Third Eye Blind Support Black Lives Matter with New Single
San Franciscan alternative band Third Eye Blind are no stranger to serious lyrical themes. “Semi-Charmed Life”, perhaps their most famous tune, features lyrics about a drug user’s descent into crystal meth addiction. Another well-known Third Eye Blind track, “Jumper”, tells the story of a homosexual friend’s decision to end his life and the consequences of such a choice. Third Eye Blind’s newest track, “Cop vs. Phone Girl”, was released on July 25th, and it touches on themes of police brutality, racism, and social justice. It’s the lead single from their Extended Play (EP) We Are Drugs, set for release in late 2016.
Lyrically, “Cop vs. Phone Girl” explicitly references the 2015 incident at South Carolina’s Spring Valley High School, where a police officer violently removed an African American student from her class. This student received a charge called “disturbing schools” for her refusal to give up her cellphone and leave the room.
“Cop vs. Phone Girl” represents Third Eye Blind’s capitalization on their nationwide publicity in regards to their comments about the Republican Party. On July 19th, the band played a benefit concert for “Musicians on Call”, a charity organization, in close proximity to the Republican National Convention. Frontman Stephan Jenkins took the opportunity to criticize the Republican Party’s views on science and LGBT rights between performances, and the band played tunes that specifically criticized the party’s stances, such as “Jumper”. A video of the event went viral, and this inspired Third Eye Blind to release “Cop vs. Phone Girl” as a response.
Make no mistake: “Cop vs. Phone Girl” is a politically charged track with visually explicit images painted in the lyrics. The lyrics of the second verse read:
Officer Slam came and threw Shakara backwards against the wall
I mean he flipped her just like a ragdoll and broke her arm
Tossed her across that room face down on the deck
He puts his hands around a 16 year old girl’s neck
Likewise, the lyrics in the bridge read:
And on the classroom floor there’s a little blood spatter
Why’s it so hard to say Black Lives Matter?
It doesn’t mean that you’re anti-white
Take it from me—I’m super fucking white
Despite these rather critical lyrics, Jenkins asserts that “Cop vs. Phone Girl” is not meant to promote an antipolice sentiment. He cites lyrics in the chorus, “I am all for the good fight, and if the cops roll by, throw a peace sign, say hey baby, have a good night” as evidence of the tune’s positive stance.
Instrumentally, “Cop vs. Phone Girl” sounds bright and perky. The track features distorted acoustic guitars and clean and clear drumbeats, but it slightly disappoints me that the guitar isn’t more prominent. The vocals are the best part of this track’s musical side; you can really feel the riled emotion in Jenkins’ voice as he sings about this incident. The group vocals in the final chorus create some fantastic vocal harmonies that carry the unity of the track full circle.
There are countless famous tunes out there that contain lyrically dark themes in stark contrast to their sunny and upbeat sound. “Pumped Up Kicks” by Foster the People contains references to the 1999 Columbine High School massacre. “99 Red Balloons” by Nena is an antiwar protest track about nuclear fatality. “You Are My Sunshine” contains the lyrics “The other night, dear, as I lay sleeping, I dreamed I held you in my arms…but when I awoke, dear, I was mistaken, so I hung my head and I cried”. Perhaps “Cop vs. Phone Girl” will join that list in the future.
Instrumentally, I like “Cop vs. Phone Girl”. Lyrically, I think that it sends a powerful message. I feel that the lyrics are skillfully written and that they promote an important truth that the world definitely needs to hear right now. However, how seriously will the world take it because of its poppy sound? It seems that only time will tell.
You definitely need to listen to “Cop vs. Phone Girl” in order to form your own opinion about it. Watch the lyric video for the track on YouTube below.