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.

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