Prefix has been happy to partner up with the guys over at Rap Genius over the last few weeks and now we’re presenting a feature from their sister site Stereo IQ. Check out Stereo IQ co-founder Alex Koenig’s interpretations from five of the biggest songs of the week below.
Building an exegesis for rock lyrics is arguably a more arduous task than creating one for hip-hop— when compared to MCs whose lyrics are chiefly open and autobiographical, the words of rock and pop artists can often seem opaque and enigmatic. But sometimes if you drill deep enough, you find some oil. Consider the lines below, a selection of eminent sentiments made recently by some of the finest contemporary songwriters.
5. “Joni want blue, a house by the sea / I gotta believe there’s another color waitin’ on me.” – John Mayer, “Queen Of California” lyrics.
John Mayer is still the king of chronicling heartache, so it’s no surprise that on the country-tinged “Queen of California”, the description of the girl he was fawning over is a reference to Joni Mitchell’s lovelorn folk masterpiece Blue. But whereas Mitchell was defeated and hopeless, Mayer seems to have his spirits intact– ready to venture out of the blue and into the brightness.
4. “I could liken you to a werewolf, the way you left me for dead / But I admit that I provided a full moon.” – Fiona Apple, “Werewolf” lyrics.
At first glance, a love song with the title of “Werewolf” would certainly lead listeners to assume that this would be Fiona Apple’s seething attack on an inadequate lover. But in the track’s opening line, she dismantles her defenses, taking at least half of the responsibility for her relationship’s dissolution.
3. “She’ll kiss away your gypsy fears / And turn some restless nights to restless years.” – Japandroids, “Fire’s Rock” lyrics.
Japandroids’ new record Celebration Rock is equally indebted to starry-eyed romance as it is to coming-of-age self-realization, and this line epitomizes the album’s commitment to elevating its listeners to the band’s soaring emotional heights. The song’s narrator has “gypsy fears”. As gypsies are usually vagrants or nomads, the narrator’s fear of being in a new place will be put to rest with the help of his new girl. Her adoration and hospitality will help the couple develop a long-term relationship.
2.“Anger anger, you’re finally my bitch / Through glory of this, heaven’s breath.” – Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, “Dear Believer” lyrics.
Chronic stress and anger can be one hell of a hurdle to leap, but on “Dear Believer”, Sharpe has finally achieved peace of mind. The source of Sharpe’s newfound serenity appears to be rather ambiguous—did he find a new religion to believe in, or simply a new philosophical, secular outlook? What is clear, though, is that this line in particular feels like a cathartic release– Sharpe letting go of the demons that have been eating away at his psyche. It’s all too fitting that this lyric is delivered right before the wide-eyed chorus, which luminously delivers on Sharpe’s promise to reach paradise.
1. “Violence in the flowers where they found you / Can I wait the hours would it be untrue.” – Beach House, “The Hours” lyrics.
The centerpiece of Beach House’s latest LP Bloom is the poignant and melancholy “The Hours.” The lyrics subtly depict the story of a man who is secretly in love with a close female friend. We’ve all experienced this dilemma at some point– should we expose our true feelings and risk compromising our friendship or keep quiet and never know if she felt the same way? This line in particular juxtaposes flowers– generally a harmless symbol for love, beauty, and tranquility– with violence, portraying a jarring contrast. If he chooses to profess his love, he risks compromising their friendship. But if he never asks, he will never know her genuine feelings. Ultimately, he faces two scenarios that Beach House frontwoman Victoria Legrand announces in her soothing yet bold voice: wait it out and hope she recognizes and reciprocates (“wait the hours”) or pour out his true feelings (“climb the tower so that you could see”). Spoiler: he goes on to confess and deeply regrets it. So it goes…