Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Lyrics (Over)Analysis - English Blood by Trung Doan

This song was written about an English girl who I enjoyed playfully teasing (although I doubt that she would describe that in those words). I had a stupid joke about sucking her blood,  although I'm not entirely sure the context or the reason why I said that. Nevertheless I thought at that time it would be fun to create a song based on that idea to make it even more creepy and disturbing.

This was the time when vampires didn’t have the stigma attached to them and I thought it would be a cool idea to create a vampiristic love song. Nowadays with the released of Twilight, I'm kind of embarrassed by this song. They just have to ruin everything don't they.

Nevertheless, this song is just dumb fun for me.

Cold night
I see you
Oh your warm white neck
So soon
Keep on drinking my friend

So we have the vampire who see the girl for the first time and he looks at her neck and gets turned on. This is because vampire generally have a neck fetish. It also looks like this particular vampire has a thing for Caucasian girls as well.

The vampire also feed the girl alcohol as we all know the real meaning why guys buy drinks to woman they fancy.

Which is preparation to suck their blood of course.

As the moon rises up
As the wind brushes your hair
Your warm neck becoming cold
Warm English blood

Part of the lyrics set the scenery that this is night time. The "warm neck becoming cold" is foreshadowing the death of this girl which occurs later in the song and the vampire sings in ecstasy "warm english blood" as this vampire is an anglophile and English blood just taste better than other races blood according to this vampire.

It's not that the vampire in this song is racist; it's just that some vampire just have personal preference on the race of people they want to suck blood of. You hear guys talk about how they have a thing for Asian chicks and how exotic they are so this is just the vampire using those same principles.

Approach you
No marks I can see

So the vampire couldn't see any bite marks on the neck of this English girl which shows that she is a virgin in terms of having her blood sucked out of her from the neck and this turns the vampire on.

After all we never see two vampires sucking the blood of one person or sucking the blood of a person who is already dead for a lengthy period of time as that's just sick and unsanitary with the risk of spreading blood bourn infection.

Fresh blood
I feel
The alcohol flowing in your veins

We all know that vampires like their prey to drink alcohol before drinking their blood and the reason is simple. We know that alcohol actually travels in your bloodstream after ingestion. So if we feed alcohol to people before drinking their blood, you would think that their blood will taste a lot better. Vampires can get their nutrition from the blood and get drunk at the same time.

You would think that it would be boring for vampires to drink plain old blood all day long and they have to spice it up with alcohol.

Now I think about it, I wonder does vampires have recipes of the blood they drink. If you have a person of a particular race, which type of alcohol goes well with it? Is it with the French, you used wine, with the English you used lager and with Japanese you used sake?

It's not that I hate you
It's the way I show my love

So the vampire is going to drink the blood of this girl and kill her but this is only because he cares about her and this is his way of showing his affection he has for her.

I can't change who I am
Get close before the sun rise up

The vampire wished that perhaps he doesn't have to kill her but resigns that he has to do that because it is part of his nature.

He also wants to drink her blood before sunrise as vampires are very photosensitive and they don't have access to a dermatologist.

I take a bite
You're stunned
Collapse in ecstasy

So the vampire drank the blood of the girl and she died. However it turns out the blood drinking is just as pleasurable to the victim as it is to the vampire so it was a win-win situation in the end.

Sure the girl died but what a way to go.

I'm quite sure if you asked many teenage girls what is their preferred method of death, death by getting their blood sucked by Edward Cullen is probably high up there.

You look at me
Your last words were
"Man, that's sexy."

Originally the line was supposed to be "Man, that's creepy" because that was what the English girl said to me in real life.

However I changed it to "Man, that's sexy' because that's the reflection of today’s society with the whole Twilight popularity. For some reason, vampires who suck blood of people are now sexy amongst teenage girls as shown by the whole Edward Cullen popularity.

Damn, why didn't anyone tell me that back in high school? The whole awkward teenage years would have went across hell of a lot more smoother if I knew that fact.

Oh it's such a shame
I really did like you
Your body is now cold
Warm English blood

So now that the girl has died. The vampire is feeling regret for causing her death. It's this catch 22 situation. On one hand you can kill the girl you like or on the other hand you miss out on a delicious delicacy of English blood with a high BAC (blood alcohol content). Ah the dilemmas of life that a vampire face on a daily basis.

As a lot of divorce woman will vouch, when a guy is given a choice between getting smash with alcohol or a long lasting relationship with the woman you are with. Well the alcohol usually wins out as demonstrated in this song.

© Lyrics written by Trung Doan 2005

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Lyrics (Over)Analysis - Born To See The Light by Trung Doan

I just want to state that this song isn't anti-religion in general. However this song does criticise specific interpretation of religious belief.

This song tells a story about a hypothetical scenario where one religion is right and people who believed in a different faith or no faith will be damned to go to hell. This story is told from the perspective of a person who was born in a different culture who never heard this religion ever existed before dying.

I woke up
I saw a flash of light
This establish that the person has died and has now entered the afterlife (which is often symbolises by a flash of light)

A man appeared
Said “why don’t you know my name?”

God appeared and asked the main protagonist about why that person didn't worship that religion and why he didn't worship the right god.

At my home, your name has no meaning
But I fear you won’t accept that answer

The main character responded that he is from a culture that never heard of that religion before. However he suspected that god will not accept that as a satisfactory excuse.

Here we are
They say you’re the chosen one
Here we are
You’re born to see the light
Born to see the light yeah
In the chorus, the main character is saying that the people who were from the culture that followed the right religion are the "chosen one" and are destined to go to heaven (born to see the light). That god deliberately created people who were destined to have a better chance to go to heaven or hell.

Many beliefs divided in different lands
It turns out only one land was blessed

This established that there are many different religions out there where their popularity is basically divided into different geographical regions but only one religion is true. That god has effectively created a classist society and that all people aren't born equal to god because they don't all have the same opportunities to discover the true religion.

We exist to give the blessed a job
To show us the way, to guide us to the light

The main character is saying that the only reason why cultures that follow the wrong religion exist is so that the true believers are employed by god to become missionaries to try and convert them.

I was born in the land of sinners
Forbidden fruit is our only crop that grows

The main character came from the culture that has never heard of the true religion and only the false religion and therefore they are in the land of sinners. Hence, they have no choice but to follow the wrong religion. He is pleading to god that he has only taken the "forbidden fruit" because the forbidden fruit is the only thing he knows.

They may be an absolute right or wrong
It goes beyond what you think
So send me to hell
My conscious is clear

A lot of people define morality as anything that god believe is right and frame moral debates on what would god believe is right and wrong. The main character of the song rejects that ideology and says that right and wrong is independent to god's interpretation of morality. That sending someone who has never heard of the "true religion" to hell is wrong irrespective of what god thinks it is.

So the main character is accepting that he is now going to hell because he followed the wrong religion. However, he realised that he is in the moral right and that he is going to hell with a clear conscious

I'll repeat that this song isn't anti-religion. There are people who are religious who believe that the pluralism of religion is due to a singular god speaking through people via the prism of different cultures and that are why there is an explanation of many religions. There are also many religious people who justify their political and social views with logical arguments instead of relying on "because my religion said so". The message of this song doesn't apply to those people and only applies to people with a more intolerant approach to people with different beliefs.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Lyrics (Over)Analysis - Looking Back by Trung Doan

So this song Looking Back is a spiritual sequel to No Secrets which I wrote in detail on the previous blog post.

I was in a process of writing another broken hearted love song and then in the middle of that process. I thought to myself "this is stupid and retarded", "get over it" etc

So instead of another song about being broken hearted and miserable about lost love, it became an anthem for moving on and not looking back at past mistakes paralysed with regret. This song goes through the transformation process that the person goes through during the "moving on" process. Firstly, there is the abject depression that a person feels after a rejection/break up etc. Secondly, it's the realisation that the depression is counterproductive to getting the things you want in life. Thirdly, it's a feeling of euphoria and freedom that a person feels once the chains of depression has been broken and lastly, when the person looks back at their past, it's not with regret but a bit of nostalgia. The character has come in terms of past events and can reflect on them without getting overly emotional over it.

Out of all of the songs I've written, I'm proud of this one the most and I believe this song is the strongest song I have written especially from a lyrical stand point.

I believe I did something a bit unique in this song. Most broken hearted love songs focus on the emotions of depression. The few songs about moving on focus on that process. However I don't think there are many if not any songs that encompass the transformation between one point to the other and I believe this song is unique in that aspect. Of course, being original these days in rock/pop music means ripping of a song that you never heard before and I'm quite sure there is a song out there that covers this same topic but I'll settle for being original amongst the songs I have heard before.

I bump into you
One of many faces in my life
But you are not just any person where our paths collide

So the main character has bumped into a person he recognise (one of many faces in my life). However that person is obviously more special to him than any other person he has met before.

So this line sets up the story where the main character has bumped into an ex-lover or friend.

Also notice the melody during these lines. Whenever I sing that melody, the lyrics is usually just a description of what is going on in the song.

I used to have a purpose
I used to be alive
I used to feel the fire running through my heart
I used to have a passion
I used to have a goal
Now I'm binded by the chains of love

Meeting with this person has obviously had a drastic effect on the mood of the main character. The main character starts reflecting on how empty the person feels about his life. He is just listing off the emotions he used to feel but doesn't anymore because he is in love (and obviously the love is not returned).

Everytime I sing this melody line, the lyrics take on an introspective outlook where the main protagonist explores his emotions on what he is feeling right now.

(Ooh, I want to run, run away from you)

So the main character is feeling awkward talking to this person

You say hello
Only because it's polite
And then we talk
While your eyes keep fix at the time

So returning to the descriptive narrative, it turns out that the feelings that the main character had were one sided and that the only reason why the conversation is taking place is because it is polite and not because of any real desire to have the conversation.

I used to have a dream
I used to look forward
I'm walking through time while people speed ahead
What have I achieved?
All this time
I stayed still while nothing changes

This time when the person is reflecting, it is no longer with self pity but with a growing realisation that his depression is counterproductive. "I used to have a dream" may seem like continuing the self pity that was there during the first "I used to" section of the song, however the tone has changed. Whilst in the first section, the person is lamenting the lack of passion in his life. This time, the person is berating himself for letting things slide this far.

The rest of the band comes in and this signifies the awakening from the depression

Look at you now
You're living like you should oh

He looks at his ex-lover/friend and realised that she has moved on and asked himself why he hasn't moved on yet.

I throw away the photos
I throw away the keys
I close the door behind me leaving past memories
I loosen the chains
I try to break free
I feel my heart starts beating

So at this moment, the main character is throwing away the burdens of his past which is signifies by throwing away the photos and the keys.

In doing so, the main character feels alive for the first time in a very long time (feel my heart starts beating)

Is never looking back
I guess I'm never coming back

In the climax of the song, the main character feels a sense of freedom from his own chains that he has created for himself. He defines freedom as not looking back with regrets (I know freedom is a lot more than that but for someone who just feels liberated from their own depression, at that point of time, it feels like freedom equals exactly that). He also tells himself that now he is free from his own depression, he claims that he will never return back in that dark place again.

Maybe I could have done better in the past
Maybe I could have walked left instead of right
Maybe I'll keep on falling down
As long as I'm moving that's ok

The whole message here is that every person make mistakes and that they will continue on making mistake. However the difference is people's attitude toward their mistakes. Some people just strugged it off, learn from it and move on. Other people dwell on it and let the regret from that mistake consume them which leads the person paralyse to do anything useful for themselves.

Often in depression, people aren't just regretful about mistakes in the past, they also are worried that they will forever make mistakes and that they will never get better at that.

However, the character now realised that it doesn't matter that he made a mistake and recognised that he did stuff up in the past but now he accepts that. He recognised that he doesn't know everything and still always learning and that he will continue to make mistakes in the future but he will accept it as that is part of being human.

I say goodbye
You smiled as you walk away
I feel the chains
Slide away from my shoulders

So the main protagonist says goodbye to that person. However, he is not just saying goodbye literally but also goodbye in a sense that he is finally accepted that he is not in her life and that he is letting go.

In that process, the last remnants of that love that was enslaving him is gone

Was it just a dream?
Looking through the past
It all seem funny when you're on another path

This lyrics were inspired by a song called Shakespeare’s Sister by The Smith with the line "Oh, I can smile about it now, but at the time it was terrible" but with a focus on the smile rather than the terrible.

When you are looking back at past events that are long ago, you sometimes just laugh at your own foolishness and lack of perspective and think why it was such a big deal (and sometimes what did I see in her in the first place).

This time, the person looks back with a touch of nostalgia and a bit of humour. The character realises that part of freedom is not "never looking back" like he mention before but rather not looking back with regret.

Maybe when we meet
Another time
We'll look back and start to laugh

The song ends on a hopeful note that perhaps the other person will see things the same way and eventually both people can talk to each other without the baggage of the past hanging over them.


So that's Looking Back and I have to say that it's the strongest song I have written.

This song is not autobiographical even if the emotions in the song are absolutely real. This is because it's completely unrealistic to have a person meeting up with an ex-lover and then within that conversation have an epiphany and have a massive transformation from depression to a high self esteem and acceptance of themselves and past events. That story is completely made up even though the emotions of depression/euphoria/self acceptance etc are real

People don't change overnight and they change gradually over time and they have to contend with relapse as well.

Nevertheless, although this story isn't really applicable in real life if you interpret the story literally, it works well within the confines of the song where you have to tell a story in 4 minutes.

The story of the person meeting the ex-lover is far less importance than the introspection and the transformation that the main character undergoes and I feel that I nailed that emotion very well.

This song also answered a question that I ask myself during my own self doubt. Why would people listen to my music when they are better artist out there? I felt like I answered that question with this song.

Now people may say that shows some egotism from me but I really don't care. I’m proud of this song and I believe it can stand up to any other music written by anyone else in the world.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Bob Dylan Concert Review - Adelaide Entertainment Centre 19/04/11

1.  Gonna Change My Way Of Thinking
2.  SeƱor (Tales of Yankee Power)
3.  I'll Be Your Baby Tonight
4.  Beyond Here Lies Nothin'
5.  Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum
6.  Simple Twist Of Fate
7.  The Levee's Gonna Break
8.  A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall
9.  High Water (For Charley Patton)
10.  Tryin' To Get To Heaven
11.  Jolene
12.  Tangled Up In Blue
13.  Highway 61 Revisited
14.  Ballad Of A Thin Man
15.  Encore: Like A Rolling Stone
16.  All Along The Watchtower
17.  Forever Young

Bob Dylan is one of the legends of rock music. He along with The Beatles and The Rolling Stones defined 60's music and he is a cultural icon. He released great albums throughout his career and I was excited to see him here in to Adelaide and see the legend himself perform live.

However, the concert I saw was just downright bizarre.

I have to clarify my thoughts on Bob Dylan as a singer first before I go further with that statement.

In my opinion, Bob Dylan is not just a great songwriter but a great singer. I believe that one of things he showed the world is that you can be a great singer and emotionally move people even with an unconventional voice that sounds nothing like Elvis Presley. I believe it was Bob Dylan's influence that paved away for other singers with unconventional voices to be accepted to be great singers such as the likes of Ian Curtis, Thom Yorke, Eddie Vedder, Kurt Cobain, Billy Corgan etc.

So I reject all notions that Bob Dylan can't sing and I don't understand how people can listen to songs like The Times They Are a-Changin' and Blowin’ In The Wind and It's All Over Now, Baby Blue etc and don't recognise how good of a singer he is. However at this stage of his life and at his age, it's upsets me to say that Bob Dylan really can't sing.

It seems to me that time has paid a toll over Dylan's voice and it's now become shot and at this concert it became evident how much Dylan has lost his vocal power.

The fact of the matter is, he didn't sing this concert. He just spoke through the song. Every time the melody of the song changes dramatically or the melody goes high; Bob Dylan just speaks through it. During the anthemic "How Does It Feel" that should have initiated a crowd sing along (listen to the live cover by The Rolling Stones of this song. That initiated a bigger crowd singalong then when Bob Dylan actually performed it himself), Bob Dylan just spoke through it. This half-speaking voice went on for the entire concert. This is a big shame because Dylan also writes great melodies and we didn't get to hear them properly this concert.

His half speaking voice helps him project the gruff bluesman sound. Sort of imagine Tom Waits singing who is probably the gruffest bluesman and the most cigarette affected vocalist I have ever heard on CD and times that dodgy voice by hundred to get what his vocals was like in this concert

At times his dodgy voice was a positive as it gave the fast paced blues rock a mean edged to the songs. In fact, when he played Gonna Changed My Way Of Thinking from the born again Christian era of his career, it was a vast improvement over the original song. This was partly due to the quality of the backing band who gave the song an extra punch by stripping the way the 80's production that marred most records during that era but also due to Dylan voice whose gruffness really add to the song.

However, when he sang songs that actually are reliant on melody and actually requires some decent singing. The songs just fall apart. Listening to Dylan just speaking away to Tangled Up In Blues which is supposed to be a beautiful ballad was just embarrassing to listen to. The lowest point of the concert was when he sang A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall where this beautiful acoustic song was given a country music full band makeover and Dylan just spoke through the entire song and during the chorus didn't bother to sing the chorus which was supposed to be the focal point of the song. The performance pretty much relied on the audience to imagine the record in their head of a younger Dylan singing over it but even then that was difficult because the current Dylan wasn't singing/speaking in sync to what the song usually sound like. 

I came to the concert wishing that Dylan plays his classic songs such as Like A Rolling Stones, The Times They Are a-Changin', Blowin’ In The Wind, All Along The Watchtower, Mr. Tambourine Man etc. However halfway in the concert, I just wished he didn't touch his old stuff and just sing songs from his later albums as he was murdering the classic. It was the first time in a concert where I wish the artist didn't play their classic popular songs.

Of course it is to be expected that singers lose some of their vocal power with age and I wasn't expecting Dylan to sing like it was 1960. I listen to current day live performance of other 60's artist such as Paul McCartney and The Who and their vocals are far inferior to what they were during their peak as expected. However, they still sing and hit their notes even if they don't sound as good. However with Dylan, he didn't even bother singing it all. It was basically a spoken word concert with little sprinkles of singing in between the speaking

When listening to Dylan record from the 90's to the 00's, you can tell that Dylan lost some of his beauty in the voice and therefore he changed the style of music to suit his vocal. So he rebranded himself as a dark bluesman and sometimes a crooner and wrote songs accordingly which suit his aging voice to a tee. That's why his performance of songs from his last three album were fairly decent such as Jolene, High Water etc and it would have been a better thing if he stuck exclusive with those type of song. Of course they weren't as good as the records because in the records he was actually singing and not speaking but at least it was tolerable to listen to.

The most puzzling thing was that it was only two years ago with the Together Through Life album where Dylan was singing quite competently (he also sang fairly well in his Christmas album as well). It was the gruff bluesman feeling but he was still singing his melodies instead of just speaking through them like he is going through the motions. So either Dylan spent the last two years chronically smoking cigarettes until he wrecked his voice or Dylan can't sing in a live setting as he gets fatigue as the set goes or he actually deliberately "sang" like that during the concert for vocal effect without caring what the fans think about it (he is notorious for that). It would be fascinating to see what the next Dylan album will sound like and whether his voice still has it.

However if his voice is shot and irreparably gone then I feel that Bob Dylan should really retire. If he can't sing properly in a gig due to fatigue but can still pull a good performance in studio then he should stop his never-ending tour or at the very least charged less than $95 for the cheapest ticket to see him play live as I felt a bit short change from the performance. It was really uncomfortable to listen to and it was akin to watching a bad singer on Australian idol embarrassing them without realising it. I almost felt sorry for Dylan seeing him perform as a shadow of a singer than he used to be.

If Dylan is not retiring and he is choosing to continue to sing in that style, than I have a few songs to recommend him to perform that may suit his half-singing voice.

1. Subterranean Homesick Blues from Bringing It All Back Home
There are only two melodic notes in the entire song and they are all in a comfortable register for Bob to "sing". The fact that this song is considered a precursor to rap music, it would suit his semi singing vocal style to just have him going through all those lyrics quickly. I actually believe that this style of singing would actually improve the song and add a bit of punch and menace to the song. It's amazing that Bob no longer plays this song considering how much it suits his current vocal style now.

2. Tombstone Blues from Highway 61 Revisited
I recommended this song for the same reason as Subterranean Homesick Blues as it is a fast pace energetic blues song with minor melodic variation in a comfortable vocal range. Also this song is fairly monotone in its melody and therefore Dylan doesn't have to strain himself to reach these notes. If he decides to semi-speak it then it would still work due to the fast pace nature of the song.

3. Love Sick from Time Out Of Mind
 Although this is more of a blues ballad and have a greater emphasis on singing, Bob Dylan could have took the crooner approach (similar to Tom Waits in songs like Tom Traubert Blues) to this song. I'm surprised that Bob Dylan never took that approach in the entire concert as I felt that would have suited his crooked voice especially when he did a decent job of the crooner voice in his recent studio albums. Also the music in this song is just beautiful and the quality of the song is very much due to the atmosphere (especially the organ section) of the musicians. His backing band seems pretty competent and I believed that they could have pulled off this song quite well even with a barely functional lead singer.

4. Forgetful Heart from Together Through Life
Just for the same reason as Love Sick. This song is also reliant on atmosphere created by the musician (great guitar work) and this song would have also worked if Bob took the crooner angle in his singing. This is also a fairly simple song melodically and considering that this song was only two years old, you think that his voice hasn't deteriorated that much in that short span that he couldn't sing this song properly.

5. Things Have Changed from Wonderboy Soundtrack
Just to hear him barely singing this song, so when he sings/speaks "Things Have Changed" we really know that it has for Bob's voice.

I admit that I didn't do my research before hand and listen to any bootlegs of Dylan concerts in recent years and I'm quite sure some hardcore Dylan fans out there would tell me "what do you expect' or "Dylan being singing like this for many years, why didn't you know?” etc. I admit I'm not a hardcore Dylan fan to do stuff like that but I don't think it should be expected of me to do that and I don't think I was the only one who came in and was shocked by his singing.

In any case, I wouldn't go see Dylan play live ever again if he continues to sing like that (next time he tours Australia, I'll make sure I listen to some bootlegs of that tour beforehand) and I was overall disappointed with this gig.

Highlight of the Gig: Best Perform song was High Water (For Charley Patton). Other highlights was Gonna Change My Way Of Thinking and Senor (Tales Of Yankee Power)

Lowlight of the gig: Worst perform song was A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall. Other shockers were Simple Twist Of Fate, Tangled Up In Blues, Ballad Of The Thin Man, Like A Rolling Stone and All Along The Watchtower.

That's right all the classic popular songs he performed were awful.


I just want to say for those people who read my previous article where I claimed that Bob Dylan was overrated and that he was merely a good artist rather than a great artist

I just like to partly retract that statement. After I finally got into Blonde on Blonde, Highway 61 Revisited and Time Out Of Mind I have to accept that he is a great and brilliant artist (I have listen to these albums many times before without enjoying it but after a few repeated listen, the songs just suddenly clicked). Nevertheless I stand by comments that his music is repetitive and this does detract from the quality of the songs and that makes him slightly overrated. Sometimes the melodies and atmosphere of the song overcomes the song repetitiveness (it's just now with repeated listening where I start to recognise the atmosphere that I didn't hear before) but sometimes it doesn't and I still believe that is the key weakness of Bob Dylan as a songwriter.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Lyrics (Over)Analysis - No Secrets by Trung Doan

Previously, I wrote a detailed analysis of Losing My Religion by R.E.M. and wrote that it's my favourite song from a lyrical standpoint. That song had an impact on my songwriting and that lyrics and personal circumstances inspired me to write this song called No Secrets. Both these songs tell the same story and cover the same theme. Before people start accusing me of ripping off R.E.M., I’ll just say that these two songs may cover the same theme but they tell the same story in a completely different way.

Whilst Michael Stipe approach with Losing My Religion was to takes the indirect and subtle approach and covers the lyrics with obscure sayings such as "Losing My Religion" and he express his emotion using a fair amount of imagery. The structure of the song is more akin to a person letting off a stream of frustration at his own predicament rather than telling exactly what happen to him in sequence.

My approach in this song is to tell a direct structured story and go into detailed about what happen and how the character felt at each individual point of the story. This is essentially a baring the soul type song and is an example of a classic case of the singer-songwriter genre. Whether my approach is better or worse is dependent on your own personality and what you are looking for in lyrics. If you prefer subtlety and atmosphere in your lyrics, you probably like R.E.M approach to lyric writing and think this song is beating you over the head and is overbearing which I concede that sometimes I feel this way about the song as well.

However if you like the songs to have clarity and prefer a raw expression of emotions then perhaps this approach may be more suitable. I generally take the direct approach in lyric writing (even though I can appreciate both approaches) and I'm inspired by the likes of John Lennon who when responding to criticism of the song I Want You (She's So Heavy) of banal and unsubtle lyrics. He just responded that this song is an expression of raw emotions and by dressing up emotions with imagery, metaphors etc then you lose the essence of what you are feeling.

Perhaps this lyrical analysis is redundant for this song as there's absolutely no way a person can read the lyrics of this song and not get what I'm talking about. The meaning of this song is as clear as day. However I try to expand on some of the point I'm trying to make.

This song is about falling in love with someone who is a good friend who already has a boyfriend (which is incredibly stupid) and feeling very conflicted about how to handle it. The main character tried to keep the feelings as a secret but eventually the person of attraction works it out leading to emotional disaster for the main protagonist.

I see you everyday
I feel happy and free
Something inside wants something more

So these opening lyrics establish that the protagonist and the person of affection get along well but he wants more of the relationship as he is in love with her.

Should it feel like a sin?
That she's drawing me in
Already taken by someone else

So it's a reveal that the person of affection already has a boyfriend and he is feeling guilty about loving her.

My world is turning into her
And its spinning out of control

Often in love, you're entire perspective in life and the way you judge how good your day has been, revolves around the person of affection. Like all obsessions that dominate your life, you ended up losing any self control and discipline and ultimately it will become self destructive when taking this obsession to an extreme.

No, no don't you say don't you say don't you
Don't you say don't you say
How you never be never be never
Never be never be
No, no don't you say don't you say don't you
Don't you say don't you say
How you never be never be never
Never be anything more to me
This moment of the song, the main character goes on a PJ Harvey-esque rant (this time you can definitely accuse me of ripping off) almost begging and wishing that the affection the character have is return. It's obvious that the main character has gone quite mad during that rant.

You look at me and say
"You're such a good friend"
There's no secret except my thoughts for you

These lyrics confirm that the main character has been put in a "friend zone".

The next line "There's no secret except my thoughts for you" is probably my favourite line from the song as I named the song based on that line. Sometimes people feel like they are such good friends that they feel that no personal issues are too uncomfortable for them to talk to about. That they are willing to open up and tell everything about themselves to that person and vice versa. That you be yourself without being self conscious about it. However in cases like this, there's no secret between the two people except for the secret that really matter. That the only secret that the main character has that he can't tell her, is the secret that is bothering the main character the most which leads to obvious complication.

After all if you having problems in your life or something are bothering you, you often go to your best friend and talk about it. However when you're problem that is bothering you are the feeling that you have for the best friend then that makes things really awkward. The person who you usually confide in is the person where you can't actually talk to about.

And now that's eating me away
Do I settle or aim for more?
Now she seen a change in me

The awkwardness of that situation eats away at your own soul until eventually something has to give and eventually you will start giving more and more signs that she will eventually detect something. After all, if you have strong feelings for the person and in response of that feeling is to continue to talk to that person and get to know the person more and develop a closer friendly relationship with that person then that feeling will not go away and the feelings will only grow stronger. Really, once that line is cross, there will be no compromise, either the rare occasion where the person wins the heart of the girl or more commonly rejection and destruction of the friendship.

You can't settle for friendship once you reach that point and so the whole question of whether settling for friendship or aiming for lover status is really almost a rhetorical question because there is an inevitability that the answer to that question is neither.

Well it’s the dream I learn to hide
If we met before
Another time, another place
Would life be so different?
Different my oh my

I never really believed in the whole concepts of "the one true love". I liked to believe that there are many people in the world who are compatible but it's just circumstances and a bit of luck that they get together. So often when you reach the situation where it is obvious the relationship is not going to happen (especially if you got along well with them), you end up self-torturing yourself by wondering whether in a hypothetical parallel universe where you meet each other under different circumstances or if you made different choices that perhaps the relationship would have work and then curse your own luck for being in this universe. A very unproductive thought process I must say but when you are in this emotional state, logic has nothing to do with your behaviour.

Woo hoo baby
Must I hide?, Must I hide from you
I can't hide, I can't hide anymore

The main character finally admits that his feelings can't be hidden anymore and perhaps he doesn't want to hide it anymore. There's only so much a person can take holding that type of emotion in as a secret.

I see my hope from above
I grab her hand that's pulling me out
Pulling me out

Often with people who have poor social skills who don't really get along with people that readily, simple and small things that are considered a simple part of everyday life for most people; are considered moments to cherish for people who don't really have that much experience talking to people and are shy. These small things could mean a simple conversation, that person laughing at your jokes, that person saying thank you to you, that person being interest in what you are saying and that person opening up to you and telling you about their problems. To most people that is just normal behaviour or at least normal behaviour for a simply friendly relationship. However for people who are normally shy and anti-social, those things are extraordinary events, moments to be cherish and remember for the rest of their life.

The person who they like ceased to be a normal person from their perspective, they become their saviour and a person to lift them and save them from their own loneliness and low self-esteem. They become more like angels and gods (which is ultimately a wrong attitude to have) rather than just another human being.

The line above reflects the feeling that the main character sees the person he loves as a saviour that is rescuing him and pulling him out of loneliness.

My emotions reaching the surface
She's reading me now
Seeing through me now
Reading me now

So now the feelings the main character has is so obvious and so transparent that the person of attraction has finally realised the true feeling that he has.

You view our past from a different light
You know the truth
That's tearing me apart
Tearing me apart

Now the girl knows the truth. Suddenly she views all the past behaviour from the main character differently. So all the time when the main character did nice things to her, she used to see it as just a person being a good friend. Now those memories of those events are now tainted because she knows the truth.  

Stripping the armour
Leaving me bare
Can you look at me now?
Will you look at me now?
Look at me now

Now that all the secrets are out leaving the main character emotion laid bare to her. He is wondering whether she can ever look at him the same way again. Can they still be friends after knowing this?

The answer is of course no, the last line “look at me now” is intended as the final cry for the person of his affection to talk to him again. Of course the sad music in the background symbolises that he is not going to get what he wants.

So that is my song and it’s a standard baring your soul type of lyrics that is associated with the singer-songwriter genre of music. The only way I could make it more emotional if I copied PJ Harvey by screaming in anguish or emulate Bright Eyes and actually cry in the middle of the song. However that’s too extreme even for me.

I’m in two minds about this song. On one hand I think this song perfectly articulate the emotions that a person would go through in that situation. On the other hand I just want to slap that character in the face and say “be a man and get over it and stop being a god damn pussy” and that the character problems are so small and significant to talk about and for people to care about.  The fact that this song is actually autobiographical and that I’m pretty much pass that period probably makes me feel a bit more embarrass about the lyrical content of that song even if it perfectly captures that moment in my life.

Normally when people ask whether my songs are autobiographical, I usually say the emotions are real but the stories aren’t. Which means that the emotions the character are expressing are emotions that I have felt in my life before but the details of the stories told in my songs never happen to me before and it’s a case of me acting.  However in this case, this is all personal and I have a hard time reading the lyrics even today as it stirs up past emotions.

In any case, a couple of years after this song was written I was still writing broken hearted love songs and in the process of writing one. I was thinking, man this is retarded; it’s time to move on. That song changed and became Looking Back which is a sequel of this song. It basically starts where this song was left off where the character is in an extreme depressive state pining over lost love but by the end of the song there is a happy ending where the character finally manages to come to grips with the failed relationship attempt and manage to move on.

However that’s for another Lyrical (Over)Analysis. Stay tuned for the sequel.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Lyrics (Over)Analysis - Losing My Religion by R.E.M.

Losing My Religion is one of the greatest unrequited love song of all time and this song contains my favourite lyrics ever written as it's a theme that I have related to a lot. I sometimes get dishearten with my songwriting thinking about this song, wondering why bother writing music when other people can express your own feeling better than you can yourself.

Although people tend to associate the song with religion due to the title and the religious themed video clip (it's funny that Michael Stipe always corrects people that this song isn't about religion and yet he was involved in a video clip that spread that illusion to so many people).

The phrase "losing my religion" is actually a saying from the southern region of the United States which is a variation of "to be at your wit's end" as if things are so bad that you could ended up losing your faith in a god. In this song, that line in this context is about the main character loses faith in the person he loves because it is not returned rather than a literal losing faith in religion itself.

So this song is about the main character falling in love with another  person and being conflicted whether to reveal his feelings or keep it a secret. In the end he reveals his feelings (or his lover worked it out) and it ended up as tragedy for the main character.

If you want official confirmation, Michael Stipe told Q Magazine that Losing My Religion is about "someone who pines for someone else. It's unrequited love"

Oh, life is bigger
It's bigger than you
And you are not me

A lot of times when we have people pining over love, we end up having people telling them that it's just a girl (or guy) and that there are more things in life than that.

In this song, the main character is acutely aware that there is more to life than the object of affection. However, the knowledge of that logic doesn’t change the feelings that he has and he tells people that they are not him and they don't understand how he feels.

The lengths that I will go to
The distance in your eyes
Oh no, I've said too much
I set it up

Often in this one-sided love, the person goes to extreme lengths to just talk to the person or be in their company and often "set up" chance meeting (This song was inspired by Every Breath You Take by The Police and Michael Stipe deliberately put a creepy obsessive vibe to the song). Despite all the attempts to be with the person, the main character only see distance in the eyes of his person of affection.

Also, the main character is scared that the person he loves has discovered his true feeling and suspected that he had said too much.

That's me in the corner
That's me in the spotlight, I'm
Losing my religion

So the main protagonist is losing his religion and feels completely helpless about his love for that person. When his love for that person is discovered, he will feel trapped in a corner and his feelings will be open to bare for that person to see (and hence his feelings are in the spotlight).

Trying to keep up with you
And I don't know if I can do it
Oh no, I've said too much
I haven't said enough

He lost his religion as he can't find a way to get through with his lover (trying to keep up with you) and has self-doubt whether he could ever get through with his lover.

He's afraid that he may have said too much and that he has revealed his feelings that may cause his lover to stay away from him and perhaps at the same time, he's afraid that he has said too little in convincing his lover to be with him. 

I thought that I heard you laughing
I thought that I heard you sing
I think I thought I saw you try

This is the chorus of the song (despite Michael Stipe claiming that this song has no chorus) and it's about how when you are in love. You believe that you see signs from that person and perhaps your love is return. So you thought you saw the person laughing at your jokes with affection, you thought that you saw the person trying to make it work with you.

Every whisper
Of every waking hour I'm
Choosing my confessions
Trying to keep an eye on you
Like a hurt lost and blinded fool, fool
Oh no, I've said too much
I set it up

It's common for people who are in this emotional state to fantasise in their head every waking hour of confessing their feelings to the person they love (and have that love return). It's this fantasy that people indulge themselves often but for the most part they will never have the nerve to directly reveal it.

However, the main protagonist is quite aware that this is a pretty foolish thing to do.

Consider this
Consider this
The hint of the century
Consider this
The slip that brought me
To my knees failed
What if all these fantasies
Come flailing around
Now I've said too much

So the main protagonist gave away one hint too many and now his lover knows how he truly felt about him/her. This "slip" of insight to his feelings led to an obvious rejection and that rejection bought him to his knees.

His fantasies that he has were out of his control and now he has said too much about himself to his lover.

I thought that I heard you laughing
I thought that I heard you sing
I think I thought I saw you try
But that was just a dream
That was just a dream

The chorus repeated itself but this time the main character now realise that his hope for his love to be return was all just a dream and any signs he thought he saw was a case of him projecting his fantasy onto him/her.

(repeat chorus)

But that was just a dream
Try, cry, why try?
That was just a dream
Just a dream, just a dream

After some repetition of earlier lyrics, the main character laments that any hope he had of a successful relationship was just a dream. He is thinking why he bothered to even try in the first place.

In a sad outro, the main character just repeated it was just a fantasy he had and perhaps trying to convince himself that the whole embarrassment of rejection was "just a dream" as well.

So that’s my interpretation of Losing My Religion which is my favourite song from a lyrical stand point.