough breaks
Voice a monotone whisper she says, I was hugging Hannah close, rocking, murmuring, crooning, crying hard right along with her..seemed like hours. Staring at endless nothing, she continues, When she finally stopped, I was so happy she had finally fallen asleep...so happy.
My Body, Yet Not Mine (an attempt at a two sentence horror story)
When I opened my eyes I saw that a knife was poised over my throat, held in a hand; my Hand, but I had utterly no control over it, since it floated unattached in the air. As I opened my mouth to scream, I realized that my Voice was not with me, but in the corner of the room and I heard it say, "Farewell!" as I watched it walk out the door.
he couldn’t read my handwriting. sometimes being the awkward white girl is painfully demoralizing. the wait was awful.
I only had one beer beforehand. I wasn’t shaking. performing onstage is beautiful. I watched the poets before me rage with passion, their voices carrying their truth like flowers down a stream.
I was number nine to go. he shouted my incorrect name into the microphone. I stood up, relieved, ready to be who I wanted to be.
I can‘t remember reading large parts of my poem. We were only allowed to read one.
their were five judges. we were scored on a scale of one to ten. ten meant you shook hearts. my average score? 7.5.
that‘s not too bad, a solid C grade. I had passed. I dropped the microphone on my way offstage. perhaps my dress had been see-through. I’ll never know. I just know it felt right, a wave of relief that my voice carried across the ocean of ears ready to hear a white girl sing.
I held my hand on the lever as she struggled to stay afloat.
Vengeance is finally mine.
She screamed as I let in the sharks.