So, I’ve been seeing my fair share of reactions to the Lindemann video ‘Praise Abort.’ While I thoroughly enjoyed the song and video, I can see it’s getting a lot of flack for a few reasons, some predictable, and the rest more out of confusion than anything else. I don’t consider myself an expert on Till–just kidding, yes I do, but here’s my input.
1. “The lyrics are too simple.” Yes, they are. The thing is, Rammstein have some pretty complex and beautiful poetry in their lyrics, and Till’s written poetry is no less intricate. But even Rammstein has some pretty simplistic lyrics sometimes. Different paintstrokes for different effect is how I like to think of it. The song’s message is very blunt and raw, so the lyrics morph to match that. Also, Till has said before the album’s release that both he and Peter were nervous/hesitant about English lyrics. You have to give them major props for stepping so hugely outside of their comfort zone. Our language is a little blunt to begin with, and it’s all we ever hear (I’m generalizing Americans here) so it may be extra simplistic sounding to our ears. Try to keep in mind Till’s language background though. I bet if the vast majority of us were to sit down and try to write a song in Russian we’d have a nursery rhyme on our hands.
2. “It sounds like Rammstein” We will always associate Till with Rammstein. And what’s more, he’s not even changing the genre of the music in his project–if he were moving over to opera, then things might be different. But just like how Daniel Radcliffe will always be Harry Potter, Till is blessed and cursed with being the face of Rammstein. Still, is that a bad thing? That a band he’s been in for the past 20 years is “showing” in his solo music? We love Rammstein…why damn the lead singer for being the lead singer?
3. “They were going for shock value.” I agree with this, but only to a certain point. The thing about the video is that it actually has a TON of symbolism in it, which I’ll get to in a minute, but people gloss over that and just see a vile, 'disturbing’ bunch of so-called random scenes that are intended only to provoke. Again, who are we talking about here? Does anyone remember when Mutter was released, with the fetus album cover, which Rammstein had intended to just signify a baby in the womb, but everyone thought it was an abortion? The newspapers went crazy, and their response was to laugh and say “That’s great.” People would say the same (it’s a shock value thing) for the video for Mein Teil, but would they argue that there’s no symbolism in that video? Probably not.
So yes, shock value–obviously it’s there. If you’ve known what Till has done at any point in the past two decades, you shouldn’t be surprised that one of his artistic methods is provocation. I’m not sure why this is suddenly a bad thing. Did anybody expect his solo music to be bubble gum pop?
4. "It’s not meaningful.“ Again I only agree to a certain point. This song does have a meaning and background, at least for me, but it is definitely the more 'fun’ and lighthearted side of Till. Again this is something we’ve seen over the years from Rammstein…it’s a type of humor that’s cynical and absurd, seen in songs/videos like Amerika, Keine Lust, Zwitter, and others. They have a message and instead of giving the message in a straightforward or poetic way, they choose the route of dark cynicism and ridiculousness–like the kids in Africa sitting on Santa’s lap. There’s an obvious message there, but it’s being presented in a non-traditional way. So yes it is meaningful, but they’re not taking everything super seriously like SOAD did right before their demise. I love me some SOAD, but they went full political and in the end, it ruined their music for me. And maybe for them, because hey, they’re not together anymore. Anyway, that was way off topic. Moving on.
The Lyrics and Meaning
Now I wanted to talk about my interpretation of the video and lyrics. As with all music anywhere, this is one person’s individual opinions and could be a million miles away from another’s, including the artist’s. I think most artists enjoy that, however.
The obvious statement to me is that Till is portraying poverty-stricken lower-income and lower-education families (well, fathers/husbands.) There have been tons of studies about this, but the gist is that people in poverty and people who don’t have education (and thus money) often have larger families, whom they often can’t support. Conservatism, religious activists, and pro-life politicians tout babies as magical problem solvers, and there’s a huge stigma in society that if you don’t have children, you’re not happy. You can’t talk about hating your kids, you can’t even say a negative statement about being a poor parent, unless you follow that up with a 'save’ statement. For example, an acceptable statement would be, "Parenting is the hardest job, but also the most rewarding.” As someone who takes an almost anti-natalist philosophy to society AND as someone raised in a low-income household and had to endure knowing that my parents DID hate me sometimes, I see many, many issues with this belief system of family=happiness. Kids are hard. Families are hard. Marriage is hard. Adultery happens all the time. Some parents DO hate their kids. I think Till is doing the same thing in this song as he did with “Tier” which was a song about incest. He writes from the perspective that you don’t hear—in “Tier” he was writing lyrics from a father who was sexually attracted to his daughter. Obviously this is extremely taboo, and he’s said that he did that to better understand the 'dark side’ of the stigma. It’s not that he agrees with it, it’s not that he would ever do something like have sex with his daughter or in Praise Abort’s case, abort a bunch of kids; he’s just using another perspective as his artistic outlet. Till is not a low-income father with a brood of children he can’t stand, but he’s singing about it in a very dark way.
Another very “Tillesque” part of the song is the subtle changing of words throughout–the fact that he’s doing it in English instead of German may look clumsy to us English speakers, but it’s no secret that Till’s lyrics for Rammstein were full of subtle wordplay, as is his written poetry. It’s in Praise Abort as well, but maybe a bit harder for us to notice.
Consider the chorus’s first few repeats, and then the final chorus, compared here: :
“I hate my wife/and her boyfriend too. I hate to hate and I hate that, I hate my life so very bad.”
“I hate my wife/and my boyfriend too. I hate to hate and I hate that, I hate myself so very bad.”
I think that by changing the 'her boyfriend’ to 'my boyfriend’ he’s speaking a bit more intimately, admitting that he is part of the problem. And the most telling is the change of 'I hate my life’ to “I hate myself”–it’s incredible that he is able to change two words and change the entire tone from petulant and angry at everyone else, to self-loathing. In the last chorus he also changes 'my kids’ to 'my offspring’ which to me conveys real disconnect.
Now, about the video itself. Again, just my interpretation…but I’ve seen a LOT of flack about the video being distasteful or pointless, and I didn’t get that from it at all. I have a pretty big nerd boner for symbolism so here’s what I’ve extracted. The moonwalking, hat-and-cape donning Till represents a young, foolish and potentially irresponsible man before his family and marriage. He’s wearing white to signify his innocence–he’s clean at that point, doing his own thing. During this short snippet he’s also singing about his friends–how they have nice cars and cigars. Those are the things he’s focused on in his youth. Living the dream. It’s interesting and also blatantly obvious that he’s fresh-faced here, while Peter has the distorted pig face–possibly representing Till’s partner.
But while Till is parading around in his cape, another character comes up and literally kicks him in the chest. And it’s Till, with a distorted pig face. He’s also wearing white, but his hands/sleeves are red, which is a little too obvious to explain. To me, that “other” Till symbolizes the adult, unhappy Till. It’s him, with all his self-hatred, literally knocking down his starry-eyed moonwalking dreams. It’s pretty poignant and again obvious that he kicks the other down right at the chorus; realization that he hates his life and everything in it causes that ‘darker’ Till to take control.
The fact that they emulate pigs is also very symbolic. They’re representing the ‘unwanted’ in lower/middle class society–unhappy marriages, screaming spouses, wife beaters, child abusers, welfare families…..you know, the 'Walmart’ crowd. I’m not shy about saying this because again that’s exactly how I grew up.. We were poor and dirty and between my parents there was a ton of hate. Animalistic is exactly how I would describe the dynamic in my family and our social system. Actually the pig faces reminded me of Animal Farm, (a symbolism dream come true) and I was also reminded of Lord of the Flies. In both those examples and in many other cases, pigs represent a very pessimistic view of humanity; unrefined, dirty, violent, angry, stupid, selfish. The scenes in the messy house with Till and Peter and the piglets really kind of bring all of that together. I’m not sure about Till or Peter’s childhood, but they kind of hit the nail on the head with imagery. Not sure how others didn’t pick up on this, but maybe it’s because I grew up there. I immediately recognized that conveyance with those scenes.
Again, it’s a pretty bleak way of looking at that class of society but I think it’s one interpretation that’s pretty accurate.
BUT that’s not the full story.
The great thing about the chorus is that it’s blunt and simple but SO full of meaning and emotion. "I hate my life, and I hate you/I hate my wife and her boyfriend too" Not only is he full of hatred, but he’s also pretty despondent; that verse lets us know how bad things have gotten in his marriage, and he brushes it off nonchalantly. There are whole songs dedicated to finding out about cheaters, but offhandedly mentioning an affair really drives home the dysfunction. So it’s a bleak situation, but the following, “I hate to hate, and I hate that” may at first glance sound emo and depressive, but I hear and interpret a hopeful message. The fact that he doesn’t want things to be this way shows that he has compassion and on some level cares about himself and his life; I think that is also a reflection of many people in that situation. Just because people have these awful lives and are bitter toward their bad situation it doesn’t mean that they want to be miserable and unhappy. I used to listen about my parents’ dream of opening a restaurant one day and it was one of few times I could see them as young people with dreams, before bills and kids and their ten million other problems made them the angry and hateful people they defaulted to.
Also, at the end of the video, the white-clothed 'young’ Till reappears, and he actually takes a piglet and is being very affectionate toward it. I think that’s a very telling scene–maybe he would have been happy with one child, or maybe he really does love his kids at the end of the day. He walked offstage cuddling the animal.
Another that I think the video and song address is the potential 'kindness’ of abortion in general–another taboo argument is the one that maybe it’s more beneficial to abort if you don’t want/don’t like/don’t have money/don’t want to support any children. There are plenty of people who don’t abort due to religious or societal expectations and end up like the family Till and Peter are portraying, and that’s not something polite company likes to talk about, or religious activists ever acknowledge. But the whole scene with the “ghost piglets” (aborted children, my interpretation anyway) and the accompanying lyrics “Say goodbye/We’ll rise up into the sky/say goodbye/we’ll come back soon as pretty butterflies” mimic the argument about fetuses being people/having souls and that whole moral dilemma.
It’s very reassuring to people who are against abortion that those babies would be in Heaven, or cherished, or whatever it is they believe (I’m pro-choice so I’m not entirely educated on their argument) so in the end, you should praise abortion because you’re sparing those children the lives they would have spent (with Till and Peter.) And I am not entirely sure if it was intended, but the grammar of the song title “Praise Abort” could be twisted–instead of “praising abort(ion)” it could be that ‘praise’ is a noun, not a verb. This would make the title a type of abortion, such as a religious or merciful killing. This idea is supported by the chorus itself, “Never thought I’d praise abort.” In that way, Till is actually ridiculing or turning the tables on the would-be moral superiority of anti-abortionists.
One more great aspect of the video is the actual abortion scene itself, in which “female” Till is confronted by “male” Till while the ballet dancers bring a device (obviously meant to signify the MVA used in abortions) to him. She is holding a piglet and seems relieved/gratified to see him, but instead of aiming his ‘weapon’ at the fetus/pig, he actually points it at her head, and she dies. This could symbolize a lot of different things: such as that women who abort are often viewed as worthless/meaningless, or that when a woman aborts, a part of her “dies” emotionally. Right before the cut where he “kills” her, she looks obviously scared and remorseful. I think the biggest lesson is that abortion affects the woman profoundly, something that a lot of abortion propaganda ignores, because they advocate for the fetus.
So that’s my breakdown of the video. Despite all of the profound and complex meaning in it, it’s still a hilarious and twisted video; can we just take a minute to appreciate a bunch of writhing ballerinas having abortions, Till with a bunch of boobs, and Peter’s ass? All of that pales in comparison to Till’s moonwalk of course, but I’m prejudice.