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The Red Lights

What do you think happens when the sun goes down? The dark can often be a place of wild insincerity and heartless exploitation. And no other venom poisons the heart quite like the story of a helpless individual, taken advantage of, and put in a line of work where he/she does not wish to be. I emphasize the word helpless because often, for the victim, the person taking advantage of him/her seems to be the only hope for survival.

On the other hand, you have the perpetrator; the wolf in sheep clothing. This person walks into the life of a desperate person and offers a way out of misery. Although, more often than not, the promised way out of misery is a headfirst plunge into destitute.

The song ” When the sun goes down,” is a song from the 2006 Arctic Monkeys Album, ” Whatever people say I am, that’s what I’m not.The Song reached number 1 in the 2006 UK single’s chart.[1]

In the song, the narrator tells us how he encounters a prostitute in a cold night. She offers him her “services” but he declines. He wonders what might have caused her to come into that “business.” Then he describes how her pimp comes along. As soon as she sees the pimp coming, she gets ready to be picked up. Not necessarily because she’s happy to see him, but because it is freezing, and she’d rather be warm and mistreated, then cold and violated.

A reference is made in the song to the hit 80s song “Roxanne” by the British Rock band Police. “… He told Roxanne to put on her red lights.” The line talks about how girls are usually forced into the line of prostitution by the pimps. The song by Police was about how a man falls in love with a prostitute.

For me, the most powerful line of the song is the very last one. ” I hope you’re not involved at all.” The line seems to be directed towards the listener; us. Are we involved? If we are to think that everyone is responsible for each other, then in a way, we are responsible. Maybe we are responsible because we don’t stop the “scummy man” from exploiting “Roxanne”? If Roxanne had facilities to look after her when she was younger, she wouldn’t have had to turn to him. And maybe if Roxanne had been given free education as a child to inform her of the rights she had? Maybe if we didn’t shame Roxanne for doing what she does, she’d be able to be her own boss, and not work under the manipulative “protection” of Mr. Inconspicuous[2].

We don’t know what happens when the sun goes down. We don’t know how people’s colors change or why their lives get turned upside down. But if we care enough, we can do two things: 1. Offer Roxanne an education and her reproductive rights, and she will never “put on the red lights”; and, 2. If she has already put the red lights on, give her the respect she deserves and let her embrace the red lights.

Would you like to give it a listen? Here’s the link for the music video

-Jigme Choerab

[1], RETROFUZZ |. “When the Sun Goes Down | Songs.” Arctic Monkeys. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Sept. 2016.

[2] Reference made to the pimp in the song. Line 2 of verse 3.


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