Friday, June 3, 2011

What's That Song About?

It doesn't matter what a song is really about when it affects you in a deep emotional way. Certainly, there are many songs we associate with one thing but are about something else entirely. Bill Clinton famously used Fleetwood Mac's "Don't Stop" as part of his campaign as a message of thinking of the future. But the song is about divorce, specifically that of Lindsay Buckingham and Stevie Nicks.  Eddie Vedder adopted a new meaning to the painfully ironic "I'm still alive" chorus of "Alive" when audiences took it as a positive affirmation. He publicly has said the song is now different than what he intended and that's a beautiful thing. The list, I'm sure is endless.

For me, there's one song that I associate with a very specific moment of teenage heartbreak in my life. This blog isn't about that, it's about music, so I won't go into the details, but suffice it to say it involved a girl and I was dissappointed and depressed on a very specific night when this song came on. For years, whenever the song would play, it was like I was back in that moment all over again. That strange mix of sadness and elation at the fact that I was actually capable of feeling something so intensely would take over again. The song, strangely enough, was "Eye in the Sky" by the Alan Parson's Project. I didn't know the song before then, it just happened to come on the radio.


Now, I couldn't tell you what the song is really about. It could be about a break up involving betrayal, which would actually not be close to what I associate it with. Then again, Allan Parsons was a prog rock band and the track preceding this on the album is the well known instrumental "Sirius," named after the brightest star in the sky. So it is entirely possible that "Eye in the Sky" has some kind of Sci Fi theme to it, also not what I associate it with. I guess I could research the song and see what it was intended to be about, but I just don't care. It's not important because to me, it's about that moment back in, I guess 1991 where I could read somebody's mind but they couldn't read mine back. . . but maybe I've said too much. The point is, I played the song again just for this blog, to see if it still had that power 20 years later and while a lot has changed, the emotions were stirred in an almost physical way. Something about the chord progression, the beat,  the sound of the guitar and the voice that seems to float above it all, is like a lonely drive home on a late night. It's not even nostalgia. That would be too easy. It's not even the lyrics, though being that eye in the sky does imply a distance that I related to at the time. I think this is something as yet unnamed. Some sort of emotional synesthesia that music can bring up that has nothing to do with intent or even context. When I hear the song it's not that I long for anything or anyone in the past, it's more like my cells, my hormones, my nervous system are remembering what it felt like in that moment and reliving it, once again releasing whatever chemicals they released into my brain back then. That's the power of music right there.

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