‘Save’ is an important word in Christian vocabulary – it’s what Jesus does, so I’m always fascinated when entertainers use the word in their craft. Salvation language is pervasive in the popular song Turn Me On by David Guetta and featuring Nicki Minaj. In verse one, the singer wants
- a doctor with medicine to keep the singer going, and
- a hero to come and save and rescue from feeling real low.
The hook elaborates, wanting this saviour figure to touch, save the singer’s life and turn the singer on. There is a fear of dying young expressed here too, for which the solution is to turn the singer on. The somewhat disturbing indication that this is working i.e. screaming and crying is found in second verse.
The bridge offers the clearest indication of what is going on here: this ‘doctor’ has the singers life in the palm of their hands, and if there was any doubt as to what is in mind here (if we didn’t get it from ‘turn me on’), the singer wants the ‘doctor’ to father her young – just how Sir David Attenborough would describe it. According to the lyrics, sex, and even reproduction, offers some kind of salvation or rejuvenation to make someone feel alive.
- The problems are feeling low and fear of dying young
- The desired state: feeling alive
- The method: turning on and (the act of) fathering of young
Am I taking this too literally? Perhaps. The pop music idea of wanting someone to save you is not new. Oasis’ Wonderwall popularized the idea in the 1990s, and there are countless other songs along these lines.
Popular music with sexual overtones (or blatant references) is not new either. In Turn Me On, however, these overtones are tightly connected to life (fathering of young) and death (‘I’m too young to die‘) in a uniquely disturbing way.
In Part Two, we will tie these big ideas together.