Monday, 28 August 2006

Song Meanings

It started with Dick telling me that he was gonna learn the chords to Third Eye Blind's Motorcycle Driveby because he liked the lyrics. I hadn't really paid attention to that song's lyrics (or most of 3EB's songs for that matter cos they seem too exuberantly carefree and jolly but I was dead wrong) initially, so when I finally did, I realised it's way deeper than I'd thought. That led to me going online to search for, well generally, the meaning of the song, but at the same time the building blocks of the song itself.

"Summer time and the wind is blowing / Outside in lower Chelsea / And I don't know what I'm doing in the city... Where's the soul I want to know / New York City is evil / The surface is everything / But I could never do that / Someone would see through that" - Like what's Chelsea and NY gotta do with the song anyway? The lyrics must've been borne out of some experience someone or the band felt or went through.

This little quest led me to uncover websites dedicated to answering puzzled fans about abstract songs that they're clueless about but are dying to comprehend. And some of the lyrics I'd found from bands like Third Eye Blind, My Chemical Romance, Jimmy Eat World and Fall Out Boy had really deep meanings. Did you guess that, while innocently singing along to 3EB's Semi-Charmed Life in the bath, you'd actually be humming a tune about doing drugs and sex? And back in secondary school, we actually jammed Semi-Charmed Life during a teacher's day programme and dedicated it to the teachers.

Alot of songs have been written and sung involving love because it's such an emotional subject, so tangible yet so abstract in nature. You could say that I'm in a period of atmospheric turmoil because lotsa relationship breakdowns have been happening to friends around me, and in that short period of time I think they've said some of the deepest things I've ever heard in awhile. When I read what Nathaniel privately wrote daily about his ex (with his permission of course) in a semi-secret blog during the gloomiest days of his breakup, the emotion was so pure and raw that the pain practically cuts right through the barrier of being two separate persons, and went straight to my heart as well.

A good artist (could be a poet, a lyricist, a painter or an actor etc) who would be able to harness this passionate energy and channel it out effectively would create a wonderful piece of work. For that, I think you'd really have to go through a true test of mettle to really achieve, like how great poets have emerged with beautiful stanzas from war times.

Art is truly a celebration of connecting yourself with the artist in the appreciation of a particular feeling as portrayed by him or her in his or her work. And the diversity of this appreciation is amazing. Some of the songs have been interpreted in so many different but equally correct ways, and there's a really powerful sensation, in some ways haunting and in others soothingly familiar, when a song's lyrics can perfectly describe an experience you've had.

Quite a number of songs have references to things and places (that we aren't familiar of sometimes because they're like places in America) that remind them of something or someone. "Don't you know I'm thinkin', drivin' 405 past midnight / You know I miss you (Don't you know that I miss you?) / Ninth and Ash on a Tuesday night / I would write to you from a museum mile, toast to you / your whisper, your smile / Up the stairs at the Weatherford, a ghost each place I hide..." (Jimmy Eat World's If You Don't, Don't) And, depending on what tickles your fancy, I think this actually works to tell a more concrete, tangible story that you can actually visualise. Clever subtleties slipped in to get the fans guessing.

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