I’m talking about Sia’s new song, “Cheap Thrills,” which plays every five minutes on the radio stations I listen to. I should start by saying that I love Sia and many of her other songs are among my favorites. But whenever I hear a millionaire sing about how they don’t need money to be happy and have a good time, I have the intense urge to punch said millionaire in the face.
The lyrics, which can be found here, include references to putting on lipstick and high heels – those things don’t cost money, right? Well, they don’t cost Sia any money. She’s a celebrity and makeup and shoe companies probably throw free shit at her in the hopes she’ll wear it and her fans will turn around and buy it. But the average broke person does not get free shoes and lipstick. The rest of the song is mostly about dancing, because apparently clubs don’t charge covers. Well, they don’t for celebrities…
I suppose my intense annoyance at this song goes back to childhood, where I used to read these dumb childrens’ books about some poor kid who grew up really happy and some rich kid who grew up miserable. This is just one of many ways that rich people try to convince poor people to be happy with nothing. In my case, it didn’t work, because I wasn’t an idiot and there was a big problem: All those stories portray poor people as having “love” and “happy families.” But what I had was a family constantly screaming at each other about money, parents fighting about whose fault it was we were broke, relatives screwing each other over for money, and a new crisis every time something broke and we couldn’t afford to fix it or buy a new one. So I realized from an early age that you were supposed to have at least one of those things – money or a happy family – and I didn’t get either.
For the record, I don’t write childrens’ books, but if I did I would never set up a happy poor kid/miserable rich kid dichotomy like that. Because I promise you, some kid is going to figure out she got the short end of both sticks and spend her life feeling ripped off. I know, because I am that kid.
Also, despite the fact that rich people have been telling poor people they don’t need money to be happy for thousands of years, studies have shown it’s a lie. After all, if you have money, you can leave the job that makes you miserable. If you’re unhappy in your marriage, you can get a divorce and not worry about how you’ll pay your bills on one income. (And despite all the insistence that love is all that matters, a hell of a lot of people get divorced over fights about money, while others stay miserably married because they can’t pay their bills with one income.)
So why do people insist on telling themselves and others they don’t need money to be happy? Well, poor people do it to make themselves feel better. And I’m not opposed to self-delusion when it helps people. Me, I have this problem of always seeing things exactly how they are, and I’m not really interested in inserting my head in the sand, but if it works for others, fine.
But why do rich people even need to have an opinion about this? Because happy poor people are less likely to steal from the rich or otherwise go after their wealth. Now, if money really isn’t necessary for happiness, why would that matter to rich people? If the poor steal their money, they can still be happy, right? But they do care, because they constantly write books and songs and movies and TV shows that promote a message of, “You don’t need money to be happy.”
See what a bunch of bullshit “money can’t buy happiness” is?
Another line that gets repeated ad nauseum in this song is “I love cheap thrills.” Obviously written by a person who doesn’t spend all their time dealing with cheap crap that doesn’t work right. The fact is, expensive stuff really is better. You can whine about “paying for the brand name” or “inflated costs” all you want, and to some extent, you might be right, but if you actually compare a real Coach bag with a Foach, you’ll see there’s a huge difference in quality, and the Foach will fall apart much faster than the Coach. Is that difference worth an extra $2,000? That’s up to the buyer, and some of that 2K may be brand value, but not all of it is.
Have you ever looked at expensive cars as they drive by you on the road, or admired one in a parking lot? They are actually designed better. I can tell a Jaguar from too far away to make out the little cat hood ornament. I can tell because the lines of the car are very distinctive and nothing like the clunky cheap cars you usually see. I was noticing the same thing on a Mercedes the other day, until someone honked at me because the light had turned green.
The truth is, cheap thrills suck. They’re not as good as the more expensive stuff, and I am simply not delusional enough to convince myself otherwise. So every time I hear that song on the radio, I’m changing the channel.
W. T. Fallon is the author of Fail to the Chief, a political satire in which the presidential election is carried out via reality show, which is almost as bizarre and far-fetched as our current reality.