Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Favorite Songs for their Lyrics Part VI

Collide, Howie Day-If I heard the line "I'm tangled up in you" from Adam Levine, I'd assume it was some advanced sexual position. In the context of this song it feels metaphorical and thus poetic. Not to say that Howie Day is any more or less sleazy then Levine but he certainly sells a different side of earnest love better. The song sticks out to me because of the artful way it mixes and merges contrasts in the chorus:
"Even the best fall down sometimes. Even the wrong words seem  to rhyme. Out of the dark you fill my mind" and it all builds up to an apt description of opposites coming together: the word "collide." The "seem to" in front of "rhyme" also is highly effective as it changes the song entirely: It's as if the narrator is discovering those feelings as he's saying those words.

She Don't Want Nobody Near, Counting Crows-This song is about the duality that sometimes we want to be alone and sometimes we want to be with people.

The song's subject is a woman who likely I can picture as the mysterious neighborhood recluse whose eccentricities are the subject of neighborhood gossip about (to add to that point, the song is written in some slangy dialect laced with double negatives and wrongly used connotations).  She doesn't want people in her house because it's crowded but she doesn't want to be alone either so "they just keep pouring in." Throughout the song, her house guests are referred to as "them" and thus portrayed as if they were some form of a house pest. At the very least, other people are something she doesn't understand.

In the final verse, there's a twist that the woman doesn't just have a discomfort around people but a deep-rooted fear of having her sadness rejected by others: "She don't want nobody near cause she don't want anybody to see what she's like when she's down. 'Cause it's a real bad place to be."

3 x 5, John Mayer-One of the non-single songs from his first CD (before he became full of himself), this song is simply about the beauty of the outdoors and scenery. It also has a message to enjoy it for the sake of enjoying it. The narrator feels elation because "Today I finally overcame trying to fit the world inside a picture frame."

This isn't a song that says much (I'm not suggesting a lot of songs do) but it captures a certain feeling very well. I remember in a writing worskhop, one of our exercises was to look at a picture of a seascape overlooking an Irish coastal town and describe it. Even though we largely used the same adjectives ("rustic" "quaint" "placid"), our paragraphs differed wildly. I see this song as John Mayer's version of that exercise and excuse for him to have some fun with it.

For the First Time, The Script-The narrator is someone who's struggling financially and the subject of the song is what I suspect is a platonic female friend who just suffered a broken heart.  The repetition of the line "man these times are hard" and the melancholy undertones of the lyrics (i.e. "we're smiling though we're close to tears") suggest that the two of them can't really solve each other's problems. Still, he hopes that the two can ease the pain a little through reconnecting and talking. Not just any talk but a really meaningful one that would keep the two up all night as they drink cheap bottles of wine.

I often wonder with this song if it wouldn't have been more interesting if the subject was a man. The song's subject is probably female because its based on a true story or because logistically the band might be more successful at concerts if all their songs have pseudo-romantic undertones so girls will fawn over them and buy tickets. At the same time, the relationship is platonic and unless he's lying through his teeth and the bottles of wine are a means to make her easier to get in bed,  it's clear that he sees her as a platonic friend. If the song is just about friendship, why couldn't the subject be a guy? How often does a guy sing a song to a guy like that? At the same time, I can see the beauty of the song as the fact that she's vulnerable and presumably beautiful but he still wants to develop his friendship with her.

Sara Bairelles, Fairytales and The End of the Innocence, Don Henley-The disconnect between reality and simplistic fictional portrayals of love that dominate our cultural storylines (by which I mean a realistic love story is usually relegated to the Sundance circuit while a Drew Barrymore rom-com opens on 2,000 screens nationwide) is an underexplored theme but one that I hear every once in a while done well in song. Bairelles' short and sweet number shatters the illusion of fairy tales. Cinderella is on the bedroom floor with her dreams shattered while Repunzel concludes she would have cut her hair if she had known men would climb it. Why don't these fairytales play out successfully after the happy ending? Bairelles' answer is "she's always waiting on the next best thing." The subversive suggestion is that it's human nature not to ever settle down into a happy ending.

Henley's song (and my one entry this week before 2000, I'm shamelessly unaware of anything that's not new) also rallies against fairytale mentality with the line "We've been poisoned by these fairytales." He takes it a step further by suggesting what to do when "happily ever after fails." The solution is geographical or metaphorically geographical: "A place we can go still untouched by rain." But that's clearly not much of a solution so he advises his subject to offer up her best defense (reminiscent of the Ben Folds song "Still Fighting It") because it's the end of the innocence.

Click on the lyrics tag for more editions of this series

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