Genesis’ “Land of Confusion”: The Most Socially Significant Song Ever?

It is usually the second thought to enter my mind.

It happened when news broke of evidence proving Penn State University assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky was sexually abusing young boys. It happened after hearing James Holmes opened fire on a movie theater audience watching The Dark Knight Rises, turning an isolated incident into nationwide fear. It happened on September 11, 2001 when I turned on my car radio just seconds before the on-air personality announced a plane had struck the second World Trade Center tower.

News of tragic events or shocking scandals first causes me to sympathize with its victims: the ones who suffered, how the situation affects their immediate and closest family, their friends, or worse – all of us, related by city, state or simply humankind. My heart goes out.

My second thought: “This is the world we live in,” key lyrics from the song “Land of Confusion” by rock group Genesis. Written by group members Tony Banks, Mike Rutherford, and lead singer Phil Collins, the English trio were no strangers to including soul and blues elements in their music. This emotionally vocal tour de force though, the third single from their 1986 album Invisible Touch, finds Collins riffing with more soul-stirring bravado than ever. Influenced by a world congested with crisis and questionable political leadership, “Land of Confusion” calls attention to those suspect persons of power and those of us who either follow them loyally or cry out for change, or carelessly and selfishly look away without so much as a split-second thought. “Confusion” resonates because it’s a song about the effects of our surroundings and our being.

Collins opens the song by singing, “I must’ve dreamed a thousand dreams, been haunted by a million screams.” Holmes’ actions in Aurora, CO claimed the lives of 12 people, injuring more than 50 others, frightening millions. People thousands of miles away in every direction were not only afraid to visit their local movie theaters, but to leave their homes for fear of a copycat. Arguments erupted everywhere from Facebook to beauty shops to coffee houses on how the situation should have been handled by the Aurora establishment, Warner Bros.–the company responsible for releasing the highly-anticipated Batman sequel, and even the persons in attendance that fateful night.

Later in the verse Collins sings, “Now did you read the news today? They say the danger’s gone away.”  “They” lie to us. Our financial figureheads, our local, state, and national government officials, our media; we’re given well-doctored partials. We’re told a custom-edited version of what they think we should know. Even in an age where information can be obtained from a multitude of various sources – like the Internet – we can’t completely trust those sources either. America launched a full scale offensive after the 9/11 attacks. We were told weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East were rendered disabled, that our efforts there against threatening terrorists were victorious, our work there done. Are our troops home yet?

Before Collins sings the chorus he sets it up with this poignant lyrical prelude:  “There’s too many men, too many people, making too many problems; and not much love to go around. Can’t you see this is a land of confusion.”

Maybe the most perplexing detail in the Sandusky scandal was that his actions did not go unnoticed, yet those who knew thought only about protecting the school’s, the athletic program’s, and the coaching staff’s reputations; that it was best to say nothing. Their silence eventually yielded obnoxiously boisterous and likely unrecoverable embarrassment. What’s more embarrassing are people who loyally defend them, who feel their subsequent punishments have been too severe.

This is what Collins sings in the chorus: “This is the world we live in, and these are the hands we’re given. Use them and lets start trying, to make it a place worth living in”.

Adam “Edge” Copeland used his hands to entertain as a professional wrestler for World Wrestling Entertainment, but had to retire from nagging injuries that could have become life-threatening. For decades his profession has been consistently and relentlessly scrutinized for being fake, yet many of those who do the scrutinizing believe everything they see on reality TV shows is real. These same people verbally attack actors and actresses in public because they can’t separate entertainment from reality. Artists like Robin Thicke make songs about love and get minimal to no radio airplay; artists like Ke$sha and Kirko Bangz makes songs about their frequent drunken conduct and get heavy rotation. Lots of dirty hands are being used.

Collins closes singing, “This is the world we live in, and these are the names we’re given. Stand up and lets start showing, just where our lives are going to.”

“Land of Confusion” remains significant because our actions make its lyrics timeless. It applies to now, even if “now” was a decade of more ago or still to come.  Listen to the song from beginning to end. It stands up. It’s time we, our immediate and closest family, their friends, or better – all of us, related by city, state or simply humankind, do the same thing. This actually happening would be tremendously positive news. My mind could use a better first.

–Mr. Joe Walker

Mr. Joe Walker, a senior contributor for SoulTrain.com, is an acclaimed entertainment and news journalist published thousands of times regionally, nationally, internationally, and online. Former Editor In Chief of both XPOZ Magazine and The Underwire Interactive Magazine, his work has graced the pages and covers of Hear/Say Now Magazine, Notion Magazine, Kalamazoo Gazette Newspaper, MLive.com, and AllHipHop.com. He loves to create, loves that you read. Follow him on Twitter @mrjoewalker, and visit TheGrooveSpt.com and ByMrJoeWalker.blogspot.com.



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