‘Save me from the nothing I’ve become…’

Posted on September 19, 2011

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Evanescence are, without doubt, a great band. And ‘Bring me to life’ might be the best thing they have yet released. The song expresses a profound sense of personal worthlessness, and a plea – there is no indication of who is being pleaded with – that someone beyond the singer would create meaning and so worth for her existence.

The track begins with an expression (rendered with acoustic piano, in contrast to the heavy electric beats of the majority of the track) of loss of self and need for redemption: ‘…without a soul, my spirit sleeping somewhere cold, until you find it there…’ The chorus expresses directly the plea for salvation: ‘[w]ake me up, wake me up inside … before I come undone, save me from the nothing I’ve become.’

The song spent a month on top of the UK charts in 2003, and has been endlessly referenced by Christian speakers, including me. I recently heard that a bishop of the Church of England had been quoting it, which means I probably won’t anymore (unless the bishop in question is Graham Cray, episcopal citation suggests that an illustration has become hackneyed) Most speakers (not me, but including the good bishop) have used the song to illustrate the nihilistic tendencies of contemporary young people, the longing for meaning that, in the hands of a sensitive artist, becomes so overwhelming that a cry for salvation (‘save me from the nothing I’ve become’) is the inevitable response. Fill in your own gospel application; you won’t be far wrong…

The video for the song perhaps invites such an interpretation: Amy Lee’s endless falling being a powerful visual metaphor (as is the precariousness of her grasp on the wall of the building before she falls):

 

And, if you watch the performance of the song on the band’s Live in Europe DVD, you cannot fail to be struck by the intensity with which the audience sing along to these lyrics of existential despair:

 

 

That said, the common, and episcopally-sanctioned, deployment of this track as evidence for the fundamental loss of meaning amongst the millennial generation is a mistake; it spent four weeks at the top of the chart because it is a seriously brilliant hard rock anthem, not because it named something fundamental in the national psyche. More than that, the following suggestion that in the church we have the answer, easily available, to the angst expressed in the song is profoundly misleading: cultural forces are so powerful they invade the church just as much, perhaps, as they do the surrounding culture.

Proof of this? Every member of the band, when they formed, professed to be a born-again Christian. Before they hit the big time, they played the Christian festivals in the States, spoke powerfully of the work of Christ in their own lives.

It’s kids who are saved and sanctified who cry out to an unknown rescuer, ‘save me from the nothing I’ve become.’ If we don’t get that, we can do nothing of use for this generation.

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