Is It Wicked Not To Care?
Apologies once again for the long delay between posts: consider it training for the upcoming journey away. Yes, I’m leaving, and I shan’t be back for four weeks: that means a month’s break from this (semi) regular missive, though I may manage to find a city boring enough to provide blog-writing time somewhere along the way.
I thought I’d write this week about that glorious moment when you realise that the song you’ve been singing along to has two sets of lyrics: the ones that you hear and sing, and the ones that the vocalist is actually singing. I’ve recently started thinking of this as a boon rather than an embarrassment: not only do you get to enjoy the song, you get your very own version to take home and hum to yourself.
No recognition of a much shared, infrequently discussed phenomenon would be complete without plenty of excruciating examples, and I’ve three in mind as I write, starting with the subject of my last post, Passion Pit.
One of my favourite tracks from Manners is Moth’s Wings, a tumbling mass of synth, piano, hi-hat and soprano vocals, as close to the sensation of dreaming as any song I’ve ever heard. The jumble of sound that is the chorus partially obscures the lyrics, leading to my belief for nigh on a year that I was being encouraged to:
Put down your sonogram,
Come lay with me on the ground
Which admittedly didn’t seem right. Passion Pit were a new band to me, though, so you never know.
Sometimes you know.
The real lyrics, as I found out quite recently, are a much more sensible and rational sounding
Put down your sword and crown,
come lay with me on the ground
Which, whilst somewhat more anachronistic, is less bizarrely specific and oddly callous.
Next up is a matter close to my heart: ADELE’s Someone Like You. This song is, as everyone with ears will know, epic and heartfelt and almost troublingly mature in it’s outlook on a relationship that’s failed to work. My mishearings of this one worked to paint a subtly different picture of her feelings, and were many and small rather than single and sweeping.
it starts with the opening line of the chorus:
Never mind, I’ll find someone like you
Which I heard, and indeed still hear, with an extra word: a “how” where that comma is. This reshapes the lyric from a confident and forward looking line to a more nihilistic, blameless ignorance of the future.
The next detail is in the following line:
I wish nothing but the best for you, too
Which I can’t help but hear as
I wish nothing but the best for you two
Understandable, I feel, but it does change the tone somewhat. My version is, I think, excessively conciliatory given the apparent situation portrayed in the rest of the song.
The last tiny difference is further on in the chorus:
Don’t forget me, I beg,
I remember you said:
“Sometimes it lasts in love,
and sometimes it hurts instead”
This is a terribly subtle change, but my ear always hears
I’ll remember you said
A slightly more forward thinking aspect here, possibly to counter the change to the first line.
That turned out be quite in depth.
So as to not leave you too confused about the role of intent and interpretation in songwriting, I’ll leave you with a pair of classics.
Heathcliff! it’s me, your Cathy:
I’ve come home now.
and not the more naive interpretation
Heathcliff! It’s me, I’m a tree:
I’m a wombat!
But who am I to say? have a listen for yourself. I think I can be firm on one in particular, though: The White Stripes’ single My Doorbell definitely doesn’t include the following lyrics provided to me by a friend:
I’m thinking about my dog, hell;
When you gonna bring it,
when you gonna bring it?
I’ll see you again in June.
This is from the