The Bottle in Pop Music

The bottle had a rough start in pop music. Its first appearence was in “There are 10 green bottles hanging on the wall”. Admittedly this is a rather surrealistic and thought-provoking setting (Why hanging? etc.). However, 10 ridiculously repetitive chorusses later no more bottles are on the wall, because each and one “accidentally” falls one after the other. To make the song more bearable, here a video with a Japanese Twist to it:

The bottle reached its first peak in pop music in 1979 with The Police's first Nr.1 Hit: “Message in a Bottle”:

Once again, the bottle finds itself in a vividly surrealistic surrounding: Hundred billion bottles washed upon the shore, which leads the lead singer Sting to realize: “Seems I'm not alone in being alone”. Thus, according to the song the adventure-story-inspired childhood dreams of being Robinson Crusoe may actually have come true for many – yet without the consoling beauty of an island in the South Seas for the now adult dreamers.

A very different approach on the difficult relationship between the bottle and society is depicted in “A Design for Life” by the Manic Street Preachers (1996):

The lead singer exclaims: “I wish I had a bottle!”. Given the ubiquity of commercially available bottles, his outcry is a complaint about some sort of societal (or psychological) barrier between himself and the bottle, just as the entire song is a contemplation on class struggles. Here, the bottle serves as a symbol for intra-societal misunderstandings (whereas for the Police the bottle still contained an element of communication within, despite the desperation of the situation).

Also in 1996, the German band “Die Toten Hosen” revived the original 10-bottles-hanging-on-the wall-idea by writing the song “Zehn Kleine Jägermeister” about 10 bottles filled with the herbal liqueur “Jägermeister”. Compared to the original, considerably more variation is introduced by letting each bottle go bust in a different gruesome way, as depicted in the accompanying animated video (1996):

The last grand appearence of the bottle was staged by Christina Aguilera in 1999. On the surface, it marks the new era of economic efficiency at the turn of the millenium: She describes herself as a “Genie in a bottle”, with no self-doubts about her desirability whatsoever. She may be trapped in a bottle, but that minor obstacle can be overcome by having a quick look in the manual for genies in bottles “One Thousand and One Nights”:  All you have to do is “rub the right way”.

Even though it seems that the song is about a cold economic transaction, her pairing of “my body's saying let's go – but my heart is saying no” reveals all the confusion hidden beneath the seemingly flawless exchange process that she celebrates in her remaining Aladdin-tributing lyrics.

In conclusion, decades of the bottle in pop music have proven that the bottle can be an incredibly versatile and insightful vehicle for understanding the human condition. If you don't believe that, just recall the beginning of the plot to the 1980 movie “The Gods must be Crazy” to discover just how much of the world's workings can be explained by the introduction of the bottle to humanity:

Have a responsible drinking week,