Michigan State University Student Radio

Impact 89FM | WDBM-FM

Michigan State University Student Radio

Impact 89FM | WDBM-FM

Michigan State University Student Radio

Impact 89FM | WDBM-FM

Bullets and Butterflies | “Bullet with Butterfly Wings” by The Smashing Pumpkins


There are numerous songs that people can generally recognize when listening to ‘90s tracks, but there are some that are highly treasured and sit on another pedestal when it comes to that time in music. The song “Bullet With Butterfly Wings” by The Smashing Pumpkins is one of them, sitting on another level with songs like “Smells Like Teen Spirit” or “Would?.” 

Billy Corgan’s true feelings are revealed on this record, as his lyrics cut through with ferocity and an inherent anger, serving as the centerpiece. While The Smashing Pumpkins have a tendency to bring forth ideas of anger, confusion or sadness, this song elevates their usual branding with a sound that was not necessarily unusual for the time, but so incredibly raw and loud that it was impossible to forget.

The song begins with an interesting opening line from Corgan: “The world is a vampire, sent to drain.”

The listener can already feel Corgan’s dread as he immediately disses the world. Corgan’s usual melancholic outlook hits hard in this song. On the instrumental side of things, there is a cleaner, calmer sound as he introduces his ideas, but when we hit the chorus, things begin to unfold and erupt.

The chorus, which is definitely the most memorable part of the track, is known by most people, even those who are not necessarily fans. This is when the band kicks it into high gear. A heavy, distorted guitar riff, Jimmy Chamberlain’s killer drums and Corgan’s unchained vocal style make this part one of the heaviest of the ‘90s:

Despite all my rage, I am still just a rat in a cage /

Then someone will say, “What is lost can never be saved /

Despite all my rage, I am still just a rat in a cage!”

Corgan clearly feels trapped, and speculation is that these lyrics are directly related to his feelings toward performing and entertaining masses. The Smashing Pumpkins never expected to become incredibly massive, and handling fame was not a strong suit of his. While now living a glamorous, fast life, he wanted some peace: something that was not easy to find as a touring musician. The general message here is the feeling of being trapped, a feeling that was now synchronous with Corgan.

The song became the leading single off of their hugely successful 1995 release Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness. While the song “Jellybelly” was originally meant to be the leading single, “Bullet With Butterfly Wings” easily filled the spot and eventually won a Grammy in 1997. The song has been featured in numerous films since its release, and artists ranging from Kid Cudi to Weird Al Yankovic have sampled parts of the song for their own work. 

This track is truly a work of art, striking up feelings in people young and old. It has become something that people in all walks of life can resonate with and has not yet fallen into the past. I like to categorize some of my favorite throwbacks as immortal because some are just too timeless and important to be cast away. This song definitely makes that list. 

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About the Contributor
Ian Randall, Writer
Ian Randall (He/Him) is an advertising management major at Michigan State. In his free time, he can be found bent over his guitar or playing Red Dead Redemption II. His favorite films are Top Gun and Napoleon Dynamite, and he frequently listens to Megadeth, Smashing Pumpkins, Van Halen and Tame Impala.  “A tout le monde, a tout mes amis, je vous aime, je dois partir.” - Megadeth

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