The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #213: Boys Don’t Cry by The Cure (KEXP)

This list of songs is inspired by lists published by radio station KEXP-FM from Seattle in 2010, as well as the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part I will faithfully countdown from their lists, starting at Song #500 and going until I reach Song #1. When you see the song title listed as something like: Song #XXX (KEXP)….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. Song XXX (RS) means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone list. If I post the song title as being: Song #xxx (KTOM), it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In any case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, just so everyone is aware, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Here is the story behind today’s song. Enjoy.

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #213: Boys Don’t Cry by The Cure.

In a world filled with toxic masculinity, one of the surest ways to change things is by allowing young boys to show their emotions, without fear of ridicule or abuse. But, as we all know, that is easier said than done. As a boy, we are told to “Walk it off!” when we are hurt and, furthermore, that playing hurt is what tough guys do and, after all, it is tough guys who win championships. When boys experience loss, they are told to “Get over it!”, to “Suck it up!” or, best of all, to “Be a man!” Emotions such as sadness or feelings such as empathy must be suppressed for the sake of appearances because, to cry, is to show weakness and to show weakness, as a man, is to be a disappointment to those around you who demand that you exude strength at all times. I would never claim that life is easy for women or girls but, at the same time, society doesn’t make it easy for young boys, either. Sometimes, allowing ourselves, as men, to be vulnerable is the greatest feat of strength imaginable.

When the members of “The Cure” were growing up in England, the prevailing sentiment was that boys should never cry. If you have ever seen a photo of Robert Smith, the lead singer of “The Cure”, you will quickly notice the wild hair and the make-up and realize that his upbringing was steeped in abuse, based upon his appearance. As a result of “not looking like a normal teenage boy”, Robert Smith channeled his emotions into his music which was, at first, described as Punk rock-ish. But Smith, and his bandmates, Lol Tolburg and Michael Dempsey, never sought to confine themselves to one style or genre of music…even in their very earliest days as a band. So, the combination of wanting to create all manner of songs, along with his need to express his frustrations with how males were being trained to behave in society, caused Smith to write one of the great pure Pop songs of the early 80s, “Boys Don’t Cry”.

When “Boys Don’t Cry” was first released, it didn’t chart at all. That was primarily because the nature of the style of the song didn’t mesh with the expectation that “The Cure” would put out Punk or Goth tunes as a general rule. But, a few years later, the song was re-recorded for a Greatest Hits album. At that time, Robert Smith’s voice had matured so the song sounded better and, as well, “The Cure” had established themselves as a top band based on a string of hits that straddled the lines of many genres. Because of all of that, “Boys Don’t Cry” was accepted with open arms and charted very well.

I have two personal connections to add to this post. If you recall, I wrote a post about another “Cure” song called, “A Forest”. In that post, I mentioned that I once dated a girl in Toronto who made a mix-tape for me and that, even though the relationship wasn’t meant to be, that mixtape was awesome and was my introduction to many great songs. “Boys Don’t Cry” was one of the songs on that tape. When I was given the tape, I was told that “Boys Don’t Cry” was included because, even though we had only just met, she could tell I wasn’t one of those guys who kept his emotions all bottled up inside. I took that as a compliment. Thus, “Boys Don’y Cry” makes me smile.

Secondly, I follow a site on Twitter called, “Bright Wall, Dark Room”. It is an on-line magazine-type site devoted to movies. If you like watching movies and talking about movies with other cinephiles then, @BWDR is for you. I don’t tend to get too worked up about movies so I don’t engage in any of the debates and discussions that go on. However, once a week, they ask a survey question about some “trivial” aspect of movies. For instance, one survey was about “your favourite use of the colour Yellow in a movie”. People answer in a tweet and, generally, add a Gif or still image of what they are talking about. These Twitter threads make for highly enjoyable reading. The survey question last week was, “Have you ever ugly-cried because of a scene in a movie? If so, what was the movie and what was the scene?” It was amazing to be reminded of, movie after movie, containing special scenes that touched your heart. For me, it was a chance to remember a few scenes in which I have cried while watching. *(My ugliest cry, being “Cinema Paradiso” but, also, I cried at the end of “Toy Story 3”, as well as, “Coco”; neither film being “just a kid’s movie, I’ll have you know!” My girls have seen me cry while watching movies or TV at home. I hope that they feel that this is normal behaviour for good men and that, when their time comes to start dating, they won’t tolerate any of the “you must keep all emotions inside to be a man”-type of guys who are still out there.

In any case, being an emotionally-healthy person means that, at times, you will cry. That is what Robert Smith was getting at when he wrote, “Boys Don’t Cry”. It was what that long-ago girlfriend was getting at when she put that song on the mixtape she made for me. It is what I believe all men should feel free to do in front of their family and friends and heck, even in front of complete strangers. What do you think? Is an occasional teary moment a sign of weakness in a man? Feel free to speak your piece in the comments below, if you feel so inclined. For now, here is “The Cure” with one of their very first hits, “Boys Don’t Cry”. Enjoy.

The link to the music video for “Boys Don’t Cry” by The Cure, can be found here.

The link to the official website for The Cure, can be found here.

Thanks to KEXP for helping to inspire the writing of this post. A link to their website can be found here.

Author: Tom MacInnes

Among the many characters I play: husband, father, son, retired elementary school teacher, writer, Cape Bretoner, lover of hot tea and, above all else, a gentleman. I strive to make a positive difference in the lives of others. In Life, I have chosen to be kind.

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