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Songs out of Context

The other day I was riding back home from Costco in a cab (like you do, when you don’t have a car…) and the radio started playing OneRepublic’s Good Life. The DJ talked about what a happy song it was and I thought… well, sure sort of, if you take it out of context and don’t listen to it very closely. Because it’s from an album that tells a story, and this song, while not the lowest point, is not honestly happy either.

I mean, aren’t these lyrics at the beginning a little creepy?

Woke up in London yesterday.
Found myself in the city near Piccadilly.
Don’t really know how I got here.
I got some pictures on my phone.

I love albums that tell stories. This is the story in Waking Up, as far as I’m able to interpret it:

  1. Made For You - “Everybody wants you to make it; it’s all yours [...] Can you feel all the love? Like it was made for you.” An artist decides he’s destined for success and embarks on a career.
  2. All the Right Moves - “I know we got it good, but they got it made [...] They got all the right moves in all the right places, so yeah, we’re going down.” Reality sets in. There’s a lot of competition, and there are more talented, better connected artists out there.
  3. Secrets - “Thought you saw me wink? No, I’ve been on the brink so tell me what you want to hear. Something that will light those ears. [...] I’m going to give all my secrets away.” Time to get some publicity through scandalous confessions.
  4. Everybody Loves Me - “Flashes in my face now. All I know is everybody loves me.” Stardom achieved!
  5. Missing Persons 1 & 2 - “I wonder where you are?” Except that someone important has been forgotten in the climb to fame…
  6. Good Life - Now we get to this supposedly happy song. Artist has decided to not worry about this missing person and enjoy this new life of fame, even if it’s all kind of a blur, and all his “friends” are strangers.
  7. All This Time - “I don’t know what day it is, I had to check the paper. I don’t know the city, but it isn’t home. [...] Straight in a straight line, running back to you.” It’s New Years Eve, and the artist realizes it’s time to go home to the person he loves, and pay attention to what really matters.
  8. Fear - “No sleep today. Can’t even rest when the sun’s down.” Of course, the idea of going back and facing real life at this point is difficult.
  9. Waking Up - “We don’t lose. We might bruise.” Determination to change, but realizing that it’s going to hurt.
  10. Marching On - “There’s so many wars we fought. There’s so many things were not. But with what we have I promise you that we’re marching on.” The real happy song on this album. Back with the one he loves and determined to make a life together. Not the waking up drunk in strange cities song!
  11. Lullaby - “As the night comes in, dreams start their drifting and you hear a lullaby. You and I.” Happily Ever After. <3

What albums do you like that tell stories?

Mirrored from Amberdine.


( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 6th, 2012 11:57 pm (UTC)
Time, by Electric Light Orchestra, is sublime as a complete sci-fi-ish story. =)
Jun. 8th, 2012 06:53 pm (UTC)
Huh. You know, I probably am familiar with the songs but never listened all in a row and paid attention. I will have to do that now! Thanks. :)
Jun. 8th, 2012 05:06 pm (UTC)
That is an AWESOME story. The one that comes to mind for me is a Chinese album. http://www.chlyrics.net/disc/10396

1. City Blue Sky - 理想與憧憬已變成一幕幕驚醒的夢魘 ... 究意我要找回來時路 還是要繼續向前
Translation: Ideals and childhood dreams have become scenes in a nightmarish dream ... Ultimately, do I look for the path that brought me here, or continue forward? - Our hero is conflicted.

2. The Old Man Selling Vegetables From A Tricycle - 周围的车子怎么越跑越快 周围的房子怎么也越起越快 / 童年的足迹都轻易被取代 / 他依然往前踩 他只能往前踩 
Translation: How come the cars around him keep getting faster, and the houses around him get built faster too? / The footprints from childhood are so easily replaced / He keeps cycling forwards, he can only cycle forward - He thinks about an old man who got left behind by technology and progress. (Possibly imagining himself in the future)

3. Cry - 只有曾经真心付出的人 / 才懂得何为哭 为何哭 / 泪水要记得为真心保留 / 眼泪别白白的流
Translation: Only people who really gave their all / Only they understand what they cry for and why they cry / Remember to save your tears for those with true hearts / Don't waste those tears - He finally has a reason to cry.

4. Hometown Sounds - 他彷彿又看到父親的背影搖曳在風裡/ 如今他站到這裡 腳步要往那兒去
Translation: He seems to see his father's silhouette from the back, swaying in the breeze / Right now standing here, where would his footsteps go? - The young man visits his hometown and hears the folk songs he heard when he was young; he thinks about his departed father and wishes for advice that can't be asked for anymore.

5. Twenty-Year-Old's Confession - 才二十歲哦 就殘晒囉 / 該做的事情沒做完 / 不該做的卻做了許多
Translation: Only twenty years old, already used up / Things he should have done, still unfinished / Things he shouldn't have done, he did too many of - He thinks about his life, already full of regrets even at his tender age.

6. The Story of Ah Niu and Ah Hua - 伊已經找到別個人 / 嫁給有錢人 忘記故鄉的人 / 你何必再等她 她永遠不會回來了啦
Translation: She's found someone else / married a rich man, forgotten folks from her hometown / why do you still wait for her, she's never coming back - One of his life regrets is a girlfriend who went to the city and then never came back.

7. The Ballad of Ah Choo - 古方咱孩兒時 / 有一個大肥叫阿朱 / 摸到床褥就睡不起 ... 阿嫂手痛(不能)嫁人
Translation: In the old days when we were children / There was a really fat man called Ah Choo / As soon as he felt the bedsheets he'd sleep and refuse to wake ... his wife had a hand-ache and couldn't get married / the husband had leg pains and couldn't enter the bedroom - A folk song about a sham marriage for form's sake. (It's never clear who's marriage is a sham, but considering the previous song about his ex-girlfriend, the village has probably heard some rumors about her unhappiness.)

8. Ocean - 獨自回到那間亂糟糟的小房 / 把你的照片 握在手上 / 你是否在遙遠 很遙遠的地方彷徨
Translation: Alone back in that messy little room / You photo, held in my hand / Are you in that faraway place, aimlessly walking too - He thinks about his old girlfriend and wonders how she's doing.

9. The Breezes of Sungai Puyu - 哦!SUNGAI PUYU 的風 / 喚醒我多少童年的夢 / 多年以後我再回首 / 是否能找回這最初的夢
Translation: Oh! Breezes of Sungai Puyu / Awakening so many of my childhood dreams / Looking back from the space of many years / Can I reclaim my earliest dreams? - A visit to a place he loved to go when he was a child reawakens his ambition/dreams.

10. Twenty-Year-Old's Confession (Refrain) - 二十歲了囉 長大了該開心哦 / 雖然現實生活裡充滿無情與無奈 / 但是它依然有許多地方值得喝彩
Translation: You're twenty now, all grown up, you should be happy / Although real life is full of coldness and helplessness / It still has so many bits worth cheering for - Yes, life is full of regrets, but there's still good in life!

11. Girl Across The Way, Look Over Here - 對面的女孩看過來 看過來 看過來 / 寂寞男孩情竇初開 需要你給我一點愛
Translation: Girl across the way, look over here, look over here / A lonely boy's heart is beginning to stir, I need you to give me a bit of love - His heart seems to have recovered nicely in the end and he's back to a carousing 20-year-old boy.
Jun. 8th, 2012 07:16 pm (UTC)
Oh nice! It starts out so sad I was getting worried about the ending for a bit, there.

What kind of music is it? Pop?
Jun. 8th, 2012 07:39 pm (UTC)
Heh, I wouldn't do that. ^_^

Folksy, really, sort of the way R&B should be. At least, this is what I think of when I think of folksy. I guess the equivalent in America would be folksy blues, or maybe country music? Something like that?
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )