One of the cultural touchstones for Fall Out Boy’s hit about a dysfunctional relationship is arguably the most toxic celebrity romance of all time: the one between Sex Pistols’ Sid Vicious and Nancy Spungen. Vicious was arrested for allegedly stabbing Spungen to death in 1978. Then he died of a heroin overdose while out on bail before he could stand trial.
Perfect fodder for a “love” song, right? I’ll let one of the guys from FOB answer that question:
“When I think of ‘Irresistible’ it brings this image to my head, whether it’s fictional or real, of Sid and Nancy in an alley, garbage raining down on them in an eternal spiral of romance and poison,” chief lyricist Pete Wentz told digitalspy.com. “Sometimes it’s hard not to love what can hurt us the most.”
And that’s exactly what this track is about: continuing to love someone who continues to hurt you. And joining Wentz and Co. in the remix of this song is Demi Lovato.
Poison and hurt are exactly the kind of words that come to mind listening to “Irresistible,” as Fall Out Boy frontman Patrick Stump and Demi Lovato take turns cynically celebrating just how bad this codependent romance really is. This is certainly not one of those songs where things start out rosy and wonderful, then turn unexpectedly ugly. No, it’s more like they start ugly and spiral down from there.
An ominous opening line sets the stage: “Coming in unannounced, drag my nails on the tile,” Stump sings.
OK. I’m compelled to stop the flow before it even begins. This is the kind of narrative setup that evokes images of a brutish, knuckle-dragging Neanderthal … or perhaps Freddy Krueger raking bladed hands behind him down a hallway. It’s desperate, despondent and dire, certainly, and not likely a good omen.
Stump says of his femme fatale, “All of your flaws are aligned with this mood of mine”—presumably a bad one—”Cutting me to the bone, nothing left to leave behind.” That’s followed a few lines later by another detail suggesting a relationship full of ever-escalating conflict: “I didn’t come for a fight, but I will fight till the ending.” And Stump’s quick to admit that what’s about to happen next “might not turn out OK.”
Worse, it turns out that the seriously not-cool nature of the whole affair is actually just fine for Stump and Lovato, who then belts out this codependent chorus: “And I love the way you hurt me/It’s irresistible, yeah/I love the way, I love the way/I love the way you hurt me, baby/I love the way, I love the way/I love the way you hurt me, baby.”
A bit later, Demi compares this cancerous connection to inhaling cigarette smoke, suggesting that she doesn’t know what it’s really doing to her inside. “You’re secondhand smoke, secondhand smoke/I breathe you in, but honey I don’t know what you’re doing to me.”
Well, whatever it is, it’s not good.
Not that she really cares to figure it out, suggestively adding, “But I’m no good, no good at lip service/Except when they’re yours, mi amor.”
Right. Nothing like glorifying a punishing—and ongoing—relationship. But that’s exactly what happens here as this song romanticizes the pain and hurt that two people can inflict upon each other. They know it’s destructive, but they’re so addicted to “love” (in reality, so terrified of being alone) that they stubbornly repeat the stabbing pattern over and over again: “I love the way you hurt me, baby.”
Remember what Pete Wentz said about that? “Sometimes it’s hard not to love what can hurt us the most.” But music that encourages fans to do exactly that doesn’t do any favors for those with a tendency to internalize and apply such risky rationalizations to their own similarly troubled relationships.
A postscript about the video: The song’s playfully ridiculous video is a sequel of sorts to NSYNC’s video for “It’s Gonna Be Me,” way back in 2000. This time around, NSYNC members Joey Fatone and Chris Kirkpatrick pop up in cameo roles in a story about action-figure versions of all four Fall Out Boy members not getting much positive attention in a toy store. There are requisite shots of the band performing (both as “toys” and in real life) as well as similarly “requisite” shots of Demi Lovato in leg-baring and bra-revealing outfits.
After serving as an associate editor at NavPress’ Discipleship Journal and consulting editor for Current Thoughts and Trends, Adam now oversees the editing and publishing of Plugged In’s reviews as the site’s director. He and his wife, Jennifer, have three children. In their free time, the Holzes enjoy playing games, a variety of musical instruments, swimming and … watching movies.