My love for Stephen Morrissey has no bounds. I always say this in a half-joking way, because honestly admitting that I adore Morrissey would be embarrassing. He’s one of those figures that people are supposed to love ironically. “America, it brought you the hamburger. Well America, you know where you can shove your hamburger.” Who’s going to take that seriously?
Everyone agrees that The Smiths were one of the most influential indie bands of the 1980s, thanks, in part, to New Music Express’s Mozzer-gushing. Morrissey’s solo career has also been quite successful, but the general reaction to his music is “Oh, Morrissey. You’re sad. We get it, buddy.”
Yes, Morrissey’s music is sad, but it isn’t absurdly earnest. His melancholy envelops him, but he knows that to simply complain would be pathetic. Morrissey takes a step further to search out the true source of his misery.
Morrissey sings many tracks in a haughty tone that blames everything from The Man (“Panic”) to Jesus (“I Have Forgiven Jesus”) to would-be lovers (every other song) for making his life such a burden.
However, the Smiths’ canon is littered with songs where Morrissey discovers the source of his unhappiness. In “Accept Yourself” he explains, “anything is hard to find when you will not open your eyes/when will you accept yourself?” In “I Know It’s Over” he further berates himself: “If you’re so funny/then why are you on your own tonight?/ If you’re so clever/why are you on your own tonight?” Morrissey realizes that his unhappiness, mainly his lack of love, is actually self-inflicted.
There are also plenty of songs where Moz is just bitching about his life. “Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now,” “Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want,” and “How Soon is Now?” are a few examples.
Although he wallows in his own self-pity, he’s also aware that he is being pitiful. This awareness allows his music to remain one step ahead of emo nonsense where the singer is happy to be unhappy. Mozzer is genuinely unhappy, and, even though he figures there is no hope for himself, he urges the listener to act instead of waiting for love to happen.
I’d like for Morrissey’s music to be taken more seriously, but it’s a difficult case to make when the man himself has a frustratingly idealized view of animal rights, politics, and sex.
If you’ve ever heard the song “Meat is Murder,” you’ve heard Morrissey’s position on animal rights. Among the haunting sound of farm animals being slaughtered he says, “It’s death for no reason/and death for no reason is murder.” You are then made to feel guilty for enjoying Thanksgiving dinner.
That’s sweet if you’re a vegetarian, but if you cry about cows being turned into burgers and you wear leather shoes, I’m going to call you a hypocrite. Morrissey allegedly used to wear leather shoes, claiming, “there is simply no sensible alternative.” He has also said, “I find shoes difficult to be ethical about – one just can’t seem to avoid leather. One is trapped, ultimately.” Now he apparently wears fake leather shoes. I guess all those animal soles started weighing on his conscience.
In 2006, Moz refused to play any concert dates in Canada because of the country’s annual seal hunt. I’m sure that every country he’s toured allows its citizens to legally hunt. By this logic, he shouldn’t have toured at all. Also, how is refusing to tour in a country a sign of animal rights activism? I’m fairly certain that few people involved in seal hunting were bummed that they couldn’t see a Morrissey concert.
As far as his political beliefs go, one need only look as far as fake news anchor Jon Stewart. Moz would like Jon Stewart to be the President. No kidding. Jon Stewart is a brilliant man, but he’s also brilliant enough to know that he wouldn’t make a good president.
Regarding sex, Morrissey claimed for many years that he was not only celibate, but also asexual. In a 2006 NME interview he admitted that he no longer abstained from sexual activity, although he still won’t reveal his sexual orientation. Most fans assume that he is gay because of his resistance to speak on the subject of sexuality and because many of his songs have homoerotic references.
A bootlegged Italian lyrics book I bought on eBay quotes Morrissey as saying, “I’d like to free the world of sex stereotypes. I am interested in sex and genders. I consider myself a sort of prophet of the fourth sex. The third sex has been tried out, but it failed. I want something different. I’m bored with women and men.” There you have it: male, female, and mozzer.
There’s nothing wrong with idealism. A healthy dose of quixotic thought is the only way to accomplish new and better things. Morrissey’s ideas, however, are often silly and counterproductive. This doesn’t change my feelings for him, though. I chalk it up to the angst of a moody artist. He has a right to spout, but nobody should pay attention to his ideologies.
You should, however, listen to his music. Start out with The Smiths’ Louder Than Bombs and Strangeways, Here We Come. Morrissey’s solo career is at its best on You Are the Quarry. Soon, you too might fall in love with Moz in a non-ironic way. Then you can join my club.