“Pure Grinding” probably has the most confusing title on Avicii’s Stories album (other than maybe “Sunset Jesus“), and it’s well worth figuring out. The music video (which came out on September 3, 2015) is also intensely deep and brings up a lot of good questions we need to ask ourselves. “Pure Grinding” features Earl St. Clair about whom I couldn’t find much except for an underliked Twitter page. The song is gritty; has some soul; and, (despite my lack of musical knowledge–I’m more of a lyrics and literature guy) I’d say, has a deep, grungy bluesy feel to it. There’s an emphasis on repetition that really speaks to the song’s topic.
I’m deeply interested by the Music Video. In it, we see two lifestyles compared. One man, a large, muscled black man, works hard in a quarry, shoveling brightly white rocks amid dust and sweat. When he goes home, it’s to a pile of overdue bills and a mother (or maybe a wife?) whom he fights with and who leaves him.
The other man in the music video lives a life of luxury, can buy lots of things, and robs people. In one scene, he and his cronies kill a gas station owner, and later they rob a bank. When the sirens go off, his cronies lock him in the bank’s safe with a pile of the diamonds and money that he used to fuel his lifestyle.
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WHAT I FOUND INTERESTING: Avicii gets so close to this video being really boring, but he saves it. If the first man had suddenly struck it rich or been able to live comfortably due to his hard work, this music video would have been shallow. We’ve all heard the lesson that hard, honest work pays, so there’s no need to tell the world again (and, honestly, a lot of times it doesn’t pay as much as we think it should anyway).
However, Avicii does nothing like that. The bank robber gets his–he’s betrayed by a lifestyle that no one should trust. But the man who works hard, at the end of the video, get’s nothing better than another bill. What’s the lesson that Avicii’s trying to give?
It doesn’t matter whether you choose right or wrong–things may seem like they’re going well or poorly for a while, but in the end Avicii believes it is difficult. We can’t let up for a moment and should never trust what seems like good luck. Like the bank robber experienced, the best things can turn around in an instant.
Want to decide for yourself? Watch the video now and let me know your opinion.
And just so you know: I’ve added “Pure Grinding” to my Spotify playlist “Clifford Stumme’s Pop Prerogative”! That’s where I keep my current favorites and current analysis subjects. Enjoy!
Avicii begins the song with the Chorus, in which he sings, “Working my money ‘till I get gold / Every Friday mornin’ / Working my money ‘till I get gold / Cause I can’t get enough.” Rarely do you hear a pop song that’s literally about not being able to get enough. Unlike so many other songs, Avicii and Earl St. Clair are being completely honest. The song’s narrator is poor and cannot get enough money to pay his bills. While others are out partying or enjoying life, this person is trying to use the money he has to get more money so he can survive.
In the First Verse, Earl St. Clair sings that he “[s]tarted out with nothing and I still got most of that.” He had very little in the beginning, and while he’s been thrifty and careful, he hasn’t gained much more than nothing. “The world” hasn’t helped him, even though everyone else told him to “be cool” and that he was “payin’ [his] dues.” In the end, he feels like he’s still “got nothin’ to lose.”
In the Pre-Chorus, Earl St. Clair gets to the point in the song when he actually uses the title, “Pure Grinding”: “When I get it, I ain’t ever goin’ back again / 100 perfect, yeah, pure grindin’.” Despite the failures so far, he’s going to continue believing that he can become rich one day, and he dreams about getting and staying there. He’s “grinding out” a living, and will enjoy it once he achieves it.
In the Second Verse, Earl St. Clair and Avicii explain more about the process they’ve been through and about where they’ve come from. Earl St. Clair sings, “Tried to make a dollar out of fifteen cents / But I ain’t understand how the money was spent.” He tried investing and making something more with the money he was given, but it got spent on bills and other expenses. His mother accuses him of not being wise with money and wonders how they’ll “pay this rent.”
All of this experience has led him to darker places, “[p]laces I never should’ve been,” which have led to “[c]hanges that made me who I am.” The song’s narrator’s story (see: the album title) leaves him a difficult life, one that he’s still trying to figure out and that has led him to make the wrong decision sometimes.
My questions for you:
- What do you think about life? Do things always work out for people who work hard and honestly?
- Will you always lose in the end if you do the wrong thing?
- Is there fairness in the world?
I hope you enjoyed my analysis of “Pure Grinding” by Avicii. What’d you think? Do you agree or disagree? If you did like it, you may also enjoy “What does ‘Somewhere in Stockholm’ by Avicii mean?”
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Clifford Stumme has his master’s in English literature and is a blogger and a college instructor/desk-watcher at Liberty University. He likes juggling and reading/writing, and he is married to the wonderful and beautiful Wife April. He thinks pop music is awesome. Seriously awesome.