Song lyrics at fireworks fuel debate

Tens of thousands of people cheered along Grand Haven's waterfront Saturday night as the sky lit up for the finale of the 2013 Coast Guard Festival.
Alex Doty
Aug 7, 2013

But not everyone was happy with the selection of music chosen for the patriotic celebration.

Brian Wadhams, who was visiting Grand Haven during the festival with his family, said he was concerned with the song “My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark” by the band Fall Out Boy during the fireworks show.

“I do say that the fireworks synced with the song were in fact neat, but everything else was horrible and a disgrace to the men and women in the Coast Guard who were watching the show,” Wadhams said in an e-mail to the Tribune. “Many people around my family on our blanket were thinking the same out loud.”

Wadhams, who did not say where he lived, said he was concerned with the song’s lyrics, which he called” absolutely disgusting.”

“When we arrived back at the hotel, we looked up the lyrics to see if it was really as bad as it sounds — and it was far worse," he said. "A song about murdering people, tying them up and burning them alive, and general violence."

A sampling of the song’s lyrics are as follows:

“B-B-B-Be careful making wishes in the dark, dark;
Can't be sure when they've hit their mark.
And besides in the mean, mean time,
I'm just dreaming of tearing you apart.

I'm in the de-details with the devil,
So now the world can never get me on my level.
I just gotta get you off the cage;
I'm a young lover's rage;
Gonna need a spark to ignite.”

In the music video for the song, it shows people burning musical instruments and memorabilia. At the end, there is a van with four people tied up in it as a man approaches with a match.

Brad Boyink, the Coast Guard Festival show's music choreographer, said he doesn't expect everyone to be pleased with every musical decision.

“No matter what you do, there is always someone not happy with the selection,” he said. “You can’t please everyone.”

Here is a link to the video for this song. See what you think... then comment below.

To read more of this story, see today’s print or e-edition of the Grand Haven Tribune.


Sound Judgement

Who in their right mind gave the responsibility of selecting songs to one person who quite obviously has poor judgement? The new lighting on the fountain looks great and we need new music but please use some discression.

Dear Visitor to Grand Haven,

Many of us wish to apologize to you and hope you will visit again.



Dear Visitor,

I am not going to apologize to you for the musical choices. I am going to simply say that we hope you come back to our wonderful town, and our wonderful festival. Thanks for your feedback, I'm sure it will be considered. I think it shows a willingness to hear suggestions when the leader of the group who made those decisions answered your concerns directly.

I will apologize to you for Sound Judgement's comments. It's too bad they felt the need to be overly dramatic.


Do not count me in on that apology. There were over 200,000 people there, and people weren't going to like everything. As far as the selections for the fountain goes-I am almost 50, and would rather hear Fall Out Boy than some of the oldie garbage, but we each get some of what we like. It is for EVERYONE, not just certain types of people. And as for offending the USCG, I think most of them are young enough to know and like the music.


“Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible.” - Frank Zappa

Music is very subjective, personal and often inspires thought and emotion. The beauty of music is its ability to create various reactions to the same song. Mr. Wadhams's reaction was not good, but many have expressed to me they were impressed that Fountain was playing something so new and edgy. But as we all know, people rarely write in to applaud something.

"My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark" has noting to do murder, burning people alive, or promoting violence. In fact, Pete Wentz singer and bassist for Fall Out Boy said "This song is about burning your secrets, regrets, and starting fresh. It's about becoming a better person and lighting up ones dreams." You can see the entire Grammy Awards interview on YouTube.

In trying to break from the normal format the decision was made by a team of people (not an individual) to create a crossover song for the start of the fireworks that would highlight both the new fountain lighting and fireworks together. "My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark" was the official start of the fireworks. The Coast Guard Festival fireworks music is traditionally not patriotic. The entire Musical Fountain performance was patriotic as it has always been.

This song was intentional chosen due to its mass appeal. The goal was to select a song that is current, popular, and lent itself to fireworks and the new lighting on the Fountain. Even WGHN has had this song on their playlist.

Diversity in music make for a better show. We try to appeal to many musical tastes, but sometimes our selection will not be liked by all. With change, sometimes comes controversy.

These opinions are mine alone. My hope is to give you further insight as to why this song was considered and accepted.


Brad Boyink

Back to the Wall

Frank Zappa was a musical and social genius, however I know better than playing “Joe’s Garage” for my 12 year old daughter. “Bobby Brown” may only be an exploration into the boredom and detachment among privileged post-adolescent males, but do you really expect the fireworks crowd to get any further than “women’s liberation came sweeping across the nation”?

The vast unwashed masses do not look for “deeper meaning” in song lyrics. The vast unwashed masses take song lyrics at face value. To them “Whole Lotta Love” means just that -An immense amount of a positive, shared emotion. The proof of that is here in these comments.

The lyrics to the song “My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark” are inappropriate for broadcast over a 30,000,000 watt P.A. system at an annual fireworks display honoring the men and women of the USCG. Poor judgment was exercised, and the community deserves more than this continued self-justification.


Boyink's answer to all criticism is basically, "you can't please everyone." Diversity is music is great, but choosing a song that highlights violence - even if it is symbolic of airing one's "secrets" - is one of the reasons our kids are becomming desensitized to cruelty.


"This song was intentionally chosen due to its mass appeal. The goal was to select a song that is current, popular... diversity" . Really, now?

This mindset is destructive to the morality of our society. The song itself is distasteful, dark, and carries an intent to drive fear into the listener. Your quest to enlighten the reader failed. ANYONE with common sense would agree that this song was inappropriate and way off base for a family event...or really any event at all, for that matter.

Grand Haven Happy

Yes, that song was WAY off base for family and military service function. Very shameful and disrespectful!

Grand Haven Happy

Many of the parked RV'ers around us at great expense across from the marina had complained about that song selection afterward. Most of them were for the festival from other cities so it's just not the locals who questioned the use or complained. Seems most of the modern music always have many untasteful wordings/phrases in them and is that what GH or the CG Festival Committee wants our visitors to think about our town or area???

Grand Haven Happy

Another thing that really seem to set dozens of vistors off in an otherwise excellent day was that the marina public bathrooms and the public bathrooms by the fish cleaning station were closed and locked less than an hour after the fireworks ended and while there were still thousands of people still on the waterfront. We saw many both males and females searching, asking people, law enforcement, and us for a restroom to use and then with none open finally going behind the dumpsters and the Sail Club building etc and urinating etc. Even had them doing it against the wall or behind it in the "Piano factory" parking lot not 20 feet from our RV where we've been for the festival fri & sat for 11 years + now. We know what goes on and there were many witnesses! The RV'ers have their own bathrooms in their RV's so it was not a problem for them. I should have taken some but didn't think of it then!

We had heard several comments of "we'll not be back if that's the way the town treats us" and how mad the people were about it as when you gotta go, you gotta go! The city and the CG Festival Committee can do better!!! There were basically no porti toilets to be found in the area either so they had no choice. THEY WERE VISITORS AND DON"T KNOW THE TOILET FACILITY LOCATIONS! We also could see many law enforcement personnel just standing around a block away and they could have secured the bathrooms if that was a concern. The Sheriff's trailer was less than a block from us also. OR how about an attendant being at the bathrooms for an hour or two after the fireworks ended to police them? It's not a small gathering of people afterall and this is not the first year or the first year of this BS.

We have stayed in the Covenent


Inevitably this would cause some to no longer come out for the celebration, but it would also in turn bring new crowds to the celebration... There are critics for everything.


SO true, but the new crowds this type of music will bring in will eventually destroy the family atmosphere and create a "questionable" mindset in parents as to whether or not the festival is any longer a family-friendly event. We saw a couple of "groups" wondering around this year at the fireworks with their pants sagging to their knees, curse words flying, and "fight" threats being launched from their filthy mouths with every other word spoken. Continue with the "bring in the new crowd" mentality, and watch the fall of the festival. The CG Festival is a tradition. "Tradition" tends to mean that you follow the same practices over and over, year after year. While I'm commenting, I must also mention that the GH Police Dept. needs to step it up a notch, as well. They were a stones throw from the gang-type groups I previously mentioned...just standing there in circle, talking, with their arms folded as though GH is nothing short of Mayberry. If they'd heard the filth being spoken and the threats being made for fights, then I'm sure it would have been different. But, they can't keep a watch on crowds and situations if they're standing around in a group socializing.

Thomas Gould

Perhaps the song selection wasn't the greatest choice but it is not as big of a deal as some of you are making it out to be. The committee attempted to breathe some life into a fireworks display that is always spectacular but is showing signs of becoming stale. I applaud them for their effort despite the fact that this ONE song missed the mark. If a singular song has this much of a negative impact of your overall experience then maybe you need to reevaluate yourself. At the end of the day, if this is your biggest complaint then you have it pretty good.

great lakes chick

Very well said, couldn't agree more. When the fountain's having it's spotlight, the patriotic songs are traditional and with meaning. For the fireworks music should be a bit more updated. The vast diversity of the crowd is one that cannot be pleased to the fullest no matter what music is played. The fireworks should still attempt a younger/hipper musical genre, but it should also be a little more tasteful. Of course "more tasteful" is subjective, but we do want to appeal to the younger generations to continue on this magnificent tradition. The music was in poor choice but they were on the right path in my opinion. I seriously doubt that this topic will make a dent in the masses that come to lovely Grand Haven for Coast Guard Festival.


I very much enjoy the music that has been playing at the musical fountain this year. The fountain is much more enjoyable when I know the music that is being played. I hope that whoever is responsible for the time spent programming these displays keeps using new music. There are other generations out there that appreciate what you’re doing. Keep up the good work, and I’m sure that you will see the stands full of people again soon.
PS. My favorite songs of Saturday night where from “Fall out Boy” and “Fun”


Most simply put... I absolutely LOVED it and hope for more songs like it to make their way to my fountain! I have that song in a regular playlist of mine, and it was really a good change of pace to hear something that makes its way to my ears regularly!

Just some example of a youngster that would've appreciated the show:

Keep up the good work! It was one of the best shows I've seen at the fountain thus far!


Brad keep up the good work. If you are to ask anyone if they were offended from the song it would be the people we are honoring. They are people too and I am sure all have music they love from Madonna to Slayer. I think the diversity that has been there this year is great, and to have it during our biggest show of the year is no exception. I know it takes a lot of time to pull these (Fireworks and Fountain) shows together and thing it is great. My 2 cents.....


You're points have been taken to heart I'm sure. Now be glad you HAD a festival.
from Chesaning


I'm willing to guess that the same people who can only take a song on it's literal chorus and cry about it are the same people who think that "Born In The USA" and "Rockin' In The Free World" are patriotic songs that celebrate the American way versus the satire that they are.

marnijos...I'm originally from the Chesaning area...where the Showboat has been withering for years with its picks of past acts from the 60s to the 70s...20-30 years past their prime. At least the fireworks here are a part of the festival and not the main theme of it as the Showboat shows.

Besides...if you're worried about offending the people that the show was honoring...given the ages of enlisted men and women, there's a good chance that they enjoyed it.


Oh, and the elephant ears were gross this year!


After reading the comments of those people who thought the song lyrics were, "inappropriate" and "disgusting" and not showing respect to people in the military, I have to wonder; Exactly what songs would you choose or like to be played at the event? Perhaps, "The Saints Come Marching Home"? or, "Amazing Grace"? or maybe, “Yankee Doodle,” “Young Recruit,” and “Soldier Song.” Words are often representative of different meanings and interpretations than their “face value” meanings. Take art for example. A statue of a man or woman showing genitalia by some viewers represents pornography, other viewers “a work of art,” and yet others “a symbol of a religious expression.” So, who is right? None. Who is wrong? None. It’s a matter of perspective and most importantly, “context” and the context in which the artist who created the work intended it to represent. As far as the song, “My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark” goes, or really any song for that matter, I’m most interested in the Artists perspective, context, and meaning they created the song to represent. As far as peoples “Opinions” go, everyone has one and I could care less what their opinion, concept, or theory is, to me, it means nothing.


Well said.


Of course music is subjective, which is why Brad Boyink and whomever else is in charge of the Fountain's musical selections should use caution when selecting the songs. The Fountain is a staple in Grand Haven, known historically for being family friendly. The last several years have seen a decline in that characteristic. While many of the old shows I remember as a kid were cheesy, there was no way they could offend anyone. Now, with Lady Gaga, Coldplay, FOB, and others leading the way, the idea of a family friendly atmosphere is being taken away. By failing to take into account the masses and choosing from their personal musical libraries, the people who are selecting the music now show a complete disregard for anyone but themselves.

There must be tens of thousands of songs (at a minimum) which appeal to many generations, including today's, without being offenseive. I'm all for free speech, and for downloading any song you want to own, but to force potentially offensive songs because it's what you like is arrogant.

Let's not kid ourselves, the Fountain is boring anyway, with the same songs getting played over and over, and people would like some variety; just not the offensive kind, so that they may bring both their children and grandparents to the same show for enjoyment.


West Michigan, including Grand Haven is one of the best areas to live and to raise a family, it is important that diversity does play a part. At the same time it is important that those values which made this area and our nation one of the best, are to be respected, promoted and honored.
For these values are much more then a cornerstone to our way of life, and if certain diversity does threatens those values, then it must not be allowed to destroy the way of life that made this area and this country strong. Is this Politically Correct probably not, is this comment respect strong determination, hard work, and creativity, probably.




My kids and I loved the song choices this year. As parents, our job is to discuss values and beliefs with our children. There are always going to be things we disagree with, but rather than censor everything and force your views on everyone else, take the opportunity to talk to your kids. Things can be family friendly without being smarmy.


It took time to make the music match up with the firework display and I enjoyed it.
The people I was around did not complain. My kids know this song from the radio. I have never taken the time to look up the video because the song itself is catchy.
This song is being played at sporting events all over this summer and I'm sure will continue well into the football, basketball, and hockey seasons. Seeing as these are also family events I hope those who found the song "disrespectful" take time to ask for a list of all songs that will be played before attending these events as well.

As stated before, it will be hard to find music that pleases ALL attendees in any setting. 1 or 2 songs isn't the end of the world. I still found the song fitting for fireworks that "lit" up the sky.


Thank you for pointing this out and I'd like to add; that perhaps these concerned family oriented people who are considering attending the Fireworks display to request a song playlist beforehand so they can consider whether or not to attend exposing their family to songs they don't approve of. Be assured, that even though your protest may be acknowledged, most likely it won't result in a revamp of songs chosen in the future based on a few complaints such as yours. You do have a choice of whether you want to attend or not attend.


Oh, and if you don't like what you hear, then create your own show and submit it, maybe they will pick it: I created one the other day, it is not easy and takes a lot of time to do it right.


I live in California where a public standard of decency no longer exists. This issue represents a long, slippery slope; twenty years from now you may well wish you had erred on the side of caution today.


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