Lingua Mea Vita

Lyrical Analysis — Sia, Playground

Sia Furler is one of those singers that always seems like she’s hanging out in the shadow of someone “bigger” than herself— Beyonce and Christina Aguilera have both name dropped her as an “inspiration” (and probably thanked her in the fine print in their album jackets). Sia’s song “Breathe Me” made it’s way into trailers for weepy movies after it made every viewer of the Six Feet Under series finale (me included) bawl their eyes out back in 2005. I like Sia most for her collaborations with Zero 7: “Destiny” a.k.a. that song Lacoste used to play on their website and “Somersault” a.k.a. the only love song that doesn’t make me sick.

So it’s clear that a lot of people in the music industry want a piece of Sia. Why you may ask? She’s a got a tiny, but powerful voice (think Aretha Franklin meets Nelly Furtado; listen her tear into Zero 7’s Distractions here. Aretha-Nelly kicks in around 3:25), but her skill as a songwriter (especially lyrically) stands out as ever so crafty and bubbling with cleverness. For example, her song “Playground” from the album, Some People Have Real Problems:

Those distracted by the catchy-cool lyrics of the song may not notice that this song is more of a poem, mocking the concept of “cougars” or old ladies chasing young guys. The chorus goes:

I don’t want to grow old
Bring me all the toys you can find
You don’t want to grow up
You can be my partner in crime

At first blush, this could sound like a woman trying to keep a love innocent, but when put with lyrics like:

I’ll be sure to write you from the war
Put your guns away it’s tea time
Water bombs and tea towel tired moms
Looking for a little me time


Let’s play chase
Let’s put make up on our face
You can catch me if you can
We can make a secret place

the chorus suggests that this could be sung from a point of an older lady trying to seduce someone much younger. She mentions “the war” and “tea towel tired moms looking for a little me time”; the war could mean the difficult love lives of older women, who are often “tired moms”. The playing chase and putting make up on your face—that’s pretty self-explanitory. Women cake themselves in makeup to be more attractive, or chased, especially as they get older.

Add all of this on to the fact that they album is called “Some People Have Real Problems” versus “Kiddie Love Stories”, I personally think Sia Furler is mocking the cougar lifestyle.

I could be reading way too far into it, but I do think that Sia is a clever enough songwriter to put a sassy, fun song with a interesting veiled meaning to it. She reminds me a lot of P!nk in her early days, the girl with catchy songs and take-no-shit type vocals. Take a listen to Playground, and see what you think for yourself:


Lyrical Analysis — Lady Gaga

Lady Gaga really built up Valentine’s weekend to be about her. She hyped her new single for release Friday, is being interviewed by Anderson Cooper on 60 Minutes (which I have been frankly looking forward to more than her single) on Sunday and will be performing at the Grammy awards (which will be broadcast right after it).

This is clearly the work of a powerful, single woman: if you can’t have someone to share Valentine’s Day with, you might as well make it  all about you. (And yes, I plan on going on and on about Valentine’s Day until it’s over).

However, I’m not to keen on Born This Way. Musically, there’s the whole “mega-Madonna-mashup” controversy, and while the song has a good message lyrically, it isn’t very interesting. No clever metaphors, no especially poetic phrases. There is some wordplay, but it’s nothing that Jerri Blank from Strangers With Candy couldn’t think up.

However, I’ve got to hand it to her for trying to attempt to infuse mainstream pop and a meaningful message. Especially after her previous singles have a history of being a little…scary:

  1. Just Dance —  Allegedly about a girl who gets so incredibly drunk at a club that by the end of the night, she is willing to go home with a random creep (sang by Colby O’Donis) and she has sex with him. (Just in case you’re wondering, the alleged drunken rape part starts at the music turn and the “half psychotic, sick hypnotic.”
  2. Poker Face — I’ll admit that I still have no idea what the crap Poker Face is about aside from gambling references that double as sexual innuendos. I read somewhere once that Gaga said this song was about bisexuality: and while I can kind of see that in the chorus, nowhere in the lyrics.
  3. Paparazzi — This song in there with The Police’s “I’ll Be Watching You” and Death Cab’s “I Will Possess Your Heart” on a playlist to listen to while stalking someone who clearly has no interest in you.
  4. LoveGame — I think it may be just me, but I’ve always taken this song to be about some underage girl trying to get someone way too older for her. I think the whole “getting your ass squeezed by sexy Cupid” put the image of babies in my head, and you follow that up with “I’m educated in sex.” If you have to tell someone your educated in sex, you’re probably too young to be having it.
  5. Bad Romance — This song is so ridiculously catchy and so ridiculously about domestic abuse. Or wanting someone who is really bad for you. Either way, not the greatest message.
  6. Telephone — Pretty benign. Though Beyonce really needs to explain to me how do you feel like you live in Grand Central Station. You are surely not homeless, Bee.
  7. Alejandro — Reinforcing the (tacky, cheesy, annoying) “Latin Lover” stereotype.

All of these songs were major singles for Gaga, so maybe she feels like she owes it to the world to write a song that doesn’t involve some catchy negativity. That I respect — but…why did the music have to be so awful?

Lyrical Analysis — Fiona Apple, Extraordinary Machine
January 31, 2011, 10:13 pm
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“If there was a better way to go then it would find me
I can’t help it, the road just rolls out behind me
Be kind to me, or treat me mean
I’ll make the most of it, I’m an extraordinary machine”

Fiona Apple tends to look so sad in all of her press photos and she’s got a low, moaning cow sort of a voice, so I’m really shocked by her song Extraordinary Machine. It is quite the pick-me-up. It’s swingy and upbeat, and has a great message of self-confidence.

I’d listened to her first two albums and really dug them because they were a little sexy, a little dark, and definitely whip-smart. But I wouldn’t turn to either of those albums for a self-confidence boost.

I’d avoided listening to Extraordinary Machine, because I’d read that it was a “far departure from her previous work” and erm, “weird” and I loved Tidal and When the Pawn… so much that I didn’t want to risk not liking it and my respect for Fiona Apple to go down (ooh,  I hold myself in such high regard, don’t I?).

It wasn’t until a couple of days ago I decided to toss caution to the wind and listen to Extraordinary Machine. The album is pretty good. I don’t know why people called it weird. I was expecting weird. Like Aphex Twin weird:

But this isn’t an album review. This is me praising the chorus from Extraordinary Machine and how it took me by surprise. Good job, Fiona!

If only you would crack a smile…