Single Review: Hole “Malibu”

Album: Celebrity Skin
Year: 1998

Courtney Love watches an actor friend waste away in the jaded “Malibu.”

Brooding, sun-kissed guitars accompany Love. She sees some of her actor friends taking drugs and acting recklessly. She’s boggled at a close friend who is clinging to his life. She’s curious as to how he made it this far without killing himself. She asks how she can help him pull through his depression and be the person she knew before. (“Crash and burn/all the stars explode tonight/How’d you get so desperate/how’d you stay alive/Help me please/burn the sorrow from your eyes/Oh, come on be alive again/don’t lay down and die.”)

She advises him to get out of the city and leave behind the Hollywood lifestyle for a while. (“Hey, hey, you know what to do/Oh baby, drive away from Malibu.”)

She resigned, knowing she can’t get through to him. She can only tell him not to do any more drugs than he has. His drug use has become to affect his health (skinner than he should be, etc.) and career (not being hired, arrests.) She promises to not abandon him. She encourages him to seek out God and listen to his problems. She’s going to do whatever it takes. (“Get well soon/please don’t go any higher/How are you so burnt when you’re barely on fire/Cry to the angels/I’m gonna rescue you/I’m gonna set you free tonight, baby/pour over me.”)

In the chorus, she says she and his other close friends are going to keep an eye on him. Since he has chosen to stay in Malibu, she tells him to weep and allow religion into his life. (“Hey, hey, we’re all watching you/Oh, baby, fly away to Malibu/Cry to the angels, and let them swallow you/Go and part the sea, yeah, in Malibu.”)

In the bridge, she sees him sink into the darkness and hit rock bottom. She can’t watch it anymore and wades in the ocean. She knows the cause of his self-destruction. She hints it was a broken relationship but not much more. (“And the sun goes down, I watch you slip away/
And the sun goes down, I walk into the waves/And I knew love would tear you apart/Oh and I knew the darkest secret of your heart.”) It was an excellent choice not to divulge what happened with him. It’s a private matter. It keeps with the intimacy and longtime friendship.

She’s says she’s will stay with him until he’s clean. He will cleanse himself and be like he was. She adds that he has so much potential. (“I’m gonna follow you/Oh baby, fly away, yeah, to Malibu/Oceans of angels, oceans of stars/Down by the sea is where you drown your scars/I can’t be near you, the light just radiates/I can’t be near you, the light just radiates.”)

In the Max Martin Total Domination era (1997-2000), rock acts were scrambling to update their sound from grunge to sweet pop. Hole made the transition effectively by not acting like teenagers and thinking of their old fans. The grim “Malibu” focuses on a friendship Love fights to keep, despite the efforts of her friend to push her away. The oceanic, breezy tone highlights the contradictory world of Hollywood. A place where stars hide their flaws and maintain an inoffensive image to appeal the regular Joe in America. Meanwhile, they are taking every drug, woman, man, and drink in sight.