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Saturday, August 24, 2013

Five Songs That Aren't About What You Think

Five Songs That Aren't About What You Think

In literature class, book clubs, and porn conventions, you'll hear the word 'intent' mentioned over and over again. What did the author intend the ending/symbolism/awkward picture on the back cover to mean? What did the director intend when he let his dog run loose on the porn set? It was a dog, right? Not just some coked out actor in a dog suit? I wasn't really paying attention to that part.

Anywho, nine times out of ten we completely miss the author's intent. And whose fault is it? The fucking author that's who. It's their job to write something that can stand on its own. After all, the writer can't visit every single readers' house and explain what the symbolism of the train and the dark tunnel really mean (Isn't it obvious? Socialism, duh.).

Pictured Above: Not my penis.

But that one time out of ten, the author does their job perfectly and we still get it wrong. Horribly, horribly wrong. Like these songs which we've been cheerfully humming and butchering for years without really understanding what we're singing.

5. Just Give Me a Reason (Pink)
What you're sure it's about: A couple that has grown apart.
But really, it's about: Female insecurity. That's right, Pink, the bastion of female toughness and independence has written the anthem for insecure, clingy women everywhere. Bear with me. The song is sung in turns.

First, the female speaker:

Right from the start
You were a thief
You stole my heart
And I your willing victim
I let you see the parts of me
That weren't all that pretty
And with every touch you fixed them


Gloria Steinem is probably rolling over in her grave right now (I'm just assuming she's dead. I guess I could check Wikipedia but I'm not feeling researchy). The woman identifies herself immediately as a victim, as having been seduced, and as having needed a man to 'fix' her. And how does he fix her? By making her 'pretty'. Girl power!
"I love being the weaker sex!"

Now you've been talking in your sleep, oh, oh
Things you never say to me, oh, oh
Tell me that you've had enough
Of our love, our love


Now that we've established our stereotypical gender roles, we get right down to the accusations and insecurity. What's got Pink all shaken up and feeling lost? The fact that her man is talking in his sleep and she doesn't like what she's hearing. My wife wakes up pissed at me all the time for stuff I do in my sleep--snore, steal her pillows, blanket, panties, etc. All justifiable. But for mumbling incoherent shit while I'm having that recurring dream about living inside a kangaroo's pouch? Not once.

Just give me a reason
Just a little bit's enough
Just a second we're not broken just bent
And we can learn to love again
It's in the stars
It's been written in the scars on our hearts
We're not broken just bent
And we can learn to love again


Now we go from anger to pleading. In Pink's mind, the relationship is doomed and all because her man uttered 'Rosebud' in his sleep. Quite frankly, he's lucky she didn't Bobbett his nuts off.

I'm sorry I don't understand
Where all of this is coming from
I thought that we were fine
(Oh, we had everything)
Your head is running wild again
My dear we still have everythin'
And it's all in your mind
(Yeah, but this is happenin')


Enter our hero (i.e., the one who is not batshit crazy). The guy has just woken up. He hasn't even had time to drain the lizard, let alone unstick his eye boogers and he's already getting hit with accusations. In this stanza, we learn that not only does this poor sap have the patience of Job as he tries to reassure her, but that this has happened before ("Your head is running wild again"). I should also point out that, while he remained quiet throughout Pink's musical mood swing, she just can't resist interjecting. I could make some comment about this one being a spot on female trait, but I won't because I know my wife occasionally reads this blog.

You've been havin' real bad dreams, oh, oh
Used to lie so close to me, oh, oh
There's nothing more than empty sheets
Between our love, our love
Oh, our love, our love


Preach on, dude! Put the blame where it belongs. And protect your nutsack.

I'll spare you the rest of the song. They go back and forth. Nothing gets solved, but at the end, they're harmonizing together. And what are they harmonizing? Pink's original manifesto on insecurity. Proof positive that a guy will acquiesce and agree with a woman on just about anything if it will get him 1) laid, 2) fed, or 3) to the bathroom quicker.

Except me, honey, I'm evolved.


4. Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds (The Beatles)
What you're sure it's about: LSD. Duh. Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds stands for LSD. Plus the lyrics paint a surreal vision (with plasticine trees and marmalade skies no less), that echo what someone dosed up might see. And it's also the name of a stoner I knew in high school so don't try to tell me otherwise.

But really it's about: Except that it's not, you jaded and cynical human being. It's about a child's painting. Specifically a drawing Julian Lennon, John's son did for an elementary school friend.

Want to know what would make this drawing better? Acid, lots of acid.

The drawing, which featured bright stars in the sky (the diamonds) was titled, you guessed it 'Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds'. Isn't that nice? Of course the madness that follows the original song inspiration is probably the result of being locked in a closet for the weekend with Timothy Leary and a new batch he just whipped up, but let's just dwell on the child part.

3. 1999 (Prince)
What you're sure it's about: Partying! Specifically, a celebration of a new millennium. And it's become the anthem for every New Year's Celebration since. At least one of you reading this, lost their virginity to this song. I hope I'm not ruining any cherished memories here.

But really it's about: The Apocalypse. War. Nuclear Bombs. End of days. No, seriously.

In fact, it's not even subtle.

I was dreamin when I wrote this
Forgive me if it goes astray
But when I woke up this mornin
Coulda sworn it was judgment day
The sky was all purple,
There were people runnin everywhere
Tryin 2 run from the destruction,
U know I didn't even care


Picture Prince, standing all calm and Prince-like while people are losing their shit around him. The world's ending and he could give a toss. He's going to party until the end of time (which apparently is about two minutes from now). But that's just the opening dream-sequence to set the mood, right?

Uh, no.

But life is just a party, and parties werent meant 2 last
War is all around us, my mind says prepare 2 fight
So if I gotta die Im gonna listen 2 my body tonight


Not direct enough for you?
Yeah, everybodys got a bomb,
We could all die any day
But before I'll let that happen,
Ill dance my life away


We get it Prince, we get it.

It's easy to get lost in the upbeat riffs and the repeated use of the word 'Party!'. Our brains are like Ogre from  Revenge of the Nerds that way. We hear someone yell, 'Party!' (or 'Nerds') and we just up and lose our shit.  Plus who hasn't tried to pick up a woman by telling her you've got a lion in your pocket and baby, it's ready to roar?

Pictured Above: Also not my penis.

2. Sitting on the Dock of the Bay (Otis Redding)
What you're sure it's about: A man taking a reflective moment to enjoy the beauty of nature, specifically the tranquility of the water.

But really it's about: Loneliness and the futility of existence.

The song follows someone who has moved 2000 miles from his home to escape his problems only to find that nothing has changed, except now he's completely alone. He reacts to this by planting his ass near the water and dwelling on the sheer futility of existence.

Once again, there's no subtlety here:

I left my home in Georgia
Headed for the Frisco bay
'Cos I've had nothing to live for
And look like nothing's gonna come my way

Still not with me?

Look like nothing's gonna change
Everything still remains the same
I can't do what ten people tell me to do
So I guess I'll remain the same, listen



Deleted Lyrics: Sun's going down on the ocean/ gosh, this arsenic tastes funny.

The problem is that every time we hear this song we have an icy drink in our hand topped with a complicated assortment of fruit, plastic swords and umbrellas. We're probably staring at the damn ocean, too. Except that we're surrounded by friends or family or that secretary at work who'd do anything for a raise. We're not lonely. We're at the damn beach! And this song comes on and Otis starts whistling and all is right with the world. Except for the poor bastard in the song who, though it's not said, is probably contemplating stuffing his pockets with rocks and going out Virginia Wolfe-style.

1. Please, Please Me (The Beatles)
What you're sure it's about: I don't know, love or something.

There the Fab Four go again, making it as easy as possible for everyone to understand and no one was listening. It's easy to see how this one was misinterpreted as this single comes off their debut album-- you know when they wore natty suits and matching haircuts and it wasn't cool to pick on Ringo yet. The song itself is chirpy, catchy and upbeat. In fact, it's so bubblegum, you probably never even thought about the lyrics. It's short, so I'll give them to you in their entirety:

Last night I said these words to my girl
I know you never even try, girl
Come on, come on, come on, come on
Please, please me, wo yeah, like I please you

You don't need me to show the way, love
Why do I always gave to sat, love
Come on, come on, come on, come on
Please, please me, wo yeah, like I please you

I don't want to sound complaining
but you know there's always rain in my heart
I do all the pleasing with you,
it's so hard to reason with you
wo yeah, why do you make me blue?

Last night I said these words to my girl
I know you never even try, girl
Come on, come on, come on, come on
Please, please me, wo yeah, like I please you
wo yeah, like I please you
wo yeah, like I please you


But really it's about: You know! You're probably slapping your head right now (the one on your shoulders) for missing this one. I mean, who hasn't begged their significant other to please, please them, just not quite so eloquently as, "Why do you make me blue?" Still, it does make you appreciate Paul McCartney even more--the guy was a giver in every sense of the word. He just never got it back.

Don't do it, Ringo! I'll blow you.

Makes you want to re-listen to that Barry Mannilow Greatest Hits Album we all know you have under your bed a little more closely, doesn't it? In fact, the only song that's actually exactly about what you think is Jimmy Buffett's Why Don't We Get Drunk and Screw, which of course is a deconstructive view of Marxist economics in post-cold war Russia.

I'm just kidding. It's about boning. Boning Marxists.
After we bone, let's go get a cheeseburger in paradise.



Did I mention that I write books? Here's my new one: Bud the Crud and the Vampire-Werewolf Wars