Monday, February 14, 2005

top 5 songs about rejection: number one, with a bullet.

Brendan Benson - Metarie (long version)
"Met a girl, introduced myself, asked her to go with me and no one else . . ."

People will never stop writing songs about getting their hearts broken. As long as it continues to happen, you will keep hearing about it. However, objectively speaking, you probably need to write your song about the girl who wouldn't go out with you far more than anyone else needs to listen to it. There are only a few artistically "necessary" songs about rejection — no matter how many you might be moved to make, there aren't many you need to hear — but "Metarie" is definitely one of them. In fact, if only a single song about rejection were even allowed to exist, I would vote for this one. (This is actually one of my favourite songs ever, which may explain why I'm so miserable.)

Brendan Benson seems pretty fond of "Metarie" as well; it appears in two different forms on 2002's Lapalco (once as a hidden track), appears in another two versions on the Metarie EP, and has a dub remix. All of those five versions are easily distinguishable from each other, since everything from the lyrics to the instrumentation and song structure is up for negotiation. This is the sixth version, which was offered as a download on the Internet back in the functional days of but never saw an official release. It's almost twice as long as the other recordings and has, in places, substantially different lyrics. And for our purposes, it is by far the best one (if you would like to hear the best of the rest, find the bouncier and more light-hearted Wellfed version from the EP).

"Love me, love me, come around; love me, love me, never let me down," Benson mumbles, sounding a little bit embarrassed about both the sentiment and the phrasing, before beginning to tell the clear-voiced story of his latest romantic failure. By the end of the first verse, the part about literal romantic rejection is technically over — he's met the girl, been criticized for his personal hygiene and fashion sense and mocked by her friend, and done his best to laugh it off. The magic of "Metarie" is that the song doesn't end there. The rest isn't really about girls, at least not about the girl. It's about fear, insecurity, regret, and need, about all those things that will continue to splinter inside you even after you stop remembering the birthday of the person you used to like or exactly how it sounded when they said your name.

"Made some tea, took it to my bed, laid right down and smoked ten cigarettes. Fell asleep with my shoes still on, and had a dream that my voice was gone: I couldn't talk, couldn't sing my song."

The story is filled in just as much by the music itself as the words — the vocal melody is appropriately sighing, and punctuated with deflated, faux-indifferent "yeah"s. One of the most affecting sections is when Benson sings "There's something I've been meaning to say to you, there's something I've been meaning to say to you . . ." over a tense-sounding bridge which only relaxes when he cuts himself off, changing his mind and telling himself "You've got it bad, put on the brakes in case."

Benson fantasizes about running away to California to "change [his] name, get a new face" and find success and fulfillment with a wife, a dog, and new friends, but seems to realize that it won't solve his problems, because the girls aren't the problem, and audiences that don't pay attention aren't the problem: he is the problem. Having exhausted all the possibilities for escape, he is finally backed into a corner enough to be honest: "There's something I've been meaning to say to you: love me, love me, calm me all around, love me, love me, never let me down." Despite coming to the point where he can admit his need, if not move beyond it, he still sounds exhausted, desperate, and a little bit hopeless. "I can't go home . . . Just take me home."

So there you are. Now we're going to go do some stats homework in preparation for spending the evening with Clark Hall Pub, our one true love. Happy VD, everyone!