The Devil’s Candy

And I’ve fought it all my life
And the battle’s now a war
But I’ll get up tomorrow
And I’ll fight it all once more
I want to do what’s right
But I’ll never understand me
I’ve always had a sweet tooth
For the devil’s candy


I didn’t use to like Gary Allan. I found him whiny and insipid, the closest you could get to “emo-country”. A couple of his songs were ok, but it wasn’t until I heard “The Devil’s Candy” that I started to come around. Truth be told, it’s not an amazing song. It follows a well-worn formula (the boozy lament over the self-destructiveness of a good-timing lifestyle) and isn’t all that compelling musically. No, what really grabs me is the lyric “I’ve always had a sweet tooth/For the devil’s candy”. It resonates with me deeply as someone who shares this affliction.

Seemingly simple, the implications of this metaphor, and its poetic possibilities, run deep. First of all, “the devil’s candy” is a nice catch-all term for life’s temptations: booze, drugs, rowdy bars, illicit sex. It’s sweet, it’s seductive, it’s immediately gratifying, but ultimately nutritionally void. As someone with a literal, as well as figurative, sweet tooth, I’ve luxuriated in candy’s sugary delights only to be sickened by excess when one peanut butter cup turned into eleven. The devil’s candy is just the same: the initial rush of sensual pleasure ultimately gives way to highly unpleasant consequences.

The idea of a “sweet tooth” complicates questions of individual agency, instead suggesting addiction and compulsion. In contrast to many great country songs in which the protagonist defiantly clings to their hard-living ways despite the heartbreak they know will ensue, the singer of “The Devil’s Candy” doesn’t know why he does what he does – he just can’t help it. He’s got a sweet tooth.

A sweet tooth isn’t something people choose to have. Sugar isn’t an acquired taste. A love of sweets doesn’t bespeak a cultivated palate – quite the opposite, in fact. Having a sweet tooth is not something to boast of: it’s a sheepish admission, an explanation for the quarts of ice cream in your freezer, the stash of chocolate bars in your glove compartment. It’s unsophisticated, base and animalistic. A craving for sweet tastes is primal, a holdover from the days when the ability to recognize a ready source of carbohydrates was a matter of survival. Now that the food supply is flooded with high fructose corn syrup and other cheap  carbohydrate sources, it behooves us humans to find greater pleasure in fresh vegetables, whole grains and lean protein sources. But for some of us, our lizard brain’s urging to gorge on cake presents an insurmountable temptation, an urging that we would deny, if only we could.

Well I’ve played the cards, and I’ve rolled the dice
Well I gave up heaven for a fool’s paradise
I once lost an angel when a bad girl was handy
I’ve always had a sweet tooth
For the devil’s candy

This acknowledgement of self-defeat speaks deeply to those of us who often choose shallow instant gratification over the genuine article. Who in their right mind, after all, would give up an angel? Or, come to think of it, eternal life in an incorruptible paradise? Adam and Eve had a sweet tooth for the devil’s candy, too. All questions of morality, of sin, of temptation, inevitably lead back to the problem of free will. You don’t choose to have a sweet tooth, but you do decide whether or not to eat the devil’s candy. Only sometimes it seems like you can’t decide not to.


About ea

Reluctant technophile, immoderate lover of words, food, cogitation, the sensory world. We are not done evolving and there is no free will.
This entry was posted in Bits n bobs, Music. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to The Devil’s Candy

  1. Belinda says:

    Damm being human can be hard:)

  2. emilya says:

    No doubt!

  3. annie says:

    Very well-written and observed. Belinda’s right, being human can be hard. Actually, being human IS hard. Knowing and choosing the One who fought the battle and won is the only foolproof way to reverse the trend.

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