Focus on the Lyrics Friday: Photograph

I haven’t done one of these in a while, but Ed Sheeran is calling to me again.

And, yes, the ginger boy in these home videos is Sheeran himself. Pretty adorable.


Lyrics

Loving can hurt
Loving can hurt sometimes
But it’s the only thing that I know
When it gets hard
You know it can get hard sometimes
It is the only thing that makes us feel alive

We keep this love in a photograph
We made these memories for ourselves
Where our eyes are never closing
Hearts are never broken
Times forever frozen still

So you can keep me
Inside the pocket
Of your ripped jeans
Holdin’ me closer
‘Til our eyes meet
You won’t ever be alone
Wait for me to come home

Loving can heal
Loving can mend your soul
And it’s the only thing that I know (know)
I swear it will get easier
Remember that with every piece of ya
And it’s the only thing we take with us when we die

We keep this love in this photograph
We made these memories for ourselves
Where our eyes are never closing
Our hearts were never broken
Times forever frozen still

So you can keep me
Inside the pocket
Of your ripped jeans
Holdin’ me closer
‘Til our eyes meet
You won’t ever be alone

And if you hurt me
That’s okay, baby, only words bleed
Inside these pages you just hold me
And I won’t ever let you go

Wait for me to come home [4x]

Oh you can fit me
Inside the necklace you got when you were 16
Next to your heartbeat
Where I should be
Keep it deep within your soul

And if you hurt me
Well, that’s okay, baby, only words bleed
Inside these pages you just hold me
And I won’t ever let you go

When I’m away
I will remember how you kissed me
Under the lamppost
Back on 6th street
Hearing you whisper through the phone,
“Wait for me to come home.”

Analysis

When I first heard this song, I thought it was about a soldier heading off to war and the importance of photographs to him and his beloved. While I think this romantic interpretation could still apply, Sheeran’s music video–a compilation of home videos from his childhood–brings to light a more familial interpretation.

1) “Loving can hurt / Loving can hurt sometimes / But it’s the only thing that I know / When it gets hard / You know it can get hard sometimes / It is the only thing that makes us feel alive”

Love isn’t limited to romance. So while these seem like straightforward I-love-you-even-though-it-hurts lines, they could apply to people outside a traditional romantic relationship. Take, for example, a mother and her son. Who, in a mother and son relationship, hasn’t had “hard” times? Who would also agree that, in this relationship, love is “the only thing”? Oh, sure, there can be the occasional feud and not all relationships are ideal, but for most people love is prevalent. On a separate note, the final line here reminds me of a Victor Hugo quote: “To love or have loved, that is enough. Ask nothing further. There is no other pearl to be found in the dark folds of life.”

2) “We keep this love in a photograph / We made these memories for ourselves / Where our eyes are never closing / Hearts are never broken / Times forever frozen still”

This is what initially brought about my soldier interpretation. I’ve often heard stories of people holding on to a photograph of their loved one oversees or at home, and I connected that with this song. What Sheeran’s saying here is basically that “this love”–be it romantic or familial–is kept in “a photograph” with all the memories they made. In the photograph, their “eyes are never closing, hearts are never broken, [and] time’s forever frozen still.” In the love the song centers around, things are different now than they were in the photograph. Now, they’re both hurt and “time’s forever frozen still” (which is a repetitive line but a beautiful one). “Broken hearts” doesn’t necessarily mean the relationship ended, though. Quite a few people seem to interpret it that way, but I disagree. “Broken hearts” can also be caused by long-term separation between a couple or a family.

3) “So you can keep me / Inside the pocket / Of your ripped jeans / Holdin’ me closer / ‘Til our eyes meet / You won’t ever be alone / Wait for me to come home”

The “me” of the first line here refers to the photograph, which temporarily serves as a representation of him. He encourages her, saying she should “[hold] me closer ’til our eyes meet.” He must be staring directly at the photographer for her eyes to meet his in a photograph. And the fact that their eyes can meet (when his eyes are really just a piece of paper) is unusual. It further confirms that the photograph is like a stand-in until the real thing returns. I also think it show’s that they still connect. They’re eyes meet; they’re equals; they miss each other. Why else would she be staring at his photograph? To reiterate, this could also be his mother staring at a photo of him (I’ve yet to meet a mother who wears “ripped jeans,” but I’m sure they exist). Whoever it is, despite the distance between them, he claims she “won’t ever be alone.” His photograph will keep her company until he can “come home.” As a singer now, I’m sure he’s on tour often, so his mother or sweetheart would be “alone” but for the photograph of him. Definitely not a break up.

4) “Loving can heal / Loving can mend your soul / And it’s the only thing that I know (know) / I swear it will get easier / Remember that with every piece of ya / And it’s the only thing we take with us when we die”

Just as “loving can hurt,” it can also “heal.” While their separation may hurt, their love can leap those bounds and still “mend your soul.” I think the “it” he refers to in the third line here is the obstruction in their relationship, which I believe is physical distance. He begs her to “remember” that “it will get easier.” The “it” of the final line goes back to the first line: “[Love is] the only thing we take with us when we die.” Which prompts the thought; what if the obstruction is death? What if this song is about loving someone who’s already gone? What if “coming home” means joining them in the afterlife? It doesn’t fit perfectly with the photograph motif, but I always like to consider other interpretations.

5) “And if you hurt me / That’s okay, baby, only words bleed / Inside these pages you just hold me / And I won’t ever let you go”

This section is a little confusing. As far as I can understand, he means that she can hurt him–the photograph representing him, perhaps. But “that’s okay” because “only words bleed;” only words can hurt him. This is an imperfect interpretation because he doesn’t say “only words make him bleed,” but this is how I’ve come to understand it. He also says that “inside these pages” she should “just hold [him].” I think “these pages” could refer to the photograph (perhaps it shows them hugging, so he “won’t ever let you go” or the many “words” and memories they share or even the “pages” of their dreams. In my initial interpretation, I heard “only words bleed” to mean that, even though he was going into dangerous territory, the only thing that could really hurt him was her words. In any case, I think he’s trying to reassure her.

6) “Oh you can fit me / Inside the necklace you got when you were 16 / Next to your / heartbeat / Where I should be / Keep it deep within your soul”

Admittedly, this section sounds much more like romantic love than familial love. But how else would you explain the music video? This section’s pretty simple, but it’s my favorite part of the song. He says she can “fit [him]”–his photograph, that is–inside a locket from when she was a teenager. Again, this reminds me of a soldier’s words to his beloved, since some of my friends and family were in serious relationships at a young age and had to deal with long distance as a result of war. The necklace lies near her heart, where Sheeran believes he “should be.” In other words, he thinks his photograph should be near to her heart because it represents him, and he should be near to her heart, as well. He wants her to keep the memories of him “deep within [her] soul,” where he will never be lost and forever be treasured.

7) “When I’m away / I will remember how you kissed me / Under the lamppost / Back on 6th street / Hearing you whisper through the phone, / ‘Wait for me to come home.'”

I really hope he’s not talking about his mom here. Though maybe he means a light kiss on the head farewell or something like that. In any case, while she has a photograph to remember him by these lines make it clear he’ll keep her in his memories, as well. The last two lines puzzle me. How could they be on the phone if she kissed him? Unless there are two “you”s or two different situations here. And why would she say “wait for me to come home?” He’s the one who left. I’d like to hear your thoughts on this, too; please comment below.

My conclusion? This would be an adorable song to play at the wedding of someone who’s about to leave for the military. Or to send to your mother when you’ve been away for a while.

Focus on the Lyrics Friday: Tear in My Heart

Twenty one pilots recently released the music video for “Tear in My Heart” from their upcoming album Blurryface (available May 19th). And its pretty adorable.


Lyrics

Sometimes you’ve got to bleed to know,
That you’re alive and have a soul,
But it takes someone to come around to show you how.

She’s the tear in my heart, I’m alive,
She’s the tear in my heart, I’m on fire,
She’s the tear in my heart, Take me higher,
Than I’ve ever been.

The songs on the radio are ok,
But my taste in music is your face,
And it takes a song to come around to show you how.

She’s the tear in my heart, I’m alive,
She’s the tear in my heart, I’m on fire,
She’s the tear in my heart, Take me higher,
Than I’ve ever been.

You fell asleep in my car, I drove the whole time,
But that’s ok, I’ll just avoid the holes so you sleep fine,
I’m driving here I sit, cursing my government,
For not using my taxes to fill holes with more cement.

Sometimes you’ve got to bleed to know,
That you’re alive and have a soul,
But it takes someone to come around to show you how.

She’s the tear in my heart, I’m alive,
She’s the tear in my heart, I’m on fire,
She’s the tear in my heart, Take me higher,
Than I’ve ever been.

My heart is my armor,
She’s the tear in my heart, she’s a carver,
She’s a butcher with a smile, cut me farther,
Than I’ve ever been.

Analysis

Basically, this song is about love. The singer declares that sometimes the only thing reminding us we’re alive is how much we hurt and then says his beloved hurts him. In other words, the pain from loving someone constantly reminds him he’s alive.

That may not have made much sense, so let’s go into a line-by-line analysis.

1) “Sometimes you’ve got to bleed to know, / That you’re alive and have a soul, / But it takes someone to come around to show you how.”

The singer says “bleeding” reminds us we’re alive, but someone else needs to “show you how” to bleed. I think “bleeding” means giving part of yourself away. Love requires a bit of sacrifice; its like trusting someone else with your heart.

2) “She’s the tear in my heart, I’m alive, / She’s the tear in my heart, I’m on fire, / She’s the tear in my heart, Take me higher, / Than I’ve ever been.”

The “she” is the “someone” who showed him “how” mentioned in the previous line. She’s the one he loves; she’s the one he bleeds for; she’s the one who constantly reminds him he’s alive. She’s the “tear in [his] heart.” Not only does she make him feel alive, she makes him feel “on fire” and desire something “higher / than [he’s] ever been.” Fire often refers to pain or–er–passion and “higher” refers to an elevated or better state of being.

3) “The songs on the radio are ok, / But my taste in music is your face, / And it takes a song to come around to show you how.”

These lines are just super cute. He’s saying her face is a song–his favorite type of song. Don’t think about it too hard; just trust me, it’s cute. He also says it “takes a song to come around and show you how,” paralleling the previous lines where it takes “someone…to show you how.” He’s already compared her face to a song, so clearly she’s also the song it takes to “show you how.”

4) “You fell asleep in my car, I drove the whole time, / But that’s ok, I’ll just avoid the holes so you sleep fine, / I’m driving here I sit, cursing my government, / For not using my taxes to fill holes with more cement.”

Again, these lines are adorable. The “holes” he avoids are, quite simply, pot holes. I don’t have much to analyze here, I just think the words are cute enough to merit a second look.

5) “My heart is my armor, / She’s the tear in my heart, she’s a carver, / She’s a butcher with a smile, cut me farther, / Than I’ve ever been.”

His heart is his protection, or “armor;” he’s secure enough in what he thinks that other people who disagree and argue against him don’t hurt him at all. This woman, though, is the “tear” in his armor. What she says can hurt him. She’s a “carver” and a “butcher,” constantly taking more of his love and reminding him he’s alive and able to hurt him in a way others can’t. She “cuts” him “farther than [he’s] ever been,” or makes him feel more alive than he’s ever felt before.

This is one of twenty one pilots’ happier, simpler songs. Most of their lyrics are deeper and darker. I highly encourage you to check out their channel on youtube, especially if you enjoyed this song.

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.

Focus on the Lyrics Friday: Kids in the Dark

I tried to think of a good easter song to analyze but I don’t think I know any easter songs, much less easter songs in need of analysis. Somebody should get on that.

In any case, my friend Alex introduced me to this new song by All Time Low earlier this week and I fell in love with the lyrics (and the song itself–very Fall Out Boy-esque). So, without further ado, I give you my analysis of All Time Low’s new single “Kids in the Dark.”


Lyrics

Here we are,
at the end of the road — a road that’s quietly caving in,
Come too far to pretend that we don’t — we don’t miss where we started.
Looking back, I see a setting sun
and watch my shadow fade into the floor.
I am left standing on the edge
wondering how we got this far

They left us alone,
the Kids In The Dark,
to burn out forever,
or light up a spark,
We come together,
state of the art,
We’ll never surrender,
the kids in the dark,
So let the world sing,
“What a shame,
what a shame,
beautiful scars,
on critical veins,”
Come together,
state of the art,
We’ll never surrender,
the Kids in the dark,
the kids in the dark…

Here we are at the top of the hill — a hill that’s quietly crumbling,
Been a while since you dressed for the kill– the kill that sent me tumbling,
Looking up, I see a falling star, and watch its fire burn into the floor,
I am left standing on the edge,
wondering why we fall so hard

They left us alone,
the Kids In The Dark,
to burn out forever,
or light up a spark,
We come together,
state of the art,
We’ll never surrender,
the kids in the dark,
So let the world sing,
“What a shame,
what a shame,
beautiful scars,
on critical veins,”
Come together,
state of the art,
We’ll never surrender,
the kids in the dark,
the kids in the dark…

Analysis

At its core, this song is about people who face tough times joining together and fighting to be happy and lively once more. It has an optimistic message, but it’s realistic because it acknowledges that these situations happen and that they will happen again.

1) “Here we are, / at the end of the road — a road that’s quietly caving in, / Come too far to pretend that we don’t — we don’t miss where we started / Looking back, I see a setting sun / and watch my shadow fade into the floor. / I am left standing on the edge, / wondering how we got this far.”

The “end of the road” signifies the end of a chapter of a person’s life. If the road is “caving in,” it has been ending for some time. The “we” of the song have been on this path for a while and miss what life was like before they walked down this road. They started out with more light–more joy, more optimism, more life–but the light is now setting behind them. Even the speaker’s shadow is fading “into the floor,” signifying not only that he is left in the dark, but that part of him is lost to the darkness. He stands on the edge of the road, wondering how they came so far in spite of the crumbling road and pressing darkness.

2) “They left us alone, / the Kids In The Dark, / to burn out forever / or light up a spark, / We come together, / state of the art, / We’ll never surrender, / the kids in the dark, / So let the world sing, / ‘What a shame, / what a shame, / beautiful scars / on critical veins'”

These “kids in the dark” are individuals who face tough times. The kids have two options: embrace the darkness and lose hope (“burn out forever”) or make their own light, their own greatness (“light up a spark”). They’re united in their darkness, and vow to “never surrender.” I think this makes it clear that the speaker wants them to “light up a spark” rather than surrender to the darkness. “They” (“the world,” as he later calls them) don’t recognize the potential of the kids in the dark. The phrase “what a shame” is often used in mock pity, and I don’t think that’s changed for this song. The world may titter that it’s a shame those kids have “beautiful scars on critical veins”–a reference to cutting–but the world is the one to push them in the dark in the first place. Still, the speaker says the kids in the dark should “let” the world say so, brushing off their mock pity and standing up to fight the darkness directly.

3) “Here we are at the top of the hill — a hill that’s quietly crumbling, / Been a while since you dressed for the kill– the kill that sent me tumbling, / Looking up, I see a falling star, and watch its fire burn into the floor, / I am left standing on the edge, / wondering why we fall so hard”

The speaker isn’t just standing at the edge of a road; he’s at the top of a hill. The path he’s taken has been a struggle upward. The hill, too, is “crumbling” so everything around him is falling apart. This is where it gets confusing. When the second line refers to “the kill that sent me tumbling,” I believe it means the situation that pushed him toward the dark. Still, I’m unsure as to why he refers to “you” and why you’re “dress[ing] for the kill.” Any thoughts on that subject are welcome in the comments below. The “falling star” the speaker sees could be another kid in the dark, falling from the heavens to the earth, where the kid’s fire–like the speaker’s shadow–is lost to the floor. That would explain why the speaker wonders “why we fall so hard.”

Though this second verse is more depressing, the song ends with a repetition of the chorus, which says the kids in the dark will still unite and will still try to fight the darkness. No matter how hard or how many times they fall, the kids in the dark will keep fighting for light.

I think we’re all kids in the dark–at least at some point. We’ve all been through (or will go through) tough times that force us into a dark chapter of our lives. But, as All Time Low says, we will keep fighting toward the light. We will not surrender to the darkness. We will join together in our tough times and eventually we will be in the light again.

Focus on the Lyrics Friday: I See Fire

I’m terribly sorry for not posting last weekend. I didn’t skip out for anything fun; in fact, my weekend was spent doing homework. The highlight of last weekend was a tough call between the thesis workshop for the Honors Program and the dumpster fire for which my dorm was evacuated at 3 AM. We’re all okay, though a bit tired.

If nothing else, seeing the fire inspired me to take a closer look at Ed Sheeran’s “I See Fire” for this week’s column.


Lyrics

Oh, misty eye of the mountain below
Keep careful watch of my brother’s souls
And should the sky be filled with fire and smoke
Keep watching over Durin’s sons

If this is to end in fire
Then we should all burn together
Watch the flames climb high into the night
Calling out “father, oh, stand by and we will
Watch the flames burn auburn on
The mountain side high”

And if we should die tonight
We should all die together
Raise a glass of wine for the last time
Calling out “father, oh,
Prepare as we will
Watch the flames burn auburn on
The mountain side”

Desolation comes upon the sky

Now I see fire
Inside the mountain
I see fire
Burning the trees
And I see fire
Hollowing souls
I see fire
Blood in the breeze
And I hope that you’ll remember me

Oh, should my people fall then
Surely I’ll do the same
Confined in mountain halls
We got too close to the flame
Calling out father oh
Hold fast and we will
Watch the flames burn auburn on
The mountain side

Desolation comes upon the sky

Now I see fire
Inside the mountains
I see fire
Burning the trees
And I see fire
Hollowing souls
I see fire
Blood in the breeze
And I hope that you’ll remember me

And if the night is burning
I will cover my eyes
For if the dark returns then
My brothers will die
And as the sky is falling down
It crashed into this lonely town
And with that shadow upon the ground
I hear my people screaming out

And I see fire
Inside the mountains
I see fire
Burning the trees
I see fire
Hollowing souls
I see fire
Blood in the breeze

I see fire (fire)
Oh, you know I saw a city burning out
And I see fire (fire)
Feel the heat upon my skin
And I see fire (fire)
Uhhhhhhhhh
And I see fire
Burn auburn on the mountain side

Analysis

Sheeran’s song is based on Peter Jackson’s film “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug,” but there’s more to the song than just the description of fire. I may give away one or two spoilers about the book/film, so be aware if you haven’t yet read/seen it but intend to.

1) “Oh, misty eye of the mountain below / Keep careful watch of my brother’s souls / And should the sky be filled with fire and smoke / Keep watching over Durin’s sons”

I actually read this song as a sort of prayer. The “misty eye of the mountain below” is the “god” Sheeran addresses. The mountain has a heart (the Arkenstone), so why shouldn’t it have an eye, as well? Throughout The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, eyes are a fairly important symbol. Both Sauron and Smaug, the primary villains of the two tales, have noteable flame-colored eyes. The Lonely Mountain to which this song refers does not have a fiery eye, but a “misty” one. While the other eyes’ ability (Sauron’s in particular) to see all is a reason for fear, the singer of this song calls for the mountain’s eye to see all and draws hope from it. It’s interesting that Sheeran would have the words “misty” and “mountain” in the same line, since there is a range called Misty Mountains in Middle Earth, but if I recall correctly, that’s the range where Bilbo finds the ring, not where Smaug lives. I don’t really know why he says the eye of the mountain is “below,” so any thoughts on that are welcome.

Also, I believe this part of the song is from the perspective of Bard, the eventual leader of Lake-town. He asks the mountain to “keep careful watch of [his] brother’s souls,” his brothers being the people of Laketown. If Smaug poses a threat to them or the dwarves, Bard also hopes the mountain will “keep watching over Durin’s sons,” or protecting the dwarves. While Bard and Thorin have their disagreements, they’re both willing to do anything for the people they lead. Both Lake-town and the dwarves (plus one hobbit) unite against the fire.

2) “If this is to end in fire / Then we should all burn together / Watch the flames climb high into the night / Calling out ‘father,’ oh, stand by and we will / Watch the flames burn auburn on / The mountain side high”

As I said before, a major theme of this song is how trials prompt unity. If the fire comes for them, they will all “burn together.” The song is a sort of disheartening battle cry. They will “watch the flames,” bravely standing together in the face of certain death. The idea of them calling out “father” also implies that their hope centers around a god of some sort, reinforcing my belief that the song is a prayer, much like a psalm. The “auburn” color of the flames is also important, as it paints them as beautiful, albeit destructive. Auburn is a reddish-brown color. I think the color is normally too brown to associate with flames, but the film was so dark in lighting and mood, it works in this case. Sheeran may also be playing with the word a little bit, since it has the word “burn” in it. Before looking up the lyrics, I actually thought the line was “watch the flames burn on, burn on” rather than “burn auburn on.” In any case, it sounds beautiful, particularly when sung by Sheeran.

3) “And if we should die tonight / We should all die together / Raise a glass of wine for the last time / Calling out ‘father,’ oh, / Prepare as we will / Watch the flames burn auburn on / The mountain side”

Yet again there’s a sense of camaraderie in that they plan to “die together.” In drinking “a glass of wine for the last time,” I associate them with Jesus and his disciples at The Last Supper, where they ate before Jesus parted. This time, though, all of them prepare to die. Again they call out “father” and instruct him to “prepare,” perhaps meaning for him to prepare a place in the afterlife as they “watch the flames.”

4) “Desolation comes upon the sky”

Desolation is defined both as a state of complete destruction and a state of anguish, misery, or loneliness. The word refers to the destruction–both physical and emotional–Smaug can cause. It’s particularly powerful in this context because the film off which Sheeran based the lyrics is the second in the series, titled “The Desolation of Smaug.”

5) “Now I see fire / Inside the mountain / I see fire / Burning the trees / And I see fire / Hollowing souls / I see fire / Blood in the breeze / And I hope that you’ll remember me”

The fire of Smaug is visible “inside the mountain” and “burning the trees,” but the other two images are a little more difficult to decipher. At the end of the film, Smaug declares, “I am fire. I am death.” He isn’t just an instrument for fire; he is fire. The fire the singer sees could very well be Smaug himself. In burning everything and everyone, Smaug is “hollowing souls,” stripping the people of Lake-town of everything they hold dear, leaving them empty and without purpose. Both fire and blood are dark red and associated with death, so the “blood in the breeze” could be fire itself. It could also be actual blood; dragons have teeth, too, after all. Not only do the lyrics teach physical unity in hard times by standing together; they also teach emotional unity by encouraging people to hold onto the memory of those lost. As the speaker claims, “I hope that you’ll remember me.” In the end, you can only hope you’ve done something to save someone before passing.

6) “Oh, should my people fall then / Surely I’ll do the same / Confined in mountain halls / We got too close to the flame”

The responsibility of a leader over his people is particularly clear in these first two lines. Because this mentions being “confined in mountain halls,” I’m beginning to think the song is actually from Thorin’s perspective. That doesn’t make total sense to me, but it has to be true of this part, at least. In the mountain, the group had a couple close run-ins with Smaug, “the flame.” If flame represents hardship or potential destruction, there are other flames, too. The madness of greed to which Thorin succumbed also led them “too close” to destruction.

7) “And if the night is burning / I will cover my eyes / For if the dark returns then / My brothers will die / And as the sky is falling down / It crashed into this lonely town / And with that shadow upon the ground / I hear my people screaming out”

Honestly, I think the first four lines here contradict each other. Basically, he says there are flames all around, so he’ll cover his eyes because when the flames go away his brothers will die. Maybe I’m misreading something? Because it seems like the flames would kill his brothers, not the darkness. Perhaps he means a metaphorical darkness, as in something evil? The image of the “sky…falling down” when Smaug sweeps over Lake-town with his flames is beautifully put for something so horrific. I like how Sheeran calls “this” town “lonely,” since it subtly links it to The Lonely Mountain. The “shadow” to which he refers is the shadow of Smaug raking fire across the town, causing Bard’s people to begin “screaming out.” It’s interesting how something so horrifying can be described so beautifully. I think part of that is due to the fact that the song is based off a film in which the special effects and scenery are stunning, even in scenes of desolation.

I think I’ve made it fairly clear by now that I’m a fan of Ed Sheeran and Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. The final movie of the Hobbit series was released on DVD recently, and while I believe the movies should have been condensed into one or two films rather than spread out over three, I suggest watching them. And if you’ve already seen them, I suggest watching them again!

Focus on the Lyrics Friday: All the Rowboats

Every day I pass by the Marshall M. Fredericks art museum on my way to class. It’s strangely comforting to know the lion will eternally stare at the mouse and Jesus will always be hanging from the wall.
Regina Spektor (whose most popular youtube video is of her song “Samson“) has a different spin on art museums in her song “All the Rowboats.”

Lyrics
All the rowboats in the paintings
They keep trying to row away
And the captains’ worried faces
Stay contorted and staring at the waves
They’ll keep hanging in their gold frames
For forever, forever and a day
All the rowboats in the oil paintings
They keep trying to row away, row away

Hear them whispering French and German
Dutch, Italian, and Latin
When no one’s looking I touch a sculpture
Marble, cold and soft as satin
But the most special are the most lonely
God, I pity the violins
In glass coffins they keep coughing
They’ve forgotten, forgotten how to sing, how to sing

First there’s lights out, then there’s lock up
Masterpieces serving maximum sentences
It’s their own fault for being timeless
There’s a price to pay and a consequence
All the galleries, the museums
Here’s your ticket, welcome to the tombs
They’re just public mausoleums
The living dead fill every room
But the most special are the most lonely
God, I pity the violins
In glass coffins they keep coughing
They’ve forgotten, forgotten how to sing

They will stay there in their gold frames
For forever, forever and a day
All the rowboats in the oil paintings
They keep trying to row away, row away

First there’s lights out, then there’s lock up
Masterpieces serving maximum sentences
It’s their own fault for being timeless
There’s a price to pay and a consequence
All the galleries, the museums
They will stay there forever and a day
All the rowboats in the oil paintings
They keep trying to row away, row away
All the rowboats in the oil paintings
They keep trying to row away, row away…

Analysis
On the surface the song is a dark perspective on the art in museums, but beneath it lies a metaphor. I think the rowboats and violins on display at the museum represent artists in general, their lives on display for all to see while they’re trapped and unable to move.
1) “All the rowboats in the paintings / They keep trying to row away / And the captains’ worried faces / Stay contorted and staring at the waves / They’ll keep hanging in their gold frames / For forever, forever and a day”
I looked up rowboat paintings to see if perhaps Spektor referred to a particular painting or artist, and I found this beautiful little article, which claims the song is based on the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Met houses a collection of rowboat oil paintings by Winslow Homer, as well as an Italian Baroque violin in a glass display case. While I think the article is right in this, I disagree that it’s a “metaphor for life.” I think Spektor’s a little more pointed than that. Not everyone is stuck on display; there have to be people to come over and watch and people to put them on display. The artists “keep trying to row away,” doing what the do best to try to escape the media attention, but their attempts are just as fruitless as the rowers in paintings who are “forever” stuck in their frames.
Evidently it’s not true of all artists…
2) “Hear them whispering French and German / Dutch, Italian, and Latin / When no one’s looking I touch a sculpture / Marble, cold and soft as satin / But the most special are the most lonely / God, I pity the violins / In glass coffins they keep coughing / They’ve forgotten, forgotten how to sing, how to sing”
Many famous works on display at museums are French (Degas, Monet), German (Durer, Friedrich), Dutch (Van Gogh), Italian (Raphael, Michelangelo), and Roman/Latin. More importantly for the metaphor, Spektor sings that they’re “whispering” in different languages, not speaking their mind or speaking comprehensibly. When she “touch[es] a sculpture,” she finds it “cold and soft as satin.” The coldness indicates a numbness or lack of life while the softness indicates the allure of the sculpture, even though it’s cold and stone. Spektor also seems to say the most talented art/artists are “the most lonely,” since the art is put on display away from other art (as is the case with the display of Mona Lisa at the Louvre). Like I mentioned before, the Met has a violin on display in a “glass coffin,” as Spektor puts it. The violins “keep coughing,” from dust or age or lack of use, and have “forgotten how to sing” after being on display for so long. Perhaps Spektor means after a long time on display, unable to practice their art for all the pressing media contact, artists lose their touch. That doesn’t seem like the best analysis to me, though, so if you have any ideas about the meaning of the violins, please comment below!
3) “First there’s lights out, then there’s lock up / Masterpieces serving maximum sentences / It’s their own fault for being timeless / There’s a price to pay and a consequence / All the galleries, the museums / Here’s your ticket, welcome to the tombs / They’re just public mausoleums / The living dead fill every room”
When the day’s over and the visitors are no longer welcome, the museum turns lights out and locks up, like the pieces are prisoners “serving maximum sentences.” The next lines seem more bitter and resentful, bordering on satyric. Spektor declares, “It’s their own fault for being timeless/ There’s a price to pay and a consequence.” I read that sarcastically, like when people say artists asked for media attention by being talented and doing what they love. My favorite lines of this song are the last ones here: “All the galleries, the museums, / Here’s your ticket, welcome to the tombs / They’re just public mausoleums / The living dead fill every room.” Museums like the Met often showcase works of dead artists, so I’ve made the connection to tombs before, but Spektor makes the connection even stronger. She claims the museums are “public mausoleums,” or collections of tombs open to the public, filled with the oxymoronic “living dead.” The “living dead” displayed in the tombs could refer to the art, as art thrives but the people who worked so hard to create it are dead. It could also refer to the media-trampled artists who are now numb and without the aspirations they once had–in other words, they’re now less lively, though they’re still technically living.
I’m not going to analyze the music video. You’re on your own for deciphering that one.

Focus on the Lyrics Friday: Budapest

This was a song I actually wanted to analyze a while ago, but I completely forgot about it until I heard it on the radio yesterday. Before writing this post, I had no idea what this song meant. Actually, I thought the singer, George Ezra, was some middle-aged, silver-haired chap.

Turns out, he’s just British.


Lyrics

My house in Budapest
My, my hidden treasure chest
Golden grand piano
My beautiful CastilloYou
Ooh, you
Ooh, I’d leave it all

My acres of a land
That I’ve achieved
It may be hard for you to
Stop and believe

But for you
Ooh, you
Ooh, I’d leave it all

Ooh, for you
Ooh, you
Ooh, I’d leave it all

And give me one good reason
Why I should never make a change
Baby if you hold me
Then all of this will go away

My many artifacts
The list goes on
If you just say the words
I, I’ll up and run

Oh, to you
Ooh, you
Ooh, I’d leave it all

Oh, for you
Ooh, oh
Ooh, I’d leave it all

And give me one good reason
Why I should never make a change
Baby if you hold me
Then all of this will go away

Give me one good reason
Why I should never make a change
Baby if you hold me
Then all of this will go away

My friends and family
They don’t understand
They fear they’d lose so much
If you take my hand

But, for you
Ooh, you
Ooh, I’d lose it all

Oh, for you
Ooh, you
Ooh, I’d lose it all

And give me one good reason
Why I should never make a change
Baby if you hold me
Then all of this will go away

Give me one good reason
Why I should never make a change
Baby if you hold me
Then all of this will go away

My house in Budapest
My, my hidden treasure chest
Golden grand piano
My beautiful Castillo

You
Ooh, you
Ooh, I’d leave it all

Oh, for you
Ooh, you
Ooh, I’d leave it all

Analysis

At its core, this song is a love song. The singer would leave everything–his home, his wealth, etc–for the one he loves.

I read a couple other interpretations online and someone suggested that this song is related to Archduke (and heir to the Austria-Hungarian throne) Franz Ferdinand. Never one to discount ludacris historically-based meanings for songs, I looked up the specifics of Franz Ferdinand, who is most famous for being assassinated (an event which led to WWI). Apparently, he was only supposed to marry a member of a reigning or formerly reigning dynasty in Europe, but he fell in love with an archduchess’ lady-in-waiting, Sophie Chotek. He would not consider marrying anyone else. Eventually, he was allowed to wed Sophie on the condition that she and their children would not inherit his titles, privileges, or throne.

Sorry for the brief diversion; the history minor in me found that story fascinating.

1) “My house in Budapest / My, my hidden treasure chest /Golden grand piano / My beautiful Castillo / You / Ooh, you / Ooh, I’d leave it all”

The reference to Budapest, the capital of Hungary, makes the relation to Franz Ferdinand more plausible, since he was heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary. More simply, these lines mention the singer’s home, his “treasure,” his “golden grand piano” and his “castillo” (which could refer to a type of guitar or a castle). Basically, we get the idea that the singer has a lot of beautiful, material things he loves…but not as much as he loves “you,” for whom he would “leave it all.”

2) “My acres of a land / That I’ve achieved / It may be hard for you to / Stop and believe”

The singer doesn’t just own land; he’s “achieved” this land through his work. It may be hard for “you,” his love, to “believe,” but he’d be willing to leave everything for which he’s worked hard for his love.

3) “And give me one good reason / Why I should never make a change / Baby if you hold me / Then all of this will go away”

These lines seem to be the basis of the music video, in which the change of one person sparks the change of another, then another, then another, until the whole room is full of change. Why should the speaker continue to live with all this wealth, away from the ones he loves. The “all of this” is the wealth, which the speaker says will “go away” if his love holds him.

4) “My many artifacts / The list goes on / If you just say the words / I, I’ll up and run”

This guy’s pretty well-off if he has artifacts. I wouldn’t want him to give all that up for me; I’d want him to give it up to me. I’m assuming “the words” he wants “you” to say are some proclamation of love.

5) “My friends and family / They don’t understand / They fear they’d lose so much / If you take my hand”

Franz Ferdinand’s story fits here too, since his family didn’t want him to “take [Sophie’s] hand.” I think the relations are too loose for the song to be about Franz Ferdinand, but I still like relating history to music. If the singer is willing to give up everything he has for the one he loves, of course his family would “fear they’d lose so much.”

Though the Franz Ferdinand interpretation is a little far-fetched, it’s my only explanation as to the importance of Budapest to the speaker. Perhaps it has some sort of personal meaning for Ezra.

Regardless, the sound’s light, attractive feel makes it interesting and catchy–as if to prove it, my mom’s been singing it around the house for the hour it’s taken me to write this post.

Focus on the Lyrics Friday: Immortals

In celebration of the release of “Big Hero 6” on February 24 (and out of love for Fall Out Boy), this week’s post will look at the lyrics of FOB’s “Immortals.” The track played while the movie’s main character, Hiro, designed and tested “superpowered” outfits. Bear with me here; I’ll probably give away a couple things about the movie but it’s hard to analyze a song from a movie without giving a thing or two away.

I love FOB, but they’re not known for good annunciation, which makes it a little harder to focus on the lyrics. Still, I’d encourage FOB fans to look the words up; their lyrics are often as impressive and unique as their sound.


Lyrics

They say we are what we are
But we don’t have to be
I’m glad to hate you but I do it in the best way
I’ll be the watcher of the eternal flame
I’ll be the guard dog of all your fever dreams

I am the sand in the bottom half of the hourglass (glass, glass)
I try to picture me without you but I can’t
‘Cause we could be immortals, immortals
Just not for long, for long

If we meet forever now, you pull the blackout curtains down
Just not for long, for long
We could be immor-immortals, immor-immortals
Immor-immortals, immor-immortals
Immortals

Sometimes the only payoff for having any faith
Is when it’s tested again and again everyday
I’m still comparing your past to my future
It might be over, but they’re not sutures

I am the sand in the bottom half of the hourglass (glass, glass)
I try to picture me without you but I can’t
‘Cause we could be immortals, immortals
Just not for long, for long

If we meet forever now, you pull the blackout curtains down
Just not for long, for long
We could be immor-immortals, immor-immortals
Immortals

If we meet forever now, pull the blackout curtains down
We could be immor-immortals, immor-immortals
Just not for long, for long
We could be immor-immortals, immor-immortals
Immor-immortals, immor-immortals
Immortals

Analysis

The band said the song was modeled on the concept of an underdog stepping into a bigger role, taking the hero role of the protagonist’s brother. Hiro’s actions and even what he says near the end of the film parallel the actions and sayings of Tadashi (the brother) at the beginning of the film. That meaning is made clearer in the lyrics.

1) “They say we are what we are / But we don’t have to be / I’m glad to hate you but I do it in the best way / I’ll be the watcher of the eternal flame / I’ll be the guard dog of all your fever dreams”

The first lines fit with the FOB’s meaning. The focus of the song is on underdogs who “don’t have to be” losers. The concept that people can be more than they are said to be is central to the film. I think the “you” of this song is *spoiler* Hiro’s dead brother but the third line confuses me. Perhaps Hiro resented his brother because he knew the dangers of doing what led to his death but still did it. The fourth line refers to an “eternal flame,” which is often a memorial (like the flame under the Arc de Triomphe) and the fifth line refers to “fever dreams,” or fever-induced nightmares. The idea of being a “watcher” or a “guard dog” is a heroic one. Hiro stepped up to a heroic position (pun intended) to avenge his brother’s death. More than that, Hiro preserves his brother’s memory by watching over Baymax, the machine his brother worked so hard to create.

2) “I am the sand in the bottom half of the hourglass (glass, glass) / I try to picture me without you but I can’t / ‘Cause we could be immortals, immortals / Just not for long, for long”

“The sand in the bottom half of the hourglass” is the time that has already passed and is waiting to pass again. Where Hiro’s brother has no time left, Hiro’s hourglass is going to continue getting flipped over. Moreover, the hourglass has two important parts: the top and the bottom half. These halves continually take one another’s roles. Where Tadashi played the heroic role, now Hiro must step up to become the hero. (On a side note, I’m pretty sure Hiro is meant to sound like Hero–the movie is called “Big Hero 6,” after all.) In the movie, Hiro has a hard time dealing with his brother’s death. In essence, he tries to “picture [himself] without [Tadashi] but [he] can’t.” Hiro learns to accept that Tadashi will be remembered through his friends and family (and Baymax), and in this way, Tadashi is immortalized. The idea with being immortal is also consistent with the scene the song plays in, where the group “suits up,” if you will. Still, no one can remain forever. The paradox of being immortal but “not for long.” Words, stories, and memories may immortalize a person in a way, but it’s not full immortality; everything that we know has an end.

3) “If we meet forever now, you pull the blackout curtains down”

This line confuses me. “Blackout curtains” are curtains designed to block out all light. The word “forever” links the line to the idea of immortality, but this line has a more ominous feel because it’s a forever without light. It could be a reference to death, since that’s the only time Hiro could “meet forever” with his dead brother. Or I could be misreading it. If you have any theories, please comment below.

4) “Sometimes the only payoff for having any faith / Is when it’s tested again and again everyday / I’m still comparing your past to my future / It might be over, but they’re not sutures”

The first lines are fairly straightforward; sometimes the only reward for believing in something is having your belief tested. In the testing of that belief, you become stronger, both in that belief and in your resilience. The third line is my favorite. At first I thought it meant Hiro was still expecting to have Tadashi in his future, but the word “comparing” suggests something else. Much of this song discusses how Hiro’s stepping up to take Tadashi’s place, in a way. He’s comparing what Tadashi has done to what he hopes to accomplish. In essence, he hopes he becomes just as great as his big brother. I think the “it” of the final line is “your past.” “Sutures” are stitches for a deep wound to help it heal. Tadashi’s life may be over, but it’s not stitched up. And as long as the person responsible for Tadashi’s life is around, Hiro believes he’ll have trouble healing from the grief. That’s why he tries to take Tadashi’s role in the first place; he wants to stitch up loose ends in Tadashi’s death and “stitch” himself up in the process. The reference to sutures is also fitting because baymax was created as a personal health care companion. As such, his job is to take care of wounds (internal and external), like by suturing a wound.

I love FOB. This isn’t the last song of theirs I’ll analyze, I guarantee.

In any case, I hope you picked up on my shameless plug for “Big Hero Six.” If the Oscars tell you anything, it’s an animation worth seeing.

Focus on the Lyrics Friday: Gold

Much as I dislike repeating artists for this column (with the exception of Bastille), it must be done. Imagine Dragons released their new CD, Smoke + Mirrors, Tuesday, February 17. Like everything else they touch, it’s musical gold.

One of my favorite tracks from the album is “Gold,” which in addition to sounding completely unlike anything else I’ve heard (a mix of gospel, whistles, a strange hiccuping noise, and rock) has some interesting lyrics.


Lyrics

First comes the blessing of all that you’ve dreamed,
But then comes the curses of diamonds and rings.
Only at first did it have its appeal, but now you can’t tell the false from the real.
Who can you trust
(Who can you trust)

When everything, everything, everything you touch turns to gold, gold, gold.
When everything, everything, everything you touch turns to gold, gold

Statues and empires are all at your hands,
Water to wine and the finest of sands.
When all that you have’s turning stale and its cold,
Oh you’ll no longer fear when your heart’s turned to gold.
Who can you trust
(Who can you trust)

When everything, everything, everything you touch turns to gold, gold, gold.
When everything, everything, everything you touch turns to gold, gold

I’m dying to feel again,
Oh anything at all,
But oh I feel nothin’, nothin’, nothin’, nothin’

When everything, everything, everything you touch turns to gold, gold, gold.
When everything, everything, everything you touch turns to gold, gold

Analysis

At it’s core, the song is based on the Greek myth of King Midas, who wished for the power to turn what he touched into gold. Midas’ wish turned out to be more of a curse than a blessing, since he accidentally turned his food and his daughter into gold.

In the song, Imagine Dragons uses this myth to build on the idea of fame and the wealth that comes with it.

1) “First comes the blessing of all that you’ve dreamed, / But then comes the curses of diamonds and rings. / Only at first did it have its appeal, but now you can’t tell the false from the real. / Who can you trust (Who can you trust)”

In Midas’ case, the “blessing of all that [he’s] dreamed” is his wish to turn what he touches into gold, which only appealed “at first.” In the real-world application, many “dream” of being blessed with fame and wealth. Imagine Dragons, now at a position of fame and fortune, attest that the “diamonds and rings” become “curses” in the same way Midas’ ability became a curse, separating him from those he loved. Fame and fortune may have “appeal” at first, but once achieved, it’s hard to distinguish those who are genuine from those who are “false,” leaving the famous struggling to figure out who to “trust.”

2) “Statues and empires are all at your hands, / Water to wine and the finest of sands. / When all that you have’s turning stale and its cold, / Oh you’ll no longer fear when your heart’s turned to gold. / Who can you trust (Who can you trust)”

Statues, empires, water, wine, sands–all that’s listed here seems desirable, but none of it involves a personal relationship, which is what Midas really wanted in the end (at least, he wanted to restore his relationship with his daughter–we’ll generalize it for the song’s sake). Statues are just echos of things that live. Having “empires…at your hands” implies a position of glory, but what’s the point of holding power over so many people if your position depends on people seeing you as superior and untouchable? Turning “water to wine” is a biblical allusion to Jesus’ first miracle during his ministry in which he turned water into wine at a wedding. It’s a powerful allusion for this song because it parallels Midas’ ability to turn what he touches into gold. The line could also be interpreted as having everything from “water to wine,” which would fit into the list of desirable things that don’t involve personal relationships. “The finest of sands” could symbolize having lots of time, since sand measures time in hourglasses and having lots of time isn’t much good if you don’t have someone to spend it with.

The lyrics go on to say when all these material items turn “stale” (when you no longer take pleasure in them) and when “it’s cold” (when you feel like you’ve reached your end), you’ll welcome the transformation of your heart into gold. I can see why people may interpret this transformation as an individual accepting this infectious need for materialism and giving in to the worldly people around him, but I don’t think that fits the rest of the song. Rather, I think the transformation of the heart into gold signifies the heart becoming hollow and the individual becoming numb to his own emotions.

3) “I’m dying to feel again, / Oh anything at all, / But oh I feel nothin’, nothin’, nothin’, nothin'”

These lines fit the idea that the transformation of the heart into gold symbolizes the individual’s numbness to his own emotions. Also, the phrase “dying to feel” is ironic in a fairly depressing way.

I almost didn’t include these last lines for close reading, since I didn’t think they presented anything new, but then I noticed the switch of pronouns. Where the rest of the song talks about “you” being cursed with fame and fortune, these lines use the pronoun “I.” And BOOM–just like that Imagine Dragons makes their song a million times more personal. Now I understand the raw, cacophonous sound of the instruments and vocals as a complement to the speaker’s own discontent.

I don’t like all the songs on Imagine Dragons’ new album, but I must give them credit where credit is due–the band managed to create a completely new sound in many of their tracks, and their lyrics extend beyond the usual simply expressed subject matter of other artists. I also love their collaboration with surrealist artist Tim Cantor; artists should support other artists more often, regardless of field or genre.

All things Imagine Dragon aside, I’m happy to announce I’ve already decided which song to analyze next week! Here’s a BIG hint: Disney will release “Big Hero 6” for home video next Tuesday and I adore one of the songs from the film’s soundtrack.

Focus on the Lyrics Friday: Poet

Happy Valentine’s weekend! I’ll be celebrating in my usual way–watching chick flicks like “Pride and Prejudice” without anyone else to enjoy it with.

*sigh*

All bitterness aside, I really do like celebrating the idea of love. It’s a beautiful thing to write and read about, and love songs are fairly popular in our society (only surpassed, I think, by heartbreak songs). I decided I’d analyze a love song this week in honor of Valentine’s.

But which love song?

The answer came clear when I watched the Grammy Awards Ceremony. (No, I’m not looking at “Stay With Me.” I think the lines “stay with me / ’cause you’re all I need” are fairly straightforward.)

I’m talking about Bastille, of course, who got snubbed as new artist of the year in favor of Sam Smith (who won four Grammys). For those of you who wonder how that was a snub, please do me a favor and focus on the lyrics.


Lyrics

Obsession it takes control,
Obsession it eats me whole.
I can’t say the words out loud,
So in a rhyme I wrote you down.
Now you’ll live through the ages,
I can feel your pulse in the pages.

I have written you down
Now you will live forever
And all the world will read you
And you will live forever
In eyes not yet created
On tongues that are not born
I have written you down
Now you will live forever

Your body lies upon the sheets,
Of paper and words so sweet.
I can’t say the words,
so I wrote you into my verse.
Now you’ll live through the ages,
I can feel your pulse in the pages.

I have written you down
Now you will live forever
And all the world will read you,
And you will live forever
In eyes not yet created
On tongues that are not born
I have written you down
Now you will live forever

I have read her with these eyes,
I’ve read her with these eyes,
I have held her in these hands.

I have written you down,
Now you will live forever.
The virtue’s in the verse,
And you will live forever.

I have written you down
Now you will live forever
And all the world will read you
And you will live forever
In eyes not yet created
On tongues that are not born
I have written you down
Now you will live forever

Analysis

To understand this song, let’s take a look at Shakespeare’s Sonnet 81.

Or I shall live your epitaph to make,
Or you survive when I in earth am rotten;
From hence your memory death cannot take,
Although in me each part will be forgotten.
Your name from hence immortal life shall have,
Though I, once gone, to all the world must die:
The earth can yield me but a common grave,
When you entombed in men’s eyes shall lie.
Your monument shall be my gentle verse,
Which eyes not yet created shall o’er-read,
And tongues to be your being shall rehearse,
When all the breathers of this world are dead;
You still shall live (such virtue hath my pen)
Where breath most breathes, even in the mouths of men.

Recognize anything?

Any band who bases a song off a Shakespearean sonnet (one that holds words in high esteem, no less) deserves a Grammy in my book. I can’t grovel forever, though; let’s look at other reasons to love this song.

1) “Obsession it takes control, / Obsession it eats me whole. / I can’t say the words out loud, / So in a rhyme I wrote you down. / Now you’ll live through the ages, / I can feel your pulse in the pages.”

The speaker, who is eaten up with his love for “you,” couldn’t bring himself to say anything “out loud,” so he wrote them down, ensuring “you” will “live through the ages,” since words last longer than people (Shakespeare’s words in particular). The idea of words preserving life is a beautiful one emphasized in the concept of epitaphs and obituaries as well as the line “I can feel your pulse in the pages.”

2) “I have written you down / Now you will live forever / And all the world will read you / And you will live forever / In eyes not yet created / On tongues that are not born / I have written you down / Now you will live forever.”

This mimics the lines “Which eyes not yet created shall o’er-read, / And tongues to be your being shall rehearse, / When all the breathers of this world are dead; / You still shall live (such virtue hath my pen).” I’m glad Bastille simplified it, though; it’d be hard to sing lines like “tongues to be your being shall rehearse.” In any case, this chorus serves to emphasize the idea that writing the subject down will preserve a part of her.

3) “Your body lies upon the sheets, / Of paper and words so sweet. / I can’t say the words, / so I wrote you into my verse. / Now you’ll live through the ages, / I can feel your pulse in the pages.”

The first line plays with the word “sheets,” which can mean both bedsheets (scandalous) and sheets “of paper and words so sweet.” The subject may not be literally lying on papers, but she could be lying on bedsheets, and part of her is preserved in the paper on which the song/poem is printed. The other lines should sound familiar, since they repeat those of the first part.

4) “I have read her with these eyes, / I’ve read her with these eyes, / I have held her in these hands.”

The speaker remains ambiguous, allowing readers/listeners to judge whether he’s referring to his love, his poem, or both. He has read the poem, and in reading the poem he has read “her.” It’s also possible to “read” a person to figure out how they feel. The next line is ambiguous, too, since he can both hold “her” and the poem/song. The ambiguity of this section is its strongest feature.

5) “I have written you down, / Now you will live forever. / The virtue’s in the verse, / And you will live forever.”

I almost didn’t include this section, since it mostly repeated what had already been discussed, but then I read sonnet 81 again. The line “the virtue’s in the verse” is a nod to Shakespeare’s poem when he writes “(such virtue hath my pen).” In fact, I think the whole song is a nod to Shakespeare. I mean, the title’s not “Words,” “Poem,” or even “Sonnet 81;” Bastille titled this song “Poet.”

Just when I thought I couldn’t like this band any more than I already do…

If you want to listen to Bastille other songs that mention love and heartbreak, check out “Laughter Lines,” “Flaws” (which I already analyzed), “These Streets,” “Oblivion,” and “Adagio for Strings.” (The last one is their awesome mix-tape cover of “What is Love?” Trust me. Listen to the whole thing.)