The subject of social class is one that makes many people uncomfortable. However, Pulp’s song, “ Common People” names the situation for what it is, and scorns people who feel they can switch between classes as and when they feel like it.
Pulp’s song “ Common People” explores the concept of social classes being fashionable to individuals of other social classes. More specifically, the narrator of this song tells the story of a middle class woman who wanted to experience living with the lower working class. Clearly from a rich and advantaged upbringing, she claims that she wants to be “ like common people,” and do, “ whatever common people do.” The woman tells the narrator that she wishes to live the simpler lifestyle of the poor but, as the narrator points out, she could contact her father at any time and he would take her away from it again. Perhaps the most poignant line in the song is: “ You will never understand how it feels to live your life with no meaning or control and with no-where else to go” (PULP).
The lyrics essentially tip contempt over individuals who associate desirability to poverty and stupidly believe that partaking in a few days of class tourism will really turn them into anything even close to a “ common person.” The narrator makes the point that any time the woman spends in his surroundings is totally futile when getting away from it again is just a telephone call away: “ Cos when you’re laid in bed at night, watching roaches climb the wall, if you call your dad he could stop it all” (PULP).
Pulp’s song brings attention to the plight of the “ common people” and how it is ridiculed and trivialised by individuals who wish to try it out. It is probably true that, even if a person is placed into a poverty stricken lifestyle for a period of time, unless they have been brought up that way, they will never understand the true meaning of it.
It is possible to see examples of this concept, although on a smaller scale, in everyday life. Many students claim to be poor, and seem to revel in it, when, really, they have well-off parents who could bail them out at any time. Of course, many parents would not want to bail their children out and, similarly, many students would treat asking their parents for help as a last resort. However, the option is still there for them, unlike the “ common people” of Pulp’s song.
A further reason why this song is interesting is the overt discussion of the social class system in the first place. There are still many people, albeit mainly wealthy people, admittedly, who will argue that class does not exist and that some people simply work harder than others. Although it seems clear that there most definitely is a class system, the matter is of course one of opinion. The way that this song discusses the situation, therefore, singles it out as something special.
“ Common People” is not only a great song, but is also a prompt for many interesting discussions and debates about social class. Although the possession of money is fluid, the class in which someone exists is, arguably, much more fixed.
PULP. “ Common People.” Different Class. 1996. Audio. London: Island.
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