Monday, November 26, 2007

Wish I knew what I could do

(Note: today's post is less of a "you must listen to this song" post than it is a "I've got this thought that's wormed its way into my head and I finally need to express somewhere, and here's the best/only place to do so" post. It's half thought out at the moment, but I just needed to get the thought down "on paper" somewhere after it had been bouncing around in my head for months.)

I happened to read Fluxblog today--I don't read it particularly faithfully, but some of its writing can really make you think--and was really caught by something Matthew Perpetua wrote. Describing Kate Nash's song "Pumpkin Soup," he says that he originally misheard the line "I hope that you don't think I'm unkind" as "I hate that you don't think I'm unkind," and still prefers the misheard lyric because "my misheard version adds an extra bit of insecurity that isn't quite as obvious as the rest of what she's singing. I like the idea that she's frustrated by the fact that this boy would think that she's too sweet, even when she's going out of her way to keep things purely physical and emotionally distant."

That almost instantly made me think of my reaction to Espen Lind's "Look Like Her." Technically, I never really misheard this song, but every time I listen to it, I can't help thinking that one little lyrical twist could have vastly increased my appreciation for the song--which, to be honest, is kind of odd for me, someone who rarely pays attention to lyrics and half the time has no idea what they're about anyway because she doesn't speak the language. Once I got the idea in my head, though, I just couldn't shake it.

Like much of Espen's third album, April, "Look Like Her" is a very simple acoustic ballad that just borders on feeling intimate but is so well-produced that it isn't quite. Espen has a great way with melody, which is a good thing--the album probably wouldn't stand up to much if he didn't. Over the course of ten songs, though, good as the formula is, the listener can start to wish that Espen would mix it up a bit.

As it currently stands, "Look Like Her" is just a little too straightforward for me--only the most minimal of instrumentation, all acoustic, simple catchy melody, and lyrics about how Espen has finally found his match. In the chorus, he sings

I have been waiting all my life
For someone to come and put things right
Never knew who she was
Never knew what she looked like...till now
Everyone said that I would know
When she appears, it’s gonna show
And now you are here
And from where I’m standing
You look like her

Pretty straightforward, right? Love at first sight kind of stuff, sung over a good if unsurprising acoustic ballad. And yet, the song could be so much more interesting if one little change was made in the theme. Keep the key line, the "You look like her," even keep how it's delivered, but change its meaning: make it so that Espen is singing about how this new girl reminds him of someone. In a heartbeat, the "You look like her" changes from simple recognition of attraction to a halfway wistful recognition of attraction mixed with loss. Sure, love and loss is just as common a theme in pop songs as is love itself, but the simple acoustic strums here don't lead you to expect that's where Espen is going with this song...and, as it turns out, he isn't; he's not creating this suprising matchup of music and lyrics. I just wish he was. The song would be more...meaningful and interesting for me that way.

To buy Espen Lind's third album April, go here (physical).

Next up: back to the traditional post format for something very poppy.


paul @ said...

i love the kate nash story from Matthew. And finding hidden meaning in songs is the mark of a good songwriter I think - not so much mishearing lyrics but being able to interpret them in ways that make the song work for you. That said, for years i sang "Beezlebub has the devil in a sideboard key" from Bohemian Rhapsody and "I recommend Bon Yong MinSin chong to anyone" from You Learn by Alanis (its actually i recommend biting off more than you can chew - i thought she was recommending thai food or something!)

Poster Girl said...

Ha ha, yeah, made up/misheard lyrics can be so much better sometimes! And I definitely agree about the hidden meaning/different ways of interpreting thing.