One of my favorite groups of songs to think about in tandem is a collection of songs that end in chaos. For example, the British band The Ting Tings had their only top 40 hit on the Hot 100 with a song called “That’s Not My Name,” in which the lead singer reflects on the fact that people (mostly men) call her by various names that happen not to be her real name . I’m not sure if this is a problem that women have to deal with more than men, not being one myself, but it is certainly a problem that the singer appears to be rather irritated about. The song itself ends in chaos because her singing is combined with increasingly clashing instrumental tracks, which suggests an implication that not knowing the proper name to things can lead to a great deal of chaos and confusion, which is a good point to remember for all of us. I am often reminded of this problem because I have a coworker who is named Nathan and I am always getting requests for information that are part of the other Nathan’s job. He and I have a good joke about it, and I relay the requests on to him, but it’s rather irritating when people don’t bother to look at the full name before making a request to the right Nathan. It shouldn’t be that complicated. My name is not that difficult to remember, after all.
There are other songs that feature this descent into chaos, though, and each of them chooses this way to end for a particular reason. For example, on Edwin McCain’s successful album “Misguided Roses,” there is a song called Darwin’s Children that ends into chaos as the singer wonders whether human beings will ever break out of the grind and realize who they are rather than believe the lie that we are nothing more than monkeys and apes. The lack of human dignity that comes from a lack of respect and regard and value for humankind tends to lead to a great deal of tragedy. We face those tragedies on a regular basis, whether we look at the way that human life is viewed in terms of economic calculations or whether we look at the wanton slaughter of youth and the disregard and neglect for the elderly and infirm that we see in our society and in others.
Another song that has a marked descent into chaos is the title song off of the No Doubt album Tragic Kingdom, which was an immensely successful album upon its release in the mid 1990’s with hit singles like “Don’t Speak,” “Just A Girl,” “Spiderwebs,” and “Sunday Morning.” Nevertheless, the title track spoke to the concerns of the band growing up in Orange County, California, and feeling that the area had lost its way and lost its soul in its intense growth. When one considers that charming farm country gave way to soulless suburbs, one must concede that the band had a point, although their observations are ones that have been repeated in many areas around the country and indeed around the world, as there are many tragic kingdoms where the simple life has been replaced with frustration and gridlock, where quiet country roads have become clogged traffic nightmares, and where there seems to be no space to live and breath. And so their song resonates with many others who have their own tragic kingdoms to reflect upon, and the chaos of life spent among the hustle and bustle and noise of contemporary life is conveyed effectively in the song’s instrumental closing.
All of these songs have a few qualities in common, and so it is useful to view them as a class. For one, all of these songs reflect on matters of considerable importance, on matters of the soul, on questions of identity and dignity. In all of these cases there are problems because of a lack of respect–either for those we are dealing with, for ourselves as human beings, or with the creation around us. In all of these cases this lack of dignity and respect leads to tragedy and frustration, and in all cases bands successfully chose to convey that frustration and tragedy through instrumental parts that clash with each other and destroy the form and structure of the song that is being performed until there is an ending in chaos that prompts reflection on the part of the listener. When we listen to a song that ends in chaos, it is worthwhile to ask why–what is the source of all this chaos and confusion? What can be done about it that is not being done at present, and what can we learn about the struggle for dignity and respect and for the fragility of our well-being in this present evil age? As is often in the case, there are many questions and few answers.
 See, for example: