We understand art when we relate to it, right? Why then do so many people relate to the same art? Do we all live the same life? One after another reliving the same ups and downs? And if so, why? Are we life imitating art?
Okay, that’s a bunch of questions. I’ve been thinking about this stuff lately as it relates to songwriting and song listening and songs. Great songs ask great questions and give us opportunity to answer greater ones–for ourselves. Take “Case of You” by Joni Mitchell*, a song whose title implies one thing, but mean something else in the context of the song.
*Yes, I know that I can’t elucidate this song any more for you than you already have for yourself, but throw me a bone here, alright?
When you heard this title, were you thinking that “a case of you” is like a case of the chicken pox? Like I’ve come down with a case of the yous? And then you hear this: “I could drink a case of you and still be on my feet.” And that could mean two more things. First, it’s clear that we’re talking about a case as in a case of some kind alcoholic beverage, so no more mystery there. But here’s the cool part: she either a) can’t get enough of you, b) can handle you, or c) both. She’s still on her feet because she wants more, and/or you are not too much for her.
So, the question here might have been, what is meant by “case”? And she answered that one, but made us think about it. And then she lets you decide, do you relate more to the “can’t get enough of you” interpretation or the “can handle you” version of the story?
Well, either way, you’re relating to something, and on first listen, you probably aren’t thinking about it too much. You probably are just going with your first impression and feeling whatever that impression tells you to feel. It says something about you which way you decide, but it says something about the song that you even have the option.
As songwriters, we turn emotional breakthroughs into creative ones. When we understand our own feelings, we put them into songs and let you in on them. But for you to understand them, they need to be your feelings too.
There will be more on this subject, because there is a lot left to be said about “Case of You” and songwriting in general, but I did want to start the discussion.
In the meantime, here’s something, this time from Lyle Lovett, to think about. He says: “I go for Penguins… Penguins are so sensitive to my needs.”
Stew on that, whydoncha?.