Monday, December 29, 2008

The truth about Elton John

For all Elton John has been talked up as having intelligent lyrics (written or edited by Bernie Taupin, alleged songwriter extraordinaire), his lyrics sure are inane. Not just because they're talked up -- his songs' lyrics are inane compared to even, say, Britney Spears'. But we all know now how I feel about inanity. To wit, "Your Song."

I have always loved/hated "Your Song" for its sheer, awesome inanity, but when Ewen MacGregor sang it to Nicole Kidman in Moulin Rouge, its place in my irony-blooded hipster heart was forever secured. (Before you say anything about Moulin Rouge, I'm going to go ahead and just put this in there: fuck you. Don't talk bad about Moulin Rouge.)

Stanza one is a non sequitur: "It's a little bit funny, this feeling inside / I'm not one of those who can easily hide / I don't have much money, but boy if I did, / I'd buy a big house where we both could live." It gets some points for almost being a sentence (I love songs with grammatically correct sentences), but immediately loses them for making no fucking sense whatsoever.

Stanza two is a glorius shining temple to inanity: "If I was a sculptor -- but then again no --/ Or a man who makes potions in a travelling show ... / I know it's not much but it's the best I can do / My gift is my song and this one's for you." It is also an example of why you write lyrics down before you start recording the song. And here we really start to see the twofold problem with "Your Song." Problem one: Bernie obviously put some work into these lyrics -- they rhyme and they have an internal meter -- but they are just terrible. Problem two: the whole point of the song is that it's supposed to be a gift or a tribute to somebody ("you," presumably) but it's a terrible gift because it has no internal content whatsoever. It's like giving somebody an empty box for their birthday. But it's even worse than that, because the rest of the song is about how hard it was to come up with the lyrics -- so it's more like giving somebody an empty box and then prattling on for half an hour about what a great gift it was.

But it's still even worse than that, because the precious little rhetorical content the song actually has shows a complete lack of understanding about the person the song is supposed to be written for: the lines "I've forgotten if they're green or they're blue [... but] yours are the sweetest eyes I've ever seen" gives testimony to this, as well as his statement that the song is "for people like you that keep it turned on." I'm sure that had some meaning in 1970-something, but it just sounds like pandering to me.

After all this, Elton/Bernie has the chutzpah to say in the chorus "I hope you don't mind that I put down in words / How wonderful life is while you're in the world." It would have been great if you had actually done that. Don't forget, though, that "you can tell everybody this is your song," if you are willing to admit that Elton John wrote you such a pointless song.

In summary, "Your Song" is not really about you. It's about what an awful songwriter Elton John is.

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