Focus on the Lyrics Friday: Over the Love

“There must have been moments even that afternoon when Daisy tumbled short of his dreams — not through her own fault, but because of the colossal vitality of his illusion. It had gone beyond her, beyond everything. He had thrown himself into it with a creative passion, adding to it all the time, decking it out with every bright feather that drifted his way. No amount of fire or freshness can challenge what a man will store up in his ghostly heart.”

Today marks the 90th anniversary of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. To celebrate, today’s song is Florence + The Machine’s “Over the Love” from the 2013 film adaptation. The song plays softly for a short time during (surprise, surprise) a party scene. Outside the movie, though, the song is much more powerful and the lyrics shine like the green light.


Lyrics

Ever since I was a child,
I’ve turned it over in my mind.
I sang by that piano, tore my yellow dress and,
Cried and cried and cried.

And I don’t wanna see what I’ve seen,
To undo what has been done.
Turn off all the lights,
Let the morning come.

Now there’s green light in my eyes,
And my lover on my mind.
And I’ll sing from the piano, tear my yellow dress and,
Cry and cry and cry,
Over the love of you.

On this champagne, drunken hope,
Against the current, all alone,
Everybody, see, I love him.

‘Cause it’s a feeling that you get,
When the afternoon is set,
On a bridge into the city.

And I don’t wanna see what I’ve seen,
To undo what has been done.
Turn off all the lights,
Let the morning come.

Now there’s green light in my eyes,
And my lover on my mind.
And I’ll sing from the piano, tear my yellow dress and,
Cry and cry and cry.

‘Cause you’re a hard soul to save,
With an ocean in the way,
But I’ll get around it,
I’ll get around it.

‘Cause you’re a hard soul to save,
With an ocean in the way,
But I’ll get around it.

Now there’s green light in my eyes,
And my lover on my mind.
And I’ll sing from that piano, tear my yellow dress and,
Cry and cry and cry and,
Over the love of you.

Cry and cry and cry and,
Over the love of you.

Cry and cry and cry and,
(I can see the green light),
(I can see it in your eyes).

[The song goes on to repeat variations of these last lines for a while and it’s beautiful.]

Analysis

“Over the Love” is from Daisy Buchanan’s perspective. There will be many references to Gatsby in this post, so if you’re not familiar with the story and don’t want it spoiled, I suggest leaving the page here. It’s been over a year since I’ve read the story, so if I get anything wrong, please correct me.

1) “Ever since I was a child, / I’ve turned it over in my mind. / I sang by that piano, tore my yellow dress and, / Cried and cried and cried.”

When Daisy was younger, she and Gatsby were lovers. I believe the “it” which she’s turned over in her mind is “the love” referenced in the title. Two girls in yellow dresses attend Gatsby’s first party, which is (if I remember correctly) when this song is played in the film. I think the reference to a yellow dress does more than just pay homage to the unnamed characters; rather, I believe it’s a nod to the symbolism of the color yellow. Throughout the book, yellow represents false wealth, as it is a fake gold. In tearing her yellow dress in this song, Daisy tears herself away from false wealth (which I feel represents Gatsby, the personification of new money). This would also explain why she cries.

2) “And I don’t wanna see what I’ve seen, / To undo what has been done. / Turn off all the lights, / Let the morning come.”

The speaker wishes she could “undo” something, though it is unclear whether she means she wishes she didn’t have a history with Gatsby or she wishes she hadn’t married. Personally, I think it’s the latter. The concept of turning off all the lights and letting the morning come is reminiscent of new beginnings. In essence, the singer wishes she could start over.

3) “Now there’s green light in my eyes, / And my lover on my mind. / And I’ll sing from the piano, tear my yellow dress and, / Cry and cry and cry, / Over the love of you.”

The “green light” is the light of Daisy’s house Gatsby sees from his backyard. The light symbolizes Gatsby’s hopes and dreams, particularly in association with Daisy and “green,” or money. It is the one thing in the darkness he reaches towards. On a broader level, the green light represents the American dream. Since I interpret the song from Daisy’s perspective, the “green light in my eyes” shows she sees the same dream Gatsby does, but the light seems to blind her rather than illuminate the world around her. Gatsby is also the “lover” of whom she thinks. The singer also reveals here that she’s crying “over the love of you.” This could be interpreted two ways; either Daisy cries to get over her love of Gatsby or she cries for her love of Gatsby. Knowing Daisy, I tend to agree with the first.

4) “On this champagne, drunken hope, / Against the current, all alone, / Everybody, see, I love him.”

Despite taking place during the prohibition, alcohol played a prominent role in the 1920s. I interpret this to mean the speaker only has hope when drunk. It’s hopeless to think she could be with Gatsby. The individual who fights “the current, all alone” is not named. It could be Gatsby, fighting the realists for a taste of illusion. It could also be Daisy, unsure of what exactly she wants, isolated by her situation. I think it’s interesting that someone could feel “all alone” in an atmosphere filled with elaborate parties, but that’s really how the novel paints Gatsby–isolated, even when surrounded. The “him” the speaker says she loves could either be a sarcastic comment about her husband or a genuine comment about Gatsby. I think that she would say “you” if she meant Gatsby, but I could be wrong. All in all, this passage is fairly ambiguous.

5) “‘Cause it’s a feeling that you get, / When the afternoon is set, / On a bridge into the city.”

Again, I think the “it” refers to love. Love is a feeling you get in the evening on a bridge into the city. The bridge mentioned is the Queensboro Bridge, which connects New York City to Manhattan. At one point, the novel actually remarks, “The city seen from the Queensboro Bridge is always the city seen for the first time, in its first wild promise of all the mystery and beauty in the world.” I think these lines refer to that quote.

6) “‘Cause you’re a hard soul to save, / With an ocean in the way, / But I’ll get around it, / I’ll get around it.”

I believe the “you” refers to Gatsby again. Gatsby’s “soul” is buried deep in his fantasies of what could be. The “ocean in the way” refers to both the literal body of water separating the east and west eggs of Manhattan and the metaphorical obstacle of living in reality versus living in an illusion. It could also be a reference to the obstacle of Daisy’s marriage. She says she’ll find away “around” this obstacle, but we know by the end that she doesn’t.

7) “I can see the green light, / I can see it in your eyes.”

Not only does the Daisy of this song “see the green light,” but she sees it reflected “in your [Gatsby’s] eyes.” She recognizes how set Gatsby is on achieving his dream and how she responds to that is unresolved by the end of the song.

Overall, I think this song is about more than just Daisy’s perspective in The Great Gatsby. It’s about the tragedy of hoping when it’s hopeless. It’s about a love that part of you knows will never come into fruition. It’s about the green light and the yellow dress and everything that’s fake, everything that deceives us. It’s a raw, hauntingly beautiful song–as hauntingly beautiful as the book itself.

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