Tuesday, January 18, 2005

The Stupidity of Symbolism 

I hate "American Pie". Not the movie, I mean I hate it too, but I'm specifically referring to that old song by Don McLean. Not only is it an irritating tune, but everybody holds it high as a shining example of poetry, what with all its "symbolic meaning" and all that malarkey. It's as if I'm the only person who has noticed that the song is about NOTHING.

The song starts out as an apparent lamentation on the death of Buddy Holly, then suddenly he starts talking about driving his Chevy. Then suddenly he starts on about faith in God. Then he's talking about someone being in love with some guy and dancing in a gym, then suddenly mentions that he likes rhythm and blues. Then he talks about being a "broncing buck" (what the fuck is that, anyway? Since when was "bronc" a verb?), then talks about borrowing a coat from James Dean, makes a fleeting mention of communism, then goes into a lot of non-sequitur shit that just happens to rhyme. Seriously, it's just verse after verse of this tripe, held together with that same tired, pointless chorus.

"But it's symbolic," fans of the song would argue.

No it isn't.

Most people don't understand the meaning of "symbolism". Symbols are supposed to stand for something. When you say one thing to mean something else entirely, that's not symbolism, it's just being pretentiously misleading. When you get a group of ten people together to discuss one piece of art and every single one of them says it means something different, then the artist has just failed to convey the image he wanted to. When you get that obscure, ANYTHING can be symbolic for ANYTHING. And I'll prove it.

The Wham song "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go" is about heroin addiction.

Oh yeah. I said it.

Let me break the lyrics down for you:


This is one of many references to the initial euphoria of shooting up. "Jitterbug" is of course a very old, frantic, happy dance.

You put the boom-boom into my heart

This of course is a reference to the infamous "expanded senses" of a person on downers, being able to clearly hear his/her own heartbeat.

You send my soul sky high when your lovin' starts

Again, a reference to the euphoria of first shooting.

Jitterbug into my brain

Heroin's main function is that of a nervous system depressant, or a "downer", which slows the body down and triggers the release of endorphins, causing the afore-mentioned euphoria.

Goes a bang-bang-bang,

"Bang-bang-bang" would of course be the sound that a gun makes when shooting three times. The gun is symbolic, and the key word here is "shooting".

'til my feet do the same

Fidgety feet are of course one of the many side-effect of withdrawal. The songwriter needs his fix.

But something's bugging you
Something ain't right
My best friend told me what you did last night
Left me sleepin' in my bed

Now one thinks of the film Trainspotting. Apparently there is a group of heroin addicts who all get high together and crash in the songwriter's pad.

I was dreaming, but I should have been with you instead.

Spoken to the heroin. The songwriter obviously wishes that he never had to sleep so he could always feel that initial rush.

Wake me up before you go-go

Again, spoken to the heroin. The addict wants to be prepared for the moment the dosage wears off.

Don't leave me hanging on like a yo-yo
Wake me up before you go-go
I don't want to miss it when you hit that high

He wants time to prepare his next injection before his current one wears off.

Wake me up before you go-go
'Cause I'm not plannin' on going solo

"Going solo" could be a cryptic reference to "going clean".

Wake me up before you go-go
Take me dancing tonight
I wanna hit that high (yeah, yeah)

More dancing, most likely related to the "jitterbug" references throughout the song. Dancing = happiness, once he can "hit that high".

You take the grey skies out of my way
You make the sun shine brighter than Doris Day
Turned a bright spark into a flame

The addict has become very psychologically dependent on his fix. It has now become his only source of happiness.

My beats per minute never been the same

Another reference to the slowed heartbeat of one who is "high".

'Cause you're my lady, I'm your fool
It makes me crazy when you act so cruel
Come on, baby, let's not fight
We'll go dancing, everything will be all right

The heroin "being cruel" is probably a reference to the addict's tolerance level building up. He is almost pleading with it to "take him dancing", but it's being "cruel" in not providing him with the high he's always gotten from it.


Cuddle up, baby, move in tight
We'll go dancing tomorrow night

Now satisfied with his fix, the addict begins to pass out, already looking forward to doing this again tomorrow night.

It's cold out there, but it's warm in bed
They can dance, we'll stay home instead

"Out there" could mean the world the addict lives in, and "bed" is most likely a coffin. The addict is saying that if he dies of an overdose, the bliss makes it completely worthwhile.

Final Refrain

I wouldn't be surprised if someone actually believes all this shit I just wrote. Face it, it's just a goofy old song about dancing and being in love, and nothing more. And if you at first don't recognize symbolism, it probably isn't there. Or if it is, it's probably at least not worth your time. Be it in a movie, song, book, or whatever...just enjoy the story and leave the pseudo-intellectual analysis to the only people it benefits: dipshit college kids trying to get laid.

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