Songs that are Horrible

or That Song from the Car That You Just Can’t Get Out of Your Head, No Matter How Hard You Try, and My God It’s Just So Horrible

You’re in the car, driving, listening to music with the windows down, digging on the strong Spring sun, so vital after these long winter months.  A song begins with the strumming of an acoustic guitar – steady, simple and straightforward in its chord progressions, comforting in its familiarity, highly melodic but not overbearing.  Complementing your mood as you drive down the road toward your home.

You turn it up a bit.  Little do you know what you have just done to yourself.

The singing begins,

Today is gonna be the day

That they’re gonna throw it back to you

By now you should’ve somehow

Realized what you gotta do

I don’t believe that anybody

Feels the way I do about you now.

“Wonderwall” by Oasis, badboy posterchildren of 90s-style Britpop.  The nasal tone of Liam Gallagher’s voice is a bit overdone as he sings this opening verse, but it actually complements the acoustic strumming of his brother Noel.  You have a few questions about who “they” are in that second line or what exactly “they” are going to “throw back to you,” but you try not to let this get into your train of thought because it’s a beautiful day after all and who wants to think about these things when you can just dig the sound and the sun and the wind through the windows?

The next verse begins with the addition of some stringed instruments and a light snare drum blending in now to buttress the guitar.

Backbeat the word is on the street

That the fire in your heart is out

I’m sure you’ve heard it all before

But you never really had a doubt

I don’t believe that anybody feels

The way I do about you now.

And as this verse ends you begin to realize the trouble you might be in.  “Backbeat the word is on the street/That the fire in your heart is out”.  What the hell does that mean?  Backbeat?  Backbeat?  Really – you couldn’t find anything else to rhyme with “street”?  And what does it mean that the fire in your heart is out?  That the “you” in the song is no longer in love?  No longer brave or courageous or other things we might associate with the fire in one’s heart?  What is the “it” that the “you” has heard all before, and never really doubted?  That no one feels the same way about “you” that “I” do?  That’s not really clear.  And the “now” – does that mean “now” as in “at the present moment”?  As in “not earlier”?  As in “under the present circumstances”?  Or is it just meant to strengthen the conviction of the statement that no one else feels the same way?

By the way, we’re not quite sure WHAT way the “I” feels – love, anger, exasperation, empathy, you name it.  And of course, we can’t be sure exactly that someone else might not actually feel the same way.  It may be that some one does.  But the “I” doesn’t believe this to be true.  Which, of course, doesn’t make it so.

And all the roads we have to walk along are winding

And all the lights that lead us there are blinding

There are many things that I would

Like to say to you

I don’t know how

Somehow this bridge to the chorus doesn’t bother you so much.  Sure, there’s the inevitable lyrical nod to Paul McCartney and “The Long and Winding Road,” which is a pretty tedious and linguistically lackluster gesture, and sure, the use of “Blinding” lights adds absolutely nothing to the imagery other than that the word rhymes with “winding” (Backbeat!), but the last few lines are fine and actually make sense.  The “I” doesn’t know how to say what he wants.  So far, that’s been made pretty clear by the lyrics, because as you listen to the song, you don’t have any clue as to what the “I” is trying to say either!

On to the chorus!

Because maybe

You’re gonna be the one who saves me

And after all

You’re my wonderwall.

Sigh. You wonder if the “maybe” is in the line just to rhyme with “saves me,” and know that the answer is obviously and devastatingly yes.    It doesn’t have to be – the uncertainty of this person being the one who could possibly save the narrator COULD be powerful.  But then you realize that this rhyme echoes exactly what came structurally in the lyrics earlier.  And of course, you have no idea what the “I” needs to be saved FROM.  What’s the crisis?  There’s been no mention of anything, so what’s the problem?  And then, of course, the last two lines of the chorus.  Why the “after all”?  Why, especially, the “AND after all”?  Because the “And” doesn’t make any sense following the lines preceding it, and the “after all” doesn’t make any sense in any case.  And what the hell is a “wonderwall”?  Anyone?  You know it references a George Harrison film and soundtrack from the 1960s and is the name of his first solo album, but what the hell is it as a word or an image or an idea?

Sigh.  It’s an undeniably catchy melody that grabs you and doesn’t let you go, and not necessarily in a bad way.  The chord progression is pretty simple, really, and pretty much the same as it is in most Oasis songs, but that doesn’t have to be all bad – let’s just say they were consistent!  Liam Gallagher’s tonality is bothersome, to be sure, and comes across as badly as most 90s Britpop, but it actually fits in pretty well sonically with what the band does, so you can give it a pass.  But the words, man, the words!  This might be the dumbest song you have ever heard, and you have listened to pop music your whole life, so that’s saying something!

It doesn’t get better.

Today was gonna be the day

But they’ll never throw it back to you

By now you should’ve somehow

Realized what you’re not to do

I don’t believe that anybody

Feels the way I do

About you now.

You can see what they’re going for here – the addition of that negative.  They’ll “never” throw it back to you.  You should have realized what you’re “not” to do.  Clever, very clever.  It really moves things along to now place them in the negative.  It gives us a whole new slant on things, doesn’t it?  Except that all the questions from that opening verse remain unclear – who are “they?”  What is the “it”?  DOES anyone else feel the same?  And just what DOES the “I” feel?  Wait, wait, you realize, you’re not being fully fair.  The “I” feels that “you” might have been “the one who saves me.”  So that might be cleared up, at least.  Thank goodness!  Though does anyone else feel this way?  And, again, save “me” from what exactly?

Back to the bridge!

And all the roads that lead to you were winding

And all the lights that light the way are blinding

There are many things that I would like to say to you

But I don’t know how.

And let’s the repeat the chorus!

I said maybe

You’re gonna be the one who saves me

And after all

You’re my wonderwall

I said maybe

You’re gonna be the one who saves me

And after all

You’re my wonderwall

Said maybe

You’re gonna be the one that saves me

You’re gonna be the one that saves me

You’re gonna be the one that saves me

The repetition of this last line leaves you unclear on so many things.  Nothing has been answered really.  The repetition of the last line elides the “maybe” and seems to make the sentiment more affirmative, more than just possible, more than just “maybe” and now seemingly a reality.  At the same time, however, it seems to be both a prediction and a command, as if the “you” has little choice in the matter – which doesn’t seem very nice, or fair, or considerate for someone who, AFTER ALL, is doing the saving!

Then the song moves toward a slow fade, with a musical interlude leading to a final note.  Huh, you think, as you pull into your garage.  What the hell was that?  What were you thinking when you turned it up – didn’t you recognize it?  Didn’t you know what this might mean?  Didn’t you know the effect this was going to have on you?  You’ll never know what a wonderwall is.  You’ll never be able to make sense of this song.  You’ll always wonder, not so much as what the song “means” because you’re not particularly interested in such a question, but how the hell to even make sense of the lyrics!  They’re nonsensical, and not in a good way!  And they’ll always remain that way.  Always, no matter how many times you hear, no matter how often people try to “explain” it, no matter how many times your wife tells you to shut up because she likes it and why can’t you just stop and let her enjoy it.  No, it will always drive you batty.

No matter how lovely the day, how enjoyable the ride home after a satisfying day at work, how good it felt to put the windows down after the winter, the price is just too high.  This song is going to be stuck inside your head for days – or at least until you can pass it along to someone else, which is why here you are writing about it, hoping to silence its hold on you by getting others to hum along to it and remove its tentaclelike grip on your brain.  Mission accomplished.  Sorry, but it’s something that had to be done.

Enjoy the video, but try not to think about how the clowns, circus and carnival paraphenilia, singing saws, surly Gallagher brothers, expressionless bandmates, stupid visual effects, and one everchanging multicolored guitar only make this whole enterprise all the more confounding, confusing, and banal!

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One Response

  1. […] Months back now, I wrote a piece about Oasis and their frighteningly catchy song, “Wonderwall.”  For a while now I’ve thought that I should try to create a series: songs you like […]

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