A wonderful point (and a hard habit to kick as a writer too) in a wonderful post about a wonderful single.
Time for another cup of coffee.
I think there is a distinction between “about” and about, meaning understanding the basic plot of a song, or what’s going on in it. Far more often than running into people ascribing too MUCH meaning to the actual content of lyrics of a song, I find people not paying ANY attention to the content of lyrics, which most often serves as a tool of dismissal. It’s how someone might call Ashlee Simpson “trashy,” or miss the nuance in Rihanna’s “Te Amo” by assuming it errs on the side of homophobia, or miss any number of complicated things happening in a song.
To acknowledge a song’s directness, you still have to acknowledge what’s actually going ON in it, and I think this, more than the temptation to generalize, does more to prevent good music criticism (especially about pop music). Essentially, we assume that the song is telling us whatever we go in expecting it to tell us, and we don’t allow ourselves to be surprised when it doesn’t at all tell us what we might be expecting.
EDIT: The best recent example I can think of, actually, is Lily Allen’s “Not Fair,” where a simple misunderstanding of the plot leads to all kinds of absurd statements of “about” in this Singles Jukebox entry. Read the comment thread where we address these issues (I had misinterpreted it, even though I was being charitable, and it was interesting how the misinterpretation seemed to split down gender lines).
I think there’s a zone of “not taken seriously” where you don’t bother listening, and then when you leave that zone you can overshoot into wild generalisation, overpraise, blah blah blah. (I think we’re talking a bit about the same thing re. “Not Fair”)
Well, furthermore, I think both issues boil down to similar impulses, which is really just missing the mark by projecting what you WANT the song to be about onto what the song MIGHT be about. The gray area is “reasonable interpretation,” and reasonable interpretations can encompass some totally batshit things! Because tons of songs are totally batshit. But yes, assuming that “this woman” is “all women” is often another way of ignoring what’s actually going on — is Madonna telling a story? If so, why isn’t this just a character in her story, as opposed to an easy stand-in for “social issue” (some protagonists ARE easy stand-ins — but you still have to explain why you’re getting that from the song and not from your ass).
This is one reason a lot of people misinterpret Ashlee Simpson — they think they know her, but what others tell them isn’t true. Whatever weird shit flies around about her outside of her music just doesn’t stick to the very well-crafted character in her songs, “Ashlee,” who is really a composite of her and her songwriters. And to misunderstand the character Ashlee is to misunderstand what her songs are about or “about.”
This one is SRS BSNS about pop music. Ashlee Simpson makes several appearances.
WHO NEEDS OWL CITY?
Who needs any number of things, really. I mean, fuck Wii. I’m gonna go get my N64 from my parents’ house, and spend the rest of my life playing Wave Race and the South Park game.
One of my favorite mixtapes of the year was a series of mash-ups by Team Teamwork that used The Lengend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time as source material. (Some Tumblr, I think it was trstn, linked it originally…)
(PS, I used to be terrible at Wave Race.)
While my infant son is sleeping I’m going to reblog a bunch of posts that come up when I hit the “Random Post” button on my side bar. I need to reiterate that I was terrible at Wave Race.
EDIT: Here’s a working link for the Wave Race 64 soundtrack.
What even WAS this dude? Eeyore meets Grimace under the carpet in my old family room? (I was afraid of Grimace, too. HIS NAME WAS GRIMACE.)
I wonder what it would be like to be a banana plant? You know, if I was a banana plant, I’d have to stand in one place all the time, and my skin would be really tough, and…and the hot sun would beat down on me, and…and I’d get tired…and hot…and lonely…and…
The Chewing magazine thread of Calvin and Hobbes was so amazing. A friend reminded me of this strip today.
Because I work in a business where people get asked this, I occasionally get asked what my favourite advert ever is. It is this, which I never even saw at the time.
The product is fucking horrible, obviously. If there was a “golden age” of British TV advertising in the 1970s I’m pretty sure that was the reason: if you have to sell shite like Smash, you need to be good.
wow daleks looked different in the 1970s
WHAT ABOUT THE GORILLA DRUMMER