Past editions: http://sophomorecritic.blogspot.com/2009/07/favorite-songs-for-their-lyrics-part-ii.html
Also, check out this article i wrote on a website that pays me for hits for my take on the choice of Oscar hosts.
Gone, Ben Folds Five (2001)-Certainly not my favorite song, there’s a very heavy air of sadness to it as the narrator reflects on someone who dumped him a year ago, and how he’s at the last stages of moving on. “The chemicals have are wearing off,” is how he describes the process. Gone is also a very strong word which you think the narrator is enthusiastically coming to grips with since you hear the word repeated and sung so joyously.
Grey Street, Dave Matthews Band (2002)-One of my favorite Dave Matthews Songs of the later era. The song has some really dark moments about how the woman in question is going to take things and set them on fire. It’s about a women who’s struggling and stuck in the same situation in life. The imagery is very vivid. Perhaps the woman’s problem is that she’s literally stuck in a dead end. There's an equally good chance that the way she sees the world is the problem, itself. The chorus ends “All the colors blend together to form Grey Street.” Maybe some of the colors are bright things in her life that she’s ignoring because they come together.
Time, Hootie and the Blowfish (1996)-If there’s a phobia for people who are afraid of time passing them by, then I have it. The narrator acknowledges this feeling. Time is responsible for washing away the narrator’s dreams. I know it’s not natural or sensical to blame time itself for things going awry, but I feel like time is the culprit, myself. It gives you hope to see that the narrator overcomes this through disbelief.
First Cut is the Deepest, Cat Stephens (1967)-It’s kind of true that the first break-up you have is the hardest. The narrator is in a very heavy state of flux saying that they will try to find love again but they’re still hurt and looking back quite a bit.
Stars, Switchfoot (2005)-I like how the narrator is talking about so many extremes: ecstacy, pain, his luck going down the drain. The song is very up-tempo which accompanies the mania quite well. I also like the consistent use of imagery and in particularly the weather references (i.e. “Maybe I’ve been partly cloudy, maybe I’m a chance of rain”).
#41, Dave Matthews Band (1996)-The lyrics are about DMB’s professional break-up with his early manager who discovered him. It could be applied for a lot of things and it expresses in a beautifully abstract way, a reflection on a happiness that was and a determination to get back to it, it seems. The narrator reflects in the verses about times past. He talks about playing far away from the loneliness no one notices now and how he wanted to stay, play, and love (“you”). In the choruses he resolves to share the joy of playing in the rain with the subject of his song. He also resolved to not pass this by, bring water, and enter one way and exit another. It’s all incredibly vague, but you sort of get the idea that there’s something going on.
Name, Goo Goo Dolls (1997)-The idea of how “We’re grown-up orphans who never knew their name” strikes me immediately. I believe that what’s being sung about is the bitterness of having grown-up and not being able to return to that childhood-like innocence. I interpret not knowing your name as not knowing your identity as a grown-up like you did as a child. The narrator is singing to a childhood crush (he sings about losing letters he sent to her) and when he says that he won’t tell anyone her name, there’s an implication that he does know her name and she doesn’t. I believe that means he knows her really well in the way you know someone that you’ve grown up with and known all your life. I see some truth in that because I tend to think that the people who know me best are the people who grew up with me.
Vegas, Sara Beirelles (2009)-As Sara Beirelles explains it, it’s about how people are thinking there could be one thing that could change their lives and make it all better. Someone believes going to Vegas is the solution to all their problems because that’s where dreams come true, while another person believes that place is New York and a different person believes he should sell his car and cross the border. The pseudo-romantic element about not forgetting the narrator is just something I see as a reminder not to get too caught up on those dreams.
Sugar We’re Going Down, Fall Out Boy (2006)-Fall Out Boy uses wickedly clever and self-conscious lyrics. They’re the musical equivalent of a new wave director who invokes references of past artists in their songs so that they’re not just singing about emotions but they’re also reflecting (and sometimes parodying) on the conventions of singing about emotions. There’s a reflection here that maybe that persona might just be a little shallow when he notes that his identity is “just who I am this week” and that an emotion as strong as love is just a notch on a bedpost or (even worse) fodder for a line in a song. Then, in the chorus, they lament that they’re striking out early but enthusiastically and proclaim themselves to be going down swinging. Maybe, it’s a larger issue that they’re shallow people so they’re getting what they deserve.
Grace is Gone, Dave Matthews Band (2002)-There are so many DMB songs to choose: At the moment, I feel like throwing in this more low-key number about a guy drinking away his problems. I’ve certainly never heard someone so self-conscious about why he’s drinking, interestingly enough. It’s almost like excessive exposition to a character in a movie: but the song is so catchy and the words flow so well into each other. We also run into the interesting question of what exactly it means for your "grace" to be gone?
Update: The song was written by Matthews upon the passing of his stepfather and I got the feeling that this event didn't have the same effect as the passing of his biological father. As a result the song has a more lightweight tone than full-fledged mourning: It feels as though the song was written because he was fond of his stepfather and the least he could do as a songwriter was to devote a song for him.