Friday, April 11, 2008

When good metaphors go bad

 Ok, let’s a have a talk about lyrics. I am a fan of words. Pound for pound, words are the most powerful thing in the universe -- that’s called hyperbole, kids. Words are at their most potent when paired with other words. We call that a sentence. Let there be light. Life is a tale, told by an idiot, full of sound and fury...signifying nothing. (Meow). Sometimes, we really want to describe something profound -- to give it more depth and meaning. In such a case, often we turn to metaphor. That’s one of those words that you vaguely remember from high school english. A metaphor is when you describe something by, essentially, describing something else. This is a device often employed in poetry and song writing. A metaphor is useful for portraying  ideas, by wrapping them in a physical object. 

   One of my favorite song metaphors is from the Peter Gabriel song “Biko”. Without getting too extensive, the song is about the death of Steven Biko, an African man killed by the white authorities of South Africa, in 1977. It happened during the dreadful apartheid era. The death of Steven Biko helped to bring on a revolution in thought and action, that helped to end apartheid. The line from the song is “You can blow out a candle, but you can’t blow out a fire. Once the flame begins to catch, the wind will blow it higher.” 

   That line is so full of meaning. And it needs no explanation -- unless you have no understanding of the way fire works. 

   And then there is my favorite stupid metaphor (in a song) of all time. No, it’s not “Pour some sugar on me in the name of love”, though that does get an honorable mention. No, the award goes to....Jon Bon Jovi, for the song Bed of Roses. Let me preface my comments by saying, musically, this is a pretty cool sounding song. You have to hand it to Jon Bon Jovi, the man sings PASSIONATELY. One might even say it’s melodramatic.  I desperately want to like this song. The problem is, I can’t help myself. I listen to the words. 

  Most of the words to this song are easy to understand. He longs to be with the woman he loves, but he’s stuck being who he is -- a fabulously famous and wealthy singer, adored by millions, with apparently no control over his life. Hey, we’ve all been there. So, he’s writing this love letter at the piano. He’s hung over (a bottle of vodka lodged in his head -- I hope that’s a metaphor), and there’s a scary blonde in his bed. Apparently this is not the woman he is writing the song for. Again, we understand him. We too have scary blondes in our beds. But then he lays this line on us -- “With an iron clad fist, I wake up and french kiss the morning.” (Sound of needle scratching across record. Sound of train derailing. Sound of stunned silence -- my apologies to Simon and Garfunkel).  Excuse me? You did what? And How? 

   Actually, to give Bon Jovi credit, he sings this line with such conviction, that at first we buy it. Yes! I too have awoken in the pre-dawn hours, my forearm completely encased in metal, and bestowed a lusty smooch upon this point the mental image kicks in...and I begin to scratch my head (with the non metallic hand). I understand what he is saying. He’s hung over. But I get that from the context of the line. Not from the line itself.  I cannot find meaning for the iron clad fist, and I cannot get the image of him making out, passionately I suppose, with the ethereal morning, out of my head. 

  So there you have it. The dumbest, intentionally serious metaphor I have ever heard. 

Oh, there is one other dumb line in the song “ I want to be just as close as the Holy Ghost is”. This is not hard to understand, it’s just hard to believe that after the scary blonde, the bottle of vodka lodged in his head, and whatever it was he did to the morning, that he would be anywhere near where the Holy Ghost was.  

1 comment:

Aaron said...

Holy crap LOL!
...."can you run that line by me again Jon? I could've thought I just heard you say you 'with an I-am-glad fifth I wait up and French kissed with mourning?'"

"out of your p---- into desire"

"Take your pants down....and make it happen"

Just a few others where the lyrics get lost....