The evolution of “I Hate Myself”

Before I get started on the evolution of “I Hate Myself,” I just want to clarify that this post isn’t really about the evolution of Rick Springfield’s “I Hate Myself” as a song, but rather the evolution how the song played out in our family.

When I first heard “Songs for the End of the World,” “I Hate Myself” took me by surprise. Such an upbeat tune with such a negative message. Since it was so catchy, I decided I didn’t want my kids to hear it because I didn’t want them to start walking around singing “I hate myself” either at home or at school. So I skipped it when the kids were in the car.

But, alas, we are no longer at the parental stage where we can do something like that without the kids noticing. “Why did you skip that song?” my inquisitive 6-year-old asked. “I didn’t feel like hearing that one right now,” I replied. But that wasn’t good enough. The next time I did it, he required more of an explanation. So I explained that it’s called “I Hate Myself” and I didn’t want them singing that song because it’s not a good thing to sing about hating yourself. (Sorry, RS.)

That worked for a few weeks, with all three boys alerting me after the first few notes played if I wasn’t paying attention. “Mommy!!,” they’d shout. “It’s ‘I Hate Myself!’ Skip it!”

Then one day one of them asked if they could hear the song. “OK, but I don’t want you singing it,” I said. (Maybe this whole thing is an over-reaction, but I think words can have a certain power when verbalized. Which is why I think it’s so funny – both funny strange and ha-ha funny – that that’s one of the songs that RS gets his audiences to sing out loud).

So I played it. And they liked it. And one day during carpool, my 6-year-old told the kindergartner carpooler, “Rick Springfield has a song called, ‘I Hate Myself,’ do you want to hear it?” So after some coaxing, I risked being a “bad influence” carpooler and played it. The kindergartner liked it and started requesting it on future trips. Hopefully he didn’t start singing it at home.

Then one day, one of my boys asked why RS would sing a song about hating himself. So I winged it, trying to make it a teachable moment. I explained how sometimes people do things that they feel bad about doing and then they hate that they did it. So it doesn’t mean that he actually hates himself, but he hates that he did whatever it is he did. Who knows, maybe hearing this song will someday help them get through something that they regret doing.

Maybe I’m overthinking the whole thing. But the other day I did hear my 6-year-old singing, “I love myself” to the same melody. Sure that changes the whole theme of the song, but for a family that isn’t too far out of The Wiggles phase, it’s fine with me. Fortunately they haven’t yet asked about what the rest of the song’s lyrics mean.

Another generation of fans

Since I have “rediscovered” Rick Springfield, I’ve been listening a lot to “Venus in Overdrive” and “Songs for the End of the World.”  For the past few weeks, it’s either one or the other that is in the CD player in my car so my kids have been listening to them often as well.

I have three sons, ages 4, 6 and 8 and they have all quickly become familiar with Rick Springfield. When I first started playing “Songs for the End of World,” my 8-year-old asked who was singing and I showed him the cover. “Does he look familiar?” I asked him. “Yes,” he replied. “From ‘Late, Late at Night,’ ” which he had seen around the house.

His favorite songs are “A Sign of Life”- because it’s about aliens – and “Our Ship’s Sinking”  – he likes singing the “woah woah woah wo.”

My 6-year-old says he likes all the songs and often instructs me to “turn up the volume” as we’re driving, after I turn it down to ask them questions about their day. The other day he informed me that “In song number nine, Rick Springfield says a bad word.” Fortunately he doesn’t quite understand the meaning of the songs – he was just walking around the house singing, “Six kids keep me buried alive – yah, yah…” (Venus in Overdrive) I didn’t correct him. One of his favorite songs is “Don’t Keep the Sandman Waiting.”

My 4-year-old has been heard singing, “Victoria’s seeeecret” and “Awaaay, awaaaay” (from “One Way Street”) around the house. He’s also picked up a few new vocabulary words (such as the one in song number 9 mentioned above) so I skip over some songs when they’re in the car. (When he first used that word, I asked him where he heard it – he replied, “from Rick Springfield.”) I always skip “I Hate Myself,” because I don’t want them walking around singing that.

One funny coincidence: last weekend I was home alone doing some work and was listening to a podcast of a RS interview from June on the computer that somebody had posted on a RS fan Facebook page. It was a fun interview during which RS and the interviewers were joking about the number of records RS has sold and at one point joked that they could say there were trillions of them.

A couple of hours later, I was in the car with my oldest son and out of nowhere he asked me, “Does Rick Springfield have billions of songs?” (He hadn’t heard the interview.) The timing was just weird because the interview was still in my mind.