A Generation’s Vanity, Heard Through Lyrics

The New York Times:

A couple of years ago, as his fellow psychologists debated whether narcissism was increasing, Nathan DeWall heard Rivers Cuomo singing to a familiar 19th-century melody. Mr. Cuomo, the lead singer and guitarist for the rock band Weezer, billed the song as “Variations on a Shaker Hymn.”

Where 19th-century Shakers had sung “ ’Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free,” Mr. Cuomo offered his own lyrics: “I’m the meanest in the place, step up, I’ll mess with your face.” Instead of the Shaker message of love and humility, Mr. Cuomo sang over and over, “I’m the greatest man that ever lived.”

The refrain got Dr. DeWall wondering: “Who would actually sing that aloud?” Mr. Cuomo may have been parodying the grandiosity of other singers — but then, why was there so much grandiosity to parody? Did the change from “Simple Gifts” to “Greatest Man That Ever Lived” exemplify a broader trend?

Read the whole story: The New York Times

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