• Elise Chandler

Behind the Lyrics - ZZ Ward: "Put the Gun Down"



Hello, everyone! I am back after a break. I was blessed with the birth of my first child, and I wanted to take some time to adjust to motherhood. 

Welcome to Behind the Lyrics with Elise Chandler. In this series, we look at different song lyrics and analyze them from different literary lenses and discuss the usage of figurative language. I am an English major who happily teaches middle schoolers, and every year, we complete a project on poetry and song lyrics, and man, these kids are so good at finding hidden meanings and have so much fun with it, so I thought I would share that knowledge with everyone else! 

This week, we are looking at an artist that I have been a fan of for a very long time -- ZZ Ward. I had the pleasure to see her in concert at Cleveland's House of Blues. How appropriate that one of the leading female blues artists was performing there. I couldn't miss it, and she didn't disappoint. Her vocals were on point, and because of her arrival in town, she donated one of her signature hats to the Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame. Pretty sweet. 

The song we are looking at is one of her most popular "Put the Gun Down". Here are the lyrics: 

"I got ten fingers to the sky, My back to the wall, my white flag high, Her lips, just like a gun, She's got silver bullets on her tongue, He's deep under her spell, I'm screaming out, but it just won't help I think I'm cursed, I had him first Adeline have mercy, You don't want to break my heart, Take what's mine, don't hurt me, Steal my money, steal my car, Don't take my man, don't take my man, I said, don't take my man 'cause you know you can, Put the gun down, Put the gun down, She stole my man, took him from me, She's got crimson eyes, a screamin' body, Face is young, she must taste sweet, She drops those panties to her knees, Walkin' on my happy home, She won't give up until I'm gone, I think I'm cursed, I had him first Adeline have mercy, You don't want to break my heart, Take what's mine, don't hurt me, Steal my money, steal my car, Don't take my man, don't take my man, I said, don't take my man 'cause you know you can, Put the gun down, Put the gun down, Put the gun down, put the gun down, Put your finger on the trigger now, Put it down, put it down, Put it down, put it down, Put the gun down, put the gun down, I'ma set fire to the whole damn house, Put it down, put it down, Put it down, put it down, Whoa, oh, Adeline Adeline have mercy, You don't want to break my heart, Take what's mine, don't hurt me, Steal my money, steal my car, Don't take my man, don't take my man, I said, don't take my man 'cause you know you can, Put the gun down, Put the gun down, Put the gun down, Put the gun down, Put the gun down."


Like the true blues style, there is a lot of repetition and emotion involved, and it is a happening song for sure! So, there are two verses we'll look at. 

In verse one, Ward does something very interesting. She paints us a picture of who we must assume is Adeline (the other woman) -- mouth like a gun with silver bullets, she's casting spells -- all of this language points to Adeline being monstrous. But it gets better in verse two, "crimson eyes" is usually connected to demonic power, and her body is described as "screamin'" which is an interesting adjective choice out of all the words that could go there. 

With this in mind, we look to the words that begin every chorus: "I think I'm cursed. I had him first." 

The beginning of the song starts with her "white flag". She is giving up to Adeline. She is upset and (it seems) flinging insults at the other woman. However, as the song continues, we see that Ward goes from offering her car and other prized possessions to pure rage: "I'ma set fire to the whole damn house." Leading the reader to think, "Woah, is she possessed?" 

As was seen in the Blues coverage by this site, the Blues and discussions on demons and Satan have been connected for a long, long time. So, is it that strange to see this song from two points of view? 

First view, Ward is aware this "Adeline" is a demonic force. Someone has to have set a curse on her for this to happen, and she grows to a rage as the song continues. 

Second view, Ward is just playing off those Blues artists before her and using creative imagery to describe a home-wrecker in colorful language. 

Either option is fantastic. It leaves listeners feeling empowered. I mean, this woman has either told off a home-wrecker and asserted her place OR she has told off the DEVIL and asserted her place. Holy crap. 

I would say the literary lens that fits best here is Feminist. The Feminist lens looks at a story from the point of view of women's roles. Here, in this song, Ward is a commanding force. 

I hope you enjoyed this walk through words. Until next time. 

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