To Each Word

First, rehearse your song by rote.
To each word a warbling note:
Hand in hand with fairy grace,
we will sing and bless this place.

I was thinking today of talking politics. But let's let that scab heal. We'll pick at the scar tissue again in a few years.

I was also thinking family stuff, but I am a smarter man than that, and I have no intention of walking into a skillet fight with only a spatula.

So why not give a little gravity to something very silly that could have only happened to me . . . ?

We've all misheard lyrics. From Iron Butterfly's "Inagottadavita." to Sondheim's "for a smaffee in America."and we kind of slough them off to the useless information pile.

If Jimi is going to "kiss the sky" or "kiss this guy", doesn't matter.  For if it sounds right, and it feels right, then it is right. We don't care what you say as much as how you say it.

Or as my producer once said "I never listen to the lyrics."

Which is just fine.

I pay him to care about the sound and the feel.

Lyrical and melodic content is my job.

And honestly, how often does a single lyric capture your imagination before you've had a chance to process the rest of the song.

Just me then?

No worries.

Cause despite how very much I want the casual listener to be tickled by my use of off beat references and how deftly I try to weave between the literal and metaphorical, filling my pop with ironic twists, sneaking a wink and nod into a power ballad, and masking my serious with silly . . . music is visceral. Its an immediate auditory experience. You've made up your mind about the song long before you've learned what its about. And yes, I want you to discover lyrical depth after several listens, I also want to zing you enough on first listen that you absolutely have to hit repeat.

Which, as a side note to Selena Gomez, you don't have to "keep" hitting repeat. Hit it once and the song will continue play over and over again. That's the beauty of the Repeat button.

You can, however, love someone like a love song. Perfectly acceptable simile.

And while I'm on my logical high horse, would someone please tell Rihanna that diamonds don't shine. They refract. And Pink Floyd can get away with it cause they are in a completely different dimension, and were talking about a "crazy diamond" and who knows how physics behaves where they're from.

But if there's anything that sits uncomfortably in the place I'll refer to as my craw, its a lame reference. thousands of years worth of poetry to reference and all you've got is TGIF, and while were on the subject, Ms. Perry, please leave California Girls to the Beach Boys and girl kissing to Jill Sobule.

+1 for dropping Russell Brand, however.

He falls into the Jerry Lewis/Martin Short category of really unfunny people who keep getting choice gigs, and frankly I've had enough of him.

Yet I persist in listening to pop music on the radio, cause yeah, I can turn a phrase, but I don't know nothing about getting asses onto the dance floor. And I love that moment when I hear a piece by someone who knows how to do both.

If only Pandora had channel for "Awesome juxtaposition of well crafted lyrics and melodic thunder."

Cause I would listen to that channel relentlessly.

So when I heard a voice on the radio singing "I am Titania!" my thought was "Hmm, cool."

I can't think of many songs that utilize the Bard's work. Every few years there is a Romeo and Juliet reference, but its always about forbidden young love and never teen suicide.

The musical "Hair" was riddled with lyrics from Hamlet and R&J, which is why I've loved it so, but the only sizable hit from that show was "The Age of Aquarius." Which to astrologist Neil Spencer regarded as "astrological gibberish" noting that Jupiter aligns with Mars several times a year, and the Moon is in the 7th house for two hours every day.

An astrologist referring to lyrics as gibberish.

tee hee.

Again, if it sounds right and feels right  . . .

Yet here is a big dance pop tune, with a Helen Reddy shout-out to female perseverance, referencing a character from A Midsummer Night's Dream. A Fairy Queen who is duped by her husband into falling in love with an ass (an ass named Bottom nonetheless) and ends the story hand in hand with her husband, calling for a song about love.

Now there are two ways to play this part:

Either Titania is a real bitch and gets her just deserts, or, a more modern interpretation, both her and Oberon are spoiled impish creatures constantly at each other's throats and this is just one episode where Oberon got the upper hand.

It's all in their body language at the ending scene, and how Titania delivers her line about the song.

She's either cowed, or on the verge of getting medieval on his ass.

I've seen both, but obviously prefer the latter.

So even though the song was merely passable from a sonic standpoint, I was intrigued by its metaphor.

And by intrigued, I mean I gave it some substantial thought.

  • Side note; me and my friend Jon once drove a big chunk of the Pacific Coast highway, from Oxnard to Santa Cruz, speaking only in Iambic Pentameter, so if you think I have a little soft spot for Shakespearian references, well, ahem, guilty.

I even googled Titania, just in case there was a reference other than to the fairy queen, and as it turns out, not really.

Titania is the name used for the daughters of the Titans in mythology, which is cool, but plural, and most likely not what the girl is singing about.

I mean it is possible she's referring to herself as the many daughters of Titans, but that might be an even greater metaphoric stretch than a Fairy Queen who has been wronged.

Yet despite all the thought I had given this single lyric, I still didn't know who the song was by. And because the verses are trampled by wall-of-sound dance production and a shitty car stereo, I had to do a little more research, for I must know more. There may be better stuff hidden in the rest of the lyrics. Hell, there may be a few B-Sides of real value. This girl may be a find. And by "a find" I mean an artist who has some really good songs deemed inaccessible to  the pop audience.

But none of the Titanias listed on iTunes were the song I'm looking for.

  • Side Note: Elvis Costello has a song called "Oberon and Titania" with the London Symphony Orchestra, but I really feel like that's cheating, proving both that no one uses Shakespearian references and that Elvis Costello is an exception to the rule.

Same thing with You Tube.

And Pandora.

So there it was. I was going to have to wait until Taylor is in the car and the song comes on.

  • Side Note: My step son Taylor is the only person I know who listens to more pop than I do. He is my go to guy whenever I don't know a particular artist. We have vastly different views as to what's good, but its like being a Steelers fan with a Green Bay fan in the car, fight all you want, it's still football.

But it might be weeks before he comes home from college, and the chances of that song coming on while we are driving together are like 7-1. (That's a joke referring to the fact that there are only seven songs being played right now and four of them are by Maroon 5).

So I let the thought drop.

And every time the song comes on, I listen just a little closer than I should, cause if I could glean a string of lyrics, I might get a possible google hit and my search will be over, but it's just not possible to hear much beyond "I am Titania."

Except last night.

Last night the song came on just as I started the car.

So I turned the engine off, and sat intently, with a pencil and my Trader Joes receipt, ready to take notes.

"Far way, Far Away"

or is it

"Fire away, fire away."

I can't tell . . . better write down both

"Shoot me down . . . 

but I won't fall . . . 

I am Tie tan ee . . um."


"I am Tie tan ee um."

What was that again?

"I am Titanium."

One more time, please?

"I am Titanium!"

Oh. Um, okay, Thank-you. That'll be all.

And I drove home in awkward silence.

I guess in retrospect titanium isn't that bad of a metaphor. It does have a wonderfully high strength to weight ratio, but its most common use is an alloy, which means it needs to be mixed with other metals to have any value, and although the lyrics assume otherwise, it is definitely not bullet proof, and the poor girl really shouldn't be telling her lover to fire away.

That will just end badly.

But the search continued. "Titanium" and not "Titania, featuring vocalist Sia, is one in a string of songs created by french producer David Guetta and featuring luminaries as Nicki Minaj and Flo Rida.

Hmm. Oh well.

There's no gold in that glitter.

Just mediocre pop lyrics with some melodic meh.

and Pandora already has a station for that:

It's called Maroon 5.

1 comment:

  1. Here are some single lyrics that hit me hard enough I didn't have to hear the rest of the song.

    "Psycho Killer, que'st que c'est?"

    "But I'm a creep... I'm a weirdo.."

    "The moment I wake up
    Before I put on my make-up
    I say a little prayer for you."

    "Here's to the ladies who lunch
    Everybody laugh."

    "Why was I born?
    Why am I living?
    What do I get?
    What am I giving?"

    "She's my only true love,
    She's all that I think of.
    Look here, in my wallet,
    That's her.
    She grew up on a farm there,
    There's a place on my arm where
    I've written her name
    Next to mine."

    "Mi stuzzichi."

    That's Italian for "it stings me".

    Other examples available on request.