Saturday, November 13, 2010

Post-A-Day: I Have No Idea What I'm Singing About

Following up on the semi-musical theme from yesterday, I decided to write today about a topic I'm sure many of you are familiar with. You know how most songs out there fall into one of these categories: songs you know that has words that resonate with you and speak to some larger truth, songs that are pretty disposable generic nonsense about say, lost love or the cost of a canine behind a plate of glass, and finally, the ones that seem to have some kind of message or story, but despite their catchiness, it's still very unclear what the singer is talking about. One example that I always use that no longer qualifies because I know now is Ben Folds' Brick, which I listened to for years and sang along to thinking it was about some bitchy chick Ben just couldn't get rid of. Turn out, it's actually a very honest, non-judgmental song about abortion. Go figure!

Here are some other fairly well known diddies (at least for me, who clearly stopped listening to music once the 90's ended) I've sang along to for years knowing nothing at all about what's being said:

Song: Live Forever
Artist: Oasis
Sample Lyrics:
"Maybe I just wanna fly, 
Wanna live I don't wanna die
Maybe I just wanna breath,
Maybe I just don't believe
I think you're the same as me.
We see things they'll never see
You and I are gonna live forever"

My Analysis: This sounds like the angsty, sort of anti-establishment rantings of some really entitled rich kid. Oh you wanna live, and you don't wanna die? And you wanna breathe? Brother, you gotta earn your air round these parts.

Bonus: Is the video any help?: Not at first, but then the video starts to heavily reference Sid Vicious, who I guess could be the protagonist singing this song, praising his desire to live life to the fullest, just before he goes and kills his girlfriend, then himself.

Song: Einstein on the Beach
Artist: Counting Crows
Sample Lyrics: 
Albert's always sincere, he's the sensitive type
His intentions are clear, he wants to be well liked
If everything is nothing, then are we anything?
Is it better to be better than to be anything?
And Albert's vision is blooming uncontrolled
All his wings are slowly sinking

The world begins to disappear,
The worst thing comes from inside here
All the king's men reappear
For an eggman, on and off the wall,
Who'll never be together again

My Analysis: Albert Einstein, who was always so nice, get to thinking one day, as he was known to do, and he starts to have some troubling thoughts. He quickly sinks down a rabbit hole of darkness and despair that eventually ends in a children's nursery rhyme. Whoops - guess you shouldn't have read so many books, buster!

Bonus: Is the video any help?: Not when its fan made. Though it does make me wonder who these people are that dedicate the time to posting a video of a song with a mishmash of photos of a gymnast who's name I can't remember, and what they get out of the experience.

(I've been disarmed from embedding this one, apparently)

Song: Disarm
Artist: Smashing Pumpkins
Sample Lyrics
I used to be a little boy
So old in my shoes
And what I choose is my choice
What's a boy supposed to do?
The killer in me is the killer in you
My love, I send this smile over to you

My Analysis: Sounds kinda a like serial killer trying to justify his actions on a kinda shitty childhood? Yeah, you're right brother, what you choose is your choice, and what you're supposed to do is not kill people! And hey - don't give me that crap, ok, I am nothing like you! You can keep your smiles to yourself.

Bonus: Is the video any help?: This is a pretty strange video. There's some weird perspective stuff going on, with the band being juxtaposed in the foreground with footage of various (or perhaps just one?) roofs of buildings, which only serve to confuse me further. We do occasionally see the little boy that Billy Corgan claimed to be once though, so I suppose that helps somewhat. 

Song: Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm
Artist: Crash Test Dummies
Sample Lyrics: 
Once there was this boy who
Got into an accident and couldn't come to school
And when he finally came back
His hair had turned from black into bright white
He said that it was from when
The cars had smashed him so hard

Mmm mmm mmm mmm
Mmm mmm mmm mmm

My Analysis: Man, I always really wanted this song to be about something. But to this day, as far as I can tell, its just basically "here are some kids that have to deal with some unfortunate, not-quite explainable shit, and now I'm gonna hum out a chorus." Wrap it all up saying they all became superheroes one day, or something!

Bonus: Is the video any help?: Not really, except that the kids' sad stories/dirty laundry are being aired out for an audience, and apparently the last kids' parents are PISSED about it.

Song: The Freshmen
Artist: The Verve Pipe
Sample Lyrics
When I was young I knew everything,
She a punk who rarely ever took advice,
Now I'm guilt stricken sobbing with my head on the floor
Stop a baby's breath and a shoe full of rice

I can't be held responsible,
She was touching her face
I won't be held responsible,
She fell in love in the first place

For the life of me, I cannot remember
What made us think that we were wise and
We'd would never compromise
For the life of I cannot believe
We'd ever die for these sins
We were merely freshmen

My Analysis: This is the song (by The Verve Pipe, called "The Freshmen") where - like many other songs I chose not to list - lots of inferences to stuff are made, but for the most part, we get nothing more than the feeling that something really bad went down during freshman year '93 at Rutherford B. Hayes high school. And it's the near specificity that always get me thinking there's more information to be mined from the song. One girl took too many pills and killed herself, ok. What else happened to you guys? There's a lot of deflected blame being passed around, though the excuses are all very flimsy. And wait, "stop a baby's breath?" - is that an abortion reference? I'm totally primed to hear those now. Shoe full of rice lost me there. I mean, I guess that would be kind of annoying to walk around in, but I certainly wouldn't write a melodramatic song about it.

Bonus: Is the video any help?: Not. At. All. It might as well have been him singing from his webcam. Not a single scene showing someone trying to avoid getting lost while making their way to physics class, or trying out for the JV baseball team, or overdosing on valium when your boyfriend goes away, or anything!

I'm sure some people reading this know exactly what some or all of these songs are about. And that's ok with me. Don't bother informing me, unless its something really brilliant. Otherwise, its not worth the loss of snarky ignorance.


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