I had lunch in a café today, and the background music consisted of slowed-down "smooth jazz" covers of various pop songs. I didn't pay much attention to it until the female vocalist started crooning "Fi-re . . . fi-re . . .," and I thought I recognized it as an R.E.M. song, though I wasn't sure which one. My first thought was that it was “Pop Song 89,” and that I would soon hear the memorable lines, "Should we talk about the weather? Should we talk about the government?" It soon became clear, though, that it was "The One I Love." I knew the song but had never realized that the word repeated in the chorus was fire. This obviously changes the whole meaning of the song, since it implies that "this one goes out to the one I love" refers not to the song itself but to a bullet. It's not a love song; it's a song about murder or suicide -- and turning it into a mellow "easy listening" (and therefore clearly enunciated) number actually makes that clearer!
Curious about the rest of the lyrics, I got out my phone and googled them. It was in these search results that I learned the singer's name was Michael Stipe and that my understanding of the implication of fire was correct.
Speaking to Mojo in 2016, Stipe said that he wasn't at all dismayed that so many people misinterpreted the sarcastic and spiteful lyrics as a straightforward love song. "I didn't like the song to begin with," he explained. "I felt it was too brutal. I thought the sentiment was too difficult to put out into the world. But people misunderstood it, so it was fine. Now it's a love song, so that's fine."
Then, since I had my phone out and everything, I thought I'd check a few blogs. This is a bit uncharacteristic -- I much prefer browsing on a computer -- but it's what I did, and as the sync fairies would have it, the very first post I read was one from Andrew Anglin about the appointment of Hakeen Jeffries as the leader of the Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives. Due to Mr. Jeffries' somewhat badass physiognomy, Anglin kept referring to him as "stone-cold" and making allusions to "heel" wrestler Stone Cold Steve Austin -- but right at the end of the post, he compared him to someone else instead:
If I had not eaten at that café and googled that song, I would have had no idea who that was, even with a photo.
The use of the expression "Black Michael" -- after several Stone Cold Steve Austin references -- was also synchronistically interesting, given the Mormon doctrine that Michael and Adam are the same person. The other famous pro wrestler with a mineral moniker, Dwayne "the Rock" Johnson, recently starred as the title character in a movie called Black Adam.
"Black Michael" also reminded me of Mike Tyson's nickname "Iron Mike" -- since black can refer to iron, as in blacksmith. Ages ago I read an article that referred to "Evander Holyfield singing 'Glory to God' before going into the ring to face Iron Mike" -- and for some reason that line has stuck in my memory all these years, though I've completely forgotten whatever article it was part of.
Anglin wrote, "I would like hear him say 'and that’s the bottom line -- because Hakeem Jeffries said so'" -- alluding to a famous Steve Austin quote. Here's the context:
Hendrix: The fourth prestigious King Of The Ring, Stone Cold Steve Austin, an incredible victory!Austin: The first thing I want to be done, is to get that piece of crap out of my ring. Don't just get him out of the ring, get him out of the WWF because I've proved son, without a shadow of a doubt, you ain't got what it takes anymore! You sit there and you thump your Bible, and you say your prayers, and it didn’t get you anywhere. Talk about your psalms, talk about John 3:16. Austin 3:16 says I just whipped your ass!Hendrix: Come on, that's not necessaryAustin: All he's gotta do is go buy him a cheap bottle of Thunderbird and try to dig back some of that courage he had in his prime. As the King Of The Ring, I'm serving notice to every one of the WWF superstars. I don't give a damn what they are, they're all on the list, and that's Stone Cold's list, and I'm fixing to start running through all of 'em. And as far as this championship match is considered son, I don't give a damn if it's Davey Boy Smith or Shawn Michaels, Steve Austin's time is come, and when I get that shot you're looking at the next WWF Champion. And that's the bottom line, because Stone Cold said so.
Austin's ridicule of his opponent's religiosity resonates with "Evander Holyfield singing 'Glory to God' before going into the ring to face Iron Mike."