Sometimes

“MAX Q”

An examination of Michael’s brilliance as a lyricist and artist would be incomplete without a thorough study of his work on Max Q, a side project he took part in with Aussie composer, Ollie Olsen in 1989. Both musically and lyrically, Max Q was cutting edge, irreverent, experimental, and evocative, as it was comprised of a slew of post-punk, underground musicians from Melbourne, Australia and Michael Hutchence, an internationally commercial rock god. Without a doubt, Michael’s participation in Max Q challenged him musically in a very positive way, and it afforded him a creative space free from the intrusive hands of mainstream record label corporations. Furthermore, it was an unexpected move on his part, coming together right on the heels of the worldwide success of INXS’s Kick album in 1987-88, which may have been the perfect time for him to do a little artistic soul-searching. According to Michael’s official website, “When Hutchence and Olsen were writing the album, a lot of the lyrics and music was in conditioning with the state of the American culture at the time. Hutchence had a fascination with the US.” Suffused with dystopian, Orwellian themes such as mind control, the weaponization of fear, the unquestioning acceptance of societal norms, the manipulation and exploitation of human capital and its resulting deterioration of our souls, and the need to free ourselves from subconscious mental slavery, the lyrics of Max Q’s songs are incredibly thought-provoking, and even prophetic considering that these themes are increasingly relevant in American/Western culture.

SOMETIMES I CAN’T BELIEVE MY BRAIN
AND SOMETIMES I CAN’T BELIEVE MY BRAIN
AND SOMETIMES YOU GOTTA TAKE A CHANCE ON YOURSELF

CAUSE WHEN THE POWER STRIKES YOU BLIND
THEY CAN SEE IT IN YOUR EYES
AND IT DOESN’T TAKE TOO MUCH TO READ
TOO MUCH TO READ YOUR MIND

SOMETIMES I CAN’T BELIEVE YOUR BRAIN
AND SOMETIMES I CAN’T BELIEVE YOUR BRAIN
AND SOMETIMES YOU GOTTA TAKE A CHANCE ON YOURSELF
AND SOMETIMES YOU GOTTA TAKE A CHANCE ON YOURSELF

Throughout the album, there are lyrical references made to the idea of tapping into one’s subconsciousness in order to break free from our self-imposed limitations and realize our individual potential. As the lyrics of “Sometimes” (written by Ollie Olsen) suggest, it is only because we’ve become brainwashed by the idea that we must sell our souls to corporate overlords that we have subscribed to the idea that we must give up our passions and dreams and work for the man to attain material, rather than spiritual wealth. However, if we banish those egocentric thoughts from our conscious minds, and pursue our life’s true purpose by “taking a chance on ourselves”, we can free ourselves from societal conditioning. The lyrics suggest that those in elite positions of power realize that by making us believe that we must conform to their media-manufactured, superficial, societal norms which include serving their greedy ends, we lose sight of our dreams and give up. However, sometimes we listen to our inner voice and heed its advice. In fact, Michael embodied the spirit of this sentiment by taking a brief respite from the commercial success of the INXS-Kick album to work on Max Q. This is not to suggest that his work with INXS was impure or superficial, but rather to highlight the example that it’s healthy and rewarding  for the soul to take detours from paths laid out for us by society.

 

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