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.

Lyrics (Over)Analysis – Time is Running Out by Muse

My opinion with lyrics is that the interpretation of lyrics by the listener is just as important as the interpretation of lyrics by the songwriter itself. I said this in a previous analysis of songs but this will be the first time that point will be really relevant.

My interpretation of this song is that it is an anti-abortion song from the prospective of the foetus. Now you may go on and tell me that Matt Bellamy said that this song is about relationship break down or whatever other meanings that he has conjured up. However my reply is that I know the meaning of Matt Bellamy songs more than he does :)

(By the way, don’t try to extrapolate my personal opinion on abortion by these interpretation. My interpretation of the lyrics of the song is completely irrelevant to my personal opinion about abortion.)

So let’s start with the lyrics.

I think I'm drowning
I wanna break this spell
that you've created

So the starts sets up that this foetus is about to die. He is drowning and is running out of air. This is because the foetus is about to be aborted. The foetus wants to break the maternal bonds (I wanna break this spell) between mother and child. The mother is going to abort the foetus and the foetus doesn’t want to have this love for the mother due to the betrayal.

you're something beautiful
a contradiction

However the foetus still believes that the mother is beautiful but recognises the contradiction of that. The mother is going to kill the foetus but the foetus still loves the mother because you can't break the spell.

I wanna play the game
I want the friction

The foetus now saying he wants to play the game of life. The foetus wants any problems and conflict that comes with that life (friction). This is responding to points by pro-choice groups that abortion should be ok to avoid the social problems of having a pregnancy in undesirable social situations.

you will be the death of me
you will be the death of me

This is self evident that the mother will be the death of the foetus.

bury it
I won't let you bury it
I won't let you smother it
I won't let you murder it

Again, this is also about how the mother will be the death of the foetus. However I do like the language being used such as “smother” which paints a picture of mother smothering their baby to death. The foetus obviously believes that is the same moral equivalence as aborting a foetus. Also “won’t let you bury it” can also means that the foetus won’t let the mother forget what she has done. She can’t bury her sins and say that she didn’t really kill anyone.

our time is running out
our time is running out
you can't push it underground
you can't stop it screaming out

The line saying that the foetus time together with mother is running out. This is followed by the similar theme that you can’t just try to rationalise it away that this isn’t really murder or isn’t really killing, that you can’t stop the foetus screaming out. Although the foetus doesn’t literally scream out, it is a metaphorical way of saying that this is a living life that feels pain you are killing.

I wanted freedom
bound and restricted
I tried to give you up
but I'm addicted

This is a bit of repetition from the first verse. The foetus wants to live life but is helpless about its situation as it is bound and restricted inside the womb. The foetus has no choice in the matter. The foetus can’t simply break the dependency between the foetus and the mother because the foetus is reliant on the mother to survive.

now that you know I'm trapped sense of elation
you'd never dream of
breaking this fixation

The foetus is now saying that the mother knows that the foetus is trap and is under her mercy. She feels elated about having this control over reproduction.
However she will never break the bonds between mother and child.

I’m going to skip the next couple of section because there are repetition and I’ll just go to the last section of the song.

you will suck the life out of me

One of the methods of abortion is to literally suck the foetus out of the womb using the manual vacuum aspiration or electric vacuum aspiration technique.

That line refers to that technique.

bury it
I won't let you bury it
I won't let you smother it
I won't let you murder it

our time is running out
our time is running out
you can't push it underground
you can't stop it screaming out
how did it come to this?

The song finishes off repeating the chorus. The chorus deals with the theme that the mother can’t hide that this is murder. The foetus is telling the mother that you can rationalise it away but you can never hide away from it. Also that the mother can never deny and break the maternal connection between mother and child because it is part of who we are (there is evidence that there are hormonal connection between mother and child). This can lead to issues such as post-abortion syndrome where the mother who believes that abortion is murder is killing a life end up feeling depress and guilty about their actions.

The song ends off with the line that “how did it come to this”
This is the foetus saying that they never done anything to the mother. The foetus is asking how the relationship between the mother and the foetus did broke down to the extent that the mother wants to abort the foetus. The foetus is confused by the mother’s behaviour and points out the pointlessness of it.

So that’s my interpretation of the song. Matt Bellamy wrote a brilliant and creative anti-abortion song (who would have thought of writing an abortion song from the prospective of the foetus. That's just awesomely creative)  without even realising it.

Lyrics (Over)Analysis – One by U2

This song by U2 is one of the most popular songs ever written. It’s also the type of song that you will hear in weddings that you dedicate to your love ones as well as the type of songs where people hold candlelight while large numbers of crowd sing along to.

The reason is because of the lyrics of “one love, one life, one need, sisters, brothers, we got to carry each other”. Those lines there seems to paint a picture of a united humanity where everyone is holding hands, singing together about how different races and different culture are all “One” and how they are all human and we should be living together in world peace etc. Well that is part of the message of the song but not the only message.

It kind of show the phenomenon in music that when people focus on lyrics, they concentrate on the punch line, the chorus and what they perceive that line to mean instead of looking at the entire lyrics. I’m quite sure if people really knew what this song was about, whether people would actually play these songs at wedding. It’s similar to how people do love song dedication for The One I Love by REM even though that song is also quite nasty (about seeing the person you love as an object and a commodity).

This song has two meanings. The first meaning is that this song is about a relationship breakdown. However the second interpretation which I’ll be focusing on is that this song is a gay rights song which U2 has encouraged that interpretation. It is probably one of the angriest and spiteful songs I have ever heard and it’s strange when people really romanticised the optimism in this song. Bono has said in the past that when people told him that they played this song at their wedding, Bono responded “Have you even look at what the lyrics is”.

This song is about a person who has AIDs being discriminated and disowned by their parents because of their sexuality. Bono was quoted as saying that he knew many family who did unchristian like behaviour to their children when they find out they were gay and this song was about that. If you want a clue, just look at one of their video clips above where you see the band cross dressing and it also contains artworks from a gay rights activist. Some of the money made from this single release went to an AIDs group.

Considering that Bono has a large Christian following covering a wide political spectrum (U2 unlike most alternative/rock bands are not predominantly left wing liberals. I remember hearing about the uncomfortable reaction from the audience when Bono made a speech about how David Hicks should have been released. This shows that the demographic of a U2 fan is quite diverse with different political/religious views), I’m not too sure whether people would actually still sing along to this song so readily if they knew what this song was about. It doesn’t help that U2 push on the myth that this song is solely about some pro-peace, promoting unity and harmony between different cultures.

Now I’ll analyse the lyrics. Although the previous commentary is reflective of U2’s opinion on what the song is. The following analysis is my interpretation and mine only. If it is different to what Bono thinks, well my belief is that with lyrics, your own interpretation is just as important as the song writer’s interpretation.

Is it getting better
Or do you feel the same

The lyrics start off with the Bono’s character talking to his father about whether he is more accepting of his sexuality. Bono’s character is asking whether his father is more accepting about his homosexuality or whether he still holds resentment about his lifestyle choices.

Will it make it easier on you now
You got someone to blame

I interpret this as because the character has AIDs. His father can finally “win” the argument against his lifestyle choices. That he has AIDs make it easier for his father to blame him on his choices in life.

You say...
One love
One life
When it's one need
In the night
One love
We get to share it
Leaves you baby if you
Don't care for it

I interpret the first chorus as his father telling the son, there’s only one type of love, one type of life you must follow (heterosexual lifestyle), there’s only one need. These are the values we must share and that he abandon his son because his son didn’t share those values.

Did I disappoint you
Or leave a bad taste in your mouth
You act like you never had love
And you want me to go without

These lyrics document the bad blood between father and son. That he disappointed his father, that his homosexuality left his father a bad taste in his mouth. He’s saying that his father to not want him to be a homosexual is asking him to live life without love.

Well it's...
Too late
To drag the past out into the light
We're one, but we're not the same
We get to
Carry each other
Carry each other

At this point of the song, his saying it’s too late to drag out past decisions that he has already made. He has already has AIDs, there’s no point debating about the mistakes his done in the past (and whether his choices were mistakes). No point to keep on arguing about it.

This also features one of the best lyrical line of all time “We’re one but we’re not the same”. It’s brilliant as it says we are all human but we are all different. Therefore we all have to accept people different and help (or carry) each other despite the differences.

Have you come here for forgiveness
Have you come to raise the dead
Have you come here to play Jesus
To the lepers in your head

I interpret this as the father although is now forgiving of his son. However, the resentment from Bono’s character voice is that he hasn’t done anything wrong for his father to forgive him and accusing him of playing Jesus and trying to cure him (and perhaps his father own guilt).

Did I ask too much
More than a lot
You gave me nothing
Now it's all I got
We're one
But we're not the same
Well we
Hurt each other
Then we do it again

The character is asking whether he was asking too much from his father. Whether him being accepted for being gay was “too much and more than a lot” which made him receive no love from his father. That because he is not the same as his father in terms of sexuality, they end up hurting each other.

You say
Love is a temple
Love a higher law
Love is a temple
Love the higher law
You ask me to enter
But then you make me crawl
And I can't be holding on
To what you got
When all you got is hurt

This is where the character is now accusing his father of being a hypocrite. That he believes in the bible and he believes in love but he is treating people subhuman due to their sexuality. That he believes in love but can’t accept the kind of love his son is having. That he has to enter the temple and accept his version of religion on his knees and not on his feet. To me that’s the most powerful part of the song. The characters is pretty much saying “You believe that love is a temple and love is a higher law, but then why do you make me crawl, why do you make me feel insignificant.”

One love
One blood
One life
You got to do what you should
One life
With each other
One life
But we're not the same
We get to
Carry each other
Carry each other

This is the final chorus and although the first chorus and the last chorus both had “one love, one life” etc, the message here is opposite to the first chorus (which was brilliant lyric writing by Bono). Instead of his father lecturing about “One Love”, here the characters starts saying a message promoting diversity. This is where the song sound likes the type of celebration of humanity that people normally associated with the song. That every human of different backgrounds are “One”. Bono has said that one of the things he hates was how religious groups and other groups talk about how humanity are one and are all the same. He hated that idea and that’s why he also added “One life but we’re not the same”. That it’s true that every human being is “One” but the only way human can become one and be unified is for people to accept people are different and to treat every people who are different as “one” and as a human being. That we must carry each other and treat people equally despite any disagreements or differences you may have.

Bono summarise it perfectly here “It is a song about coming together, but it’s not the old hippie idea of ‘Let’s all live together.’ It is, in fact, the opposite. It’s saying, ‘We are one, but we’re not the same.’ It’s not saying we even want to get along, but that we have to get along together in this world if it is to survive. It’s a reminder that we have no choice.”

So that’s my analysis of the lyrics of this song. Although I’m a big fan of U2, I have never been a huge fan of Bono as a lyricist especially during the 80s (with the exception of Sunday Bloody Sunday). I always thought that Bono’s lyrics were always way too general and too much imagery and was focus in creating an atmosphere rather than talking about an issue directly. In the end, most U2 songs could have been about anything because they lack any logical progression. A lot of times people just know that any particular U2 song is about one particular issue that they support but when you actually read the lyrics you ended up asking how on earth the song is about that. Even Bono himself admitted his lyrics in the 80’s were substandard but partly justified it as saying that the message was more important in how he got the message across. That even if his lyrics didn’t express his views in a clever way, it was ok because the message he got out was positive.

However with “One”, Bono has hit the mark delivering both in spades. He wrote a great story with a clear message that felt more focus but with room for interpretation (considering that majority of people probably didn’t connect this song as a gay rights song). It was brilliant song writing and I believe this song was a landmark song in Bono’s lyrical development. Although I think recent U2 is not as good as old U2 in terms of music, I do think that Bono is a better lyricist then he was in the 80’s and this song was his first progression there. The contrast between the final chorus and the first chorus was brilliant writing.

However despite all the praise, I’m still a bit bemused by the overwhelming popularity of the song and how people seem to think this is a romantic song. To me, this is a very dark and angry song with a light at the end of the tunnel but people seems to view this song as a celebration of humanity. In a way they are right with the final chorus but I don’t think you can just take a particular section of a song and look at it in isolation. I just think people just look at the line “One Love” and automatically go holding hands with the nearest human being and then ignore everything else that was said in this song. Even if you don't accept my gay rights interpretation (there are others such as relationship breakdown). Just a casual look at the lyrics shows that it has a pretty dark and angry tone to it that people tend to overlook

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Lyrics (Over)Analysis - This Charming Man By The Smiths

This time I am analysing the lyrics of The Smiths which is a band that has my favourite lyricist in Morrissey. The song I'm analysing is This Charming Man where you can hear the song above.

Just remember that when I'm interpreting lyrics from songs not written by me, I'm not saying my interpretation are an objective truth or that my interpretation matches the lyricist himself. This is just how I choose to perceived the lyrics to be about. I'm quite sure that Morrissey probably has different opinion on what the song is about.

I interpret that this song is about a homosexual man who is confused over his own identity and then met "this charming man" who helped him become comfortable with it.

I believe this song has beautiful and funny lyrics

A punctured bicycle
On a hillside desolate
Will nature make a man of me yet ?

I interpret that the punctured bicycle on a hillside desolate implies that the main protagonist feels lost and isolated.

When he cursed nature to make a man of him, he is implying that his feeling of lost and isolation is due to his homosexuality and he is blaming nature for making him that and wished that nature turn him into a normal straight man.

When in this charming car
This charming man

However he sees a charming man drives in like a knight in shiny armour to save the day

Why pamper life's complexity
When the leather runs smooth
On the passenger seat ?

Maybe this interpretation reveals more about my sick mind then the song itself. However I see it as a humorous comment that means, why worry about life's complex problem (why pamper life's complexity) when you can have sex on the smooth passenger seat of a luxury car. I admit that this interpretation would have made more sense if he wrote "When the leather runs smooth on the BACK seat" which is the seat more associated with that act. However this is my interpretation and it makes me laugh when I hear that line even if it may not be the true meaning. 

I would go out tonight
But I haven't got a stitch to wear
This man said "It's gruesome that someone so handsome should care"

This is probably my favourite line of the song. The protagonist was worried about going out when he hasn't got any decent clothes to wear and is self conscious about his appearance (if we follow this song from Hand In Glove, the protagonist is probably dressed in rags as well).

However the charming man reassures him that he is too handsome to care about the clothes he wear.
From personal experience, I have met certain girls who put so much effort on the type of clothes they wear and get so anxious about their appearance when it seems like they would look good wearing anything even if they were dressed in rags (That's an interesting line to used "It's gruesome that someone so pretty should care"). So this line has always resonated with me and it's a beautiful line.

A jumped up pantry boy
Who never knew his place

This was actually a quote from a movie called "Sleuth" that was used when a wealthy class man described a poorer person derogatively who was disobeying him by saying he just a pantry boy (which is the lowest of house servant) who is behaving outside his own social status and class. So it does establish that the protagonist is just a poor boy (albeit a rebellious one). Although originally the quote "who never knew his place" was originally meant that the person didn't know their social status. In the context of this song, this means that the main character did not know his place with his own sexuality.

He said "return the ring"
He knows so much about these things
He knows so much about these things

The charming man than tells the protogonist to return the ring. Marriage is an exclusive domain of heterosexuality in most parts of the world and I believe this line symbolises the charming man telling him to reject heterosexuality and be comfortable with himself. The main protagonist admires the charming man for knowing so much about this issue.

So that's my opinion on what "This Charming Man" by The Smiths was about. Feel free to offer your own interpretations.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Lyrics (Over)Analysis - Devil's Music by Trung Doan

Play the youtube video to listen to the song Devil's Music

One of the more intriguing things about rock music, was how radical and dangerous it was perceived to be by some of the more conservative elements at that time.  Rock music was referred to as the "devil's music". From Elvis Presley who’s dancing was considered so risque that they have to censor his dancing to protect the public from being corrupted by his performance when he was shaking his arse to the controversy of The Rolling Stones who were accused of being devil's worshippers due to the song Sympathy For The Devil even if the song certainly didn't support satanism. Black Sabbath who despite writing lyrics that was against satan were routinely criticised for promoting satanism as well.

So for this song that I've written, I'm a telling a cautionary tale about the dangers of rock music influencing the youth. I sort of imagine that there was a scare campaign film illustrating the dangers of rock and roll by telling a story where a youth was listening to rock music which influences the person to go and cause chaos and then ended up being jailed for their crimes. This song is told from the perspective of the corrupted youth

It's quiet now
I'm never there
Trapped in four walls

The lyrics supposed to implicate that the main character is a naive person who has been shielded by society (assuming from their parents) and had a quiet life. The trapped in four walls was meant to be metaphorical in a sense that their minds is trapped in four walls as they haven't seen the world outside their narrow view.

You took me away and showed me a place where I never been before
I'm alive

Who is "you"?
"You" in the context of the song is the personification of rock music
By listening to the rock song, the person was seduced by the music and it felt like it open the character's mind to a different place and different world and the character felt alive from the experience. I personalised rock music to make it appear that it’s like a person seducing people to the evils of the world aka the devil.

Of course, there's no indication at this point that "you" is rock music but this will be revealed later on.

Slowly turning moving away from past life
Slowly turning moving in your sight
Boredom gone now, unlocking a part of my mind
For better or worse now see the "new me" arrive

This passage of lyrics goes through the transformation in the mind of the main character. The protagonist is no longer naive and is discovering the world around him and the person feels electrified about the discovery of rock music. This has changed his personality but he doesn't know whether it is good or bad.

Move away there's no control
Move away there's no control
Move away there's no control
In the name of fun

However it turns out that rock music made the protagonist lose all sense of inhibition and he ended up losing control over himself.  The main character is causing chaos but the person is not creating chaos out of any ideal or politics etc. They are just doing it because it is "fun". That's what the perception of rock music was in the past where it encourages people to have fun damning all the consequences that resulted from it. Rock music is quite connected to the hedonistic lifestyle.

We’re crazy kids, too much time in our hands
We’re crazy kids leaving a wake of death

So rock music ended up inspiring kids who had too much time and were bored with their lives to become chaotic that ended up leaving a wake of death (you got to ratch up the drama when you are making a scare campaign).

We're crazy kids don't tell us what to do
And watch us self-destruct

This line was inspired by The Living End song called Prisoners Of Society which I generally dislike as it romanticised youth rebellion. It had the line "We don't need no one like you, to tell us what to do"

This line is a bit of response to that by saying that if people don't tell youths what to do then their lack of discipline (plus the influence of rock music) will caused them to self destruct.

Oh no
Look what you've done now
You let the monster out
Will I be boring again?

The main character is starting to feel a bit self-conscious about the chaos he is creating. He realised that the rock music has unleashed the monster inside him and he starts to wonder whether he will ever return back to his boring old self again.

Move away there's no control
Move away there's no control
Move away there's no control
In the name of fun

We’re crazy kids, running amok
We're crazy kids, who put the devil in us?
We're crazy kids, watch us self-destruct
I guess that's rock and roll

The question is asked who put the devil in the kids that made them lose control and self destruct. It's finally revealed that the culprit was rock music itself.

It's quiet now
They locked me away
Trapped in four walls
They took me away and show me a place where I never been before
That's life

Now the main character is locked away in prison where it's quiet. The "trapped in four walls" which was metaphorical at the beginning is now literal. At the beginning of the song, rock music took the character in a place where he never been before, but that place was meant to symbolise a mental state that the character has never felt. Now it says that rock music has taken the person to prison which the character has never been before.

Slowly turning moving nowhere for now
Slowly turning keeping me away from you
Boredom back now, wishing it never left before
For better or worse now see the “new me” arrive

The person realised that he is stuck in prison and now wished that the boring old self never left him. The character realised that being boring (rock fans often tell people who find rock music to be childish to be "boring") isn't so bad as being boring may just mean being stable.

The song should end at this point with the main protagonist learning his lesson. However the main character hears rock music in the background and returns back to his chaotic ways as the "Move Away There's No Control" section repeats itself.

It turns out the "new me" wasn't a return back to his boring self but actually a return back to his chaotic self after a moment of self doubt. That ends the song as the message of this anti-rock music propaganda is that the influence of rock music is permanent and that there is no redemption from the corruption of it. That's why rock music has to be something that is stopped.


In any case, I'm not too sure whether this song is a satire of the sensationalistic reaction to rock music being the devil's music or whether this is a cautionary conservative tale warning parents about what happen to kids who aren't discipline properly when they have too much spare time on their hands. It may works on both levels in a sort of absurd way.

If I have any criticism about the lyrics of this song, that perhaps the lyrics were too vague for people to realise that the song was about rock music. I generally like lyrics to be direct and straight to the point and this song breaks my own rule by disguising the meaning of the song. Even when I reveal rock music as the cause of the problem with the line "I guess that’s rock and roll", I'm not too sure if people can connect that line to the rest of the song without me telling people the meaning behind it. I always felt that people should be able to work out the meaning of the song by studying the lyrics without external sources explaining the true meaning to them. I'm not sure whether I have accomplished that with this song.

It's also questionable that people will realise that the song is satire because I sing this song with an absolute straight face and that there is a very dramatic music in the background. The whole purpose of this is that I'm pretending that if an anti-rock music propaganda film really does exist, there will be an actor playing the character who is self-destructing due to the influence of rock music and that actor will play it straight. Therefore I have to play the character straight as well and pretend that this is serious drama. I'm not too sure if that approach works in the music medium like it does with the film medium.

Although violence was one of the concerns of the dangers of rock music (especially during the riots during the 60's and songs like Street Fighting Man by The Rolling Stones), majority of the conservative concerns about rock music was that it was advocating drug used as well as sexual debauchery. This song doesn't address that at all which impairs any satirical impact the song is making. Also how relevant is the satire when it's satiring a mindset that was common decades ago and is kind of resolved now? Maybe the song would have worked in the 60's but perhaps people can argue that the lyrics is irrelevant now.

I'm not too sure how I would fix that and for now I'll leave the lyrics of this song at its current state.

In any case, even though people may not get the connection to rock music. The song works without the connection. If people didn't get the song to be about rock music, people will just interpret that a person came and influence the naive protagonist down the dark path which caused the main character to descend into chaos until that character became imprisoned. So I don't think that's a big problem.

Despite the criticism I have with the lyrics, I'm still fairly happy with the lyrics I wrote as it was a step up to what I was writing at that time.

Anyway, that conclude my lyrical overanalysis and I welcome any feedback on the lyrics, song and analysis.