Overplayed Song of the Week: Swedish House Mafia, ‘Don’t You Worry Child’

Weeks on Chart: 25
Peak: No. 6 on Billboard’s Hot 100, February 9, 2013
Current Radio Play Frequency: No. 21 on KIIS FM’s Playlist

YouTube Hit Count: 72,252,532 at time of publication

[Lyrics]

Well, I’m glad this appears to be out of our systems now. It wasn’t going to be very long before the name “Swedish House Mafia” stopped being funny, and if we as a society ever normalize a name like “Swedish House Mafia,” then there might be no saving us. I liked SHM better when they were making awesomely silly steampunk Absolut ads; this attempt at a heart-tugger is completely flat and boring by comparison. I’m not sure who this John Martin fellow is (“John Martin is a Swedish singer-songwriter, best known for his collaborations with the Swedish House Mafia.” Thanks, Wikipedia), but for some reason I always imagine Jax from Vanderpump Rules is singing this, preferably while wearing a pristine off-white fisherman sweater. That five-step jump between notes in the chorus sounds like it is actually physically hurting him; I can hear the wince, and pretty soon I’m mirroring it myself.

One of my ongoing problems with mainstream EDM is that it uses a lot of prefab tricks to fool you into thinking a song is more exciting than it is, but despite utilizing nearly all of them (see: production notes), “Don’t You Worry Child” never gets more exciting than the textiles section of an Ikea catalog. This is SHM’s last single before their recently announced indefinite hiatus. Seems a little stunty to me, but I can’t say I’ll miss them; of the big-name EDM acts currently crossing into the mainstream, they’re treading sub–David Guetta levels of interest to me at this point. When they inevitably come back I think we should make sure they only get to do vodka ads and fashion films.

 

Production notes

Nothing much to say here, other than I’d love someone to make a comprehensive guide to the 36 basic composition components of an EDM song. I’m pretty sure this song uses at least 12 of them, including the old standbys:

  • Syncopated five-note riff (“dun dun dun, DUN-DUN dun dun dun, DUN-DUN)
  • Bass thump downbeat entering somewhere between 0:20 and 0:30
  • Cut to acoustic guitar at two-thirds mark

 

Lyrical notes

Upon a hill across a blue lake, that’s where I had my first heartbreak

I know we have hills and blue lakes in America, but something about Martin’s strained delivery in that bridge reminds you of how Scandinavian this all is — in America, we’re supposed to have our first heartbreaks in gymnasiums and shopping malls. Also very Euro: Martin uses monarchical power as a metaphor for a kind of idyllic pre-tragedy past, talking about the good old days when he “was the king,” “had a golden throne,” and “ruled the world.” It’s a little “Viva La Vida,” a song whose lyrics always made me inexplicably uncomfortable. Are we supposed to feel sorry for the protagonist for his lost sense of immunity from hardship? Maybe it’s a personal thing, but that’s a theme I’m never going to be able to hook into, which is why I’ll probably never really be into Girls, either.

If there’s one thing I’ll miss about this song, it will be singing along to one of the best misheard lyrics of the past year. I’ll never not hear it as “Ciara’s got a plan for you,” and honestly, I’m pretty sure that sentiment holds more truth than the original.

 

Final verdict: Not my goodies

Filed Under: EDM, On Repeat, Pop Music

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Emily Yoshida is an editor at Grantland.

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