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Anderson Paak: PhD in Psychology?

I'm a recent graduate of United World College Costa Rica, and I'm curious about making links between things.

Album cover for "Venice," by Anderson Paak

Album cover for "Venice," by Anderson Paak

Attachment Theory is the study of how people form and behave in relationships. It offers a new perspective on how you view your partners, because it could possibly make you understand where their seemingly negative or annoying behaviors come from, thus making you more empathetic to them. A song that is able to explain Attachment Theory is Anderson Paak’s "Right There," off his album Venice. This is because Anderson Paak is able to recreate a failed relationship through his use of repetition, rhetorical questions, and word choice. In doing so, he is able to take his listeners through different types of insecure attachments, as well as problems people exhibiting them are likely to face in interpersonal relationships.

Anderson Paak’s Use of Repetition and Attachment Theory

Anderson Paak’s use of repetition allows him to create the psychological profile of an avoidant person. This is done through his repetition of the phrase "I’m so tired" in verses one and two. The repetition of the phrase "I’m so tired" and the resulting enumeration that occurs allows him and his partner to emphasize their shared discontent with the current state of their relationship. His decision to do this is important because it helps him create the psychological profile of an avoidant person. In the song, he has grown weary of good health, cooked food, good moods, while his partner is worn out by displays of affection between the two of them. In summary, they are both fed up with the stability and intimacy that any relationship requires. This is characteristic of people who are avoidant-attached. According to Attachment Theory, avoidants are uncomfortable with relationships that require large amounts of closeness because they are used to suppressing their feelings and being independent. Thus, in relationships, they present as withdrawn and even more so when they feel their independence is being eroded. In addition, some avoidants are characterized by having a turbulent nature in relationships, leading them to mistake a stable relationship for a boring one. Consequently, they may act out and sometimes leave the relationship altogether (something that his partner does eventually) in search of that ‘excitement’ that they use to characterize relationships. His portrayal of avoidant personalities allows him to connect with members of his fanbase who identify as avoidant or exhibit avoidant behaviors while illuminating the mental processes of people who identify as avoidant, such that their partners better understand them and approach their relationship from an informed perspective.

In addition to creating the psychological profile of an avoidant-attached person, Anderson Paak goes a step further by using a rhetorical question to create the psychological profile of an anxious-attached person. In the hook of the song, after his partner leaves the relationship, he expresses his desire for her has grown, while simultaneously questioning how devoted his partner was to their relationship. Then he goes on to answer himself, asserting that she did care. The use of rhetorical question in the hook allows Anderson Paak to reflect, and in the process, romanticize his failed relationship. Anderson Paak’s decision to show him processing his relationship is important because it allows him to portray an anxiously-attached individual. According to Attachment Theory, anxiously-attached individuals are fiercely possessive of their partners out of a fear of abandonment. This makes them prone to glossing over and romanticizing their partners, especially after fights, because they’d rather have someone there than no one at all even if it means blurring boundaries. This is what he does on the hook and emphasizes on the second verse. Despite the fact that neither of them was happy, he still looks for positive moments in the relationship to justify their time together, rather than focusing on the reasons they didn’t work and move on. Moreover, in the second verse, he says "wanting you is all that ever drives my beat," showing he suppresses his feelings and focuses his energy on her needs and wants. The effect of Anderson Paak’s decision to do this is that it allows him to portray the other side of insecure attachments, giving a wider scope of Attachment Theory. Moreover, it shows his audience that attachment styles are not fixed, but rather can change based on different stages of a relationship.

After showing the two insecure attachment styles, Anderson Paak’s use of word choice allows him to draw attention to problems that they are likely to face in relationships, particularly with one another. In the hook, when he is reminiscing about the relationship he says that everything she loved was "right there." The word’ there’ implies that there is a distance between them and their relationship. It suggests that they regarded their relationship independent of themselves, that they didn’t go the full length to realize the idea of "one body, one mind, one soul" that most people eventually want relationships to represent. Anderson Paak’s decision to do this is important because it allows him to address the anxious-avoidant trap. In Attachment Theory, the anxious-avoidant trap is one where an anxious-attached person’s need for closeness causes an avoidant person to pull away, which in turn triggers the anxious-attached person, causing them to chase after the avoidant person, which only causes the avoidant person to pull away more, leaving them in a constant state of limbo. By showing this, Anderson Paak is able to show how the dynamics in a relationship between an anxious-attached person and avoidant-attached person makes it almost impossible to meet halfway, thereby preventing them from enjoying a truly stable relationship. This will redefine the way his listeners approach relationships and hopefully give them a better chance at having happy relationships.

Anderson Paak is able to educate his audience on insecure attachment through his use of repetition, rhetorical question, and word choice. Consequently, the way they approach relationships should change. However, it is important to note that insecure attachment often stems from insecurity in previous relationships. Thus, Attachment Theory provides scientific backing to the saying "treat others with kindness" because when you’re kind and attentive to the needs of others, you are directly contributing to them becoming securely attached individuals.

© 2020 Abdulghaffah Abiru