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“Ways to be Wicked”

Posted by purplemary54 on March 9, 2012

Lone Justice never really had much success beyond this Tom Petty/Mike Campbell composition (they charted with a couple of other singles, most notably “Shelter”).  Maria McKee had some commercial success as a solo artist, although she’s primarily known as one of those musicians that other musicians admire.  That’s a pity, because she’s such an evocative singer.  She also gets pinned with all those “sexy” adjectives, words like smokey and husky and earthy.

“Ways to be Wicked” is a sexy song, and not just for the double entendre of the line “you ain’t afraid to let me have it, you ain’t afraid to stick it in.”  It’s also sad and angry and defiant.  The girl of the song pleads with her lover to explain why he treats her so badly, even as she admonishes him “well, you don’t know one little thing about love.”  She puts up with a lot, this girl.  It’s never clear just how he hurts her.  It occurs to me just now that the relationship in the song could be interpreted as physically abusive; after all she “can take a little pain.”  It’s more likely, however, that the pain here is all psychic.  He’s probably unfaithful.  Or a drinker.  Or a gambler.  Or a CEO.  Whatever it is, he’s a jerk who clearly doesn’t deserve the loyalty this woman honors him with.  And even though she’s angry, she’s sticking with him.  McKee’s singing is seductive; that’s where all those sexy adjectives come in.  She cajoles and come hithers her way through piss and vinegar.  It’s also pretty clear that many of the “ways to be wicked” this guy knows about are in the bedroom, and that’s something she appreciates.  Frankly, if I were this guy, I’d be begging for forgiveness and asking her to teach me what she knows about love.

The music is sexy, too.  The rhythm gets you to sway your hips right from the start.  And the swirling organ in the background just makes it that much more fluid and slinky.  Lone Justice were clearly inspired by TP & the Heartbreakers in their style and production; the band is pretty tight and the music doesn’t get in the way of the song.

This song is the pretty girl in the bar who’s had one or two too many and starts dancing on the tables.  She’s kind of sad, but you know there’s passion and a good heart inside.  You know that it just might be worth your while to make sure she gets home safely.  Because once she gets rid of the jerk, she’s gonna be looking for someone who’ll treat her right.

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