Rejection begets dejection, which should be intuitively obvious to anyone drawing breath in the beleaguered universe of symbiotic relations. While the immediate physiological and psychological effects of rejection are often quite painful (sometimes even lethal), they should always be distinguished from their more amorphous (yet no less painful) secondary and tertiary complaints -- that correlating category of lingering symptoms which is entirely dependent upon the initial sting of rejection, but which quickly consumes and obliterates its causal predecessor. Much as a parasite eats up its host, or cancer cells swarm normal living cells, original tragedy degenerates into imitative farce. To put it in the crudest (but perhaps most compassionate) terms: The slap which reddens the cheek must, for the sake of emotional (and creative) clarity, be differentiated from the cascading gestalt of horripilating emotions which are unleashed by the slap. Rejection, as it were, shocks the system, just like a percussion grenade befuddles the senses. Dejection, on the other hand, is the system's aching concomitant response to that very same shock.

The analytic usefulness of these distinctions become more obvious once they are applied to the strange and slippery subject of artistic inspiration. When Willie Nelson, on Red Headed Stranger, sings "And my eyes filled with tears, and I must have aged 10 years, and I couldn't believe it was true," he is re-creating, quite poignantly, a man's brutal first brush with sudden romantic rejection. The tone is one of panic, and the tendency of the victim is toward an emotionally bankrupted form of disbelief, accompanied by severe mental anguish and desperation. Conveniently enough, this very same Willie Nelson album (which traces one man's rapid psychological devolution from rejection to terminal -- and murderous -- dejection) provides a perfect example of lyrics inspired by the second category (dejection), and by which means we can compare and contrast the dual concepts of rejection and dejection. To wit (from the album's title song): "Don't cross him, don't boss him, he's wild in his sorrow, he's ridin' and hidin' his pain/Don't fight him, don't spite him, just wait till tomorrow, maybe he'll ride on again." Notice that the tone is more rueful, almost philosophical even; whereas the portrayal of rejection in song elicits feelings of sudden anxiety in the listener, the portrayal of dejection is more meditative, and arouses in the listener a deeper, more complex range of emotions (the foremost being pity).

Of course, many songwriters do not possess such a sophisticated emotional vocabulary and psychological reach as Willie Nelson; you can usually determine, after some exposure, into which of the two existing categories the majority of an artist's life's work fits. Pete Townshend, Morrissey, and Kurt Cobain, in their songs, deal almost exclusively with the state of being dejected and depressed, with no serious detriment to or limitation of their creative output (though, interestingly enough, such songwriters often inspire hordes of vile, opportunistic, and ultimately farcical imitators -- emotional midgets, really -- who haven't properly earned their dejection, and who should be, but typically aren't, commercially rejected). On the other hand, artists such as Elvis Costello and Jello Biafra stand up, rather geekishly, and sing angrily for those perpetually rejected people the world over. (It should be noted that much of the material coming from the hiphop genre appears to reside in a kind of tension-riddled sociological limbo between rejection and dejection, which might explain this music's incendiary appeal.)

As is always the case, the value of these categories rests not in the categories themselves, but in the manner by which they are utilized and manipulated both artistically and critically. It goes without saying that many of the finest moments in the history of popular music have been those which move fluidly between rejection and dejection: the Beach Boys' Pet Sounds and Billy Joel's The Stranger being two of the more widely acknowledged "rejection/ dejection" masterpieces of modern times. Rick Levin