I know this song came out almost a year ago but I first heard it recently in the context of Lana’s new album “Norman fucking Rockwell.” Context is actually the first thing that’s mentioned:
You took my sadness out of context
At the Mariner Apartment Complex
I ain’t no candle in the wind
…a clever, steeped-in-rock-history statement of strength, purpose, refusal to be branded or reduced. Lana said it came out of latenight conversation with a boyfriend who was saying he recognized in her the same sadness he had and thought it was the reason they were together. She felt the need to make sure he understood it wasn’t.
She still wants to be together, though. That’s what the rest of the song is about, the singer making her pitch that she not only doesn’t share the guy’s sense of futility but could be the way he overcomes it himself. Should be the way.
“You found this, you need this,” she says, not undervaluing herself (“I’m the board, the lightning, the thunder”) but urging him to step up. “Maybe I could save you from your sins,” she says, “you lose your way I’ll take your hand.” “I’m your man,” she continues, recognizing he isn’t going to be, but willing to take on the role for both of them.
- Until I checked the lyrics, i thought she was saying “You lose your waitress I’ll take your hand.” Meaning, you break up your current girlfriend and I’ll be here waiting, or even better meaning you decide to grow up and move on from the way-too-safe-relationship you have with your favorite waitress at your favorite restaurant you go to three times a week because she smiles at you and listens to your stories and gives you a pep talk…I’ll be here then, too.
- How ballsy is it to write a song with Leonard Cohen overtones, unapologetically steal one of Leonard’s lines, but manage to so change the context it doesn’t seem like a theft at all but a completely personal and poignant plea?
Trust me, the singer is saying to the guy. I got this.
She doesn’t of course. That’s the song’s tension. Will she convince him? Is he worth convincing? Once convinced, will he only strick around until the next sympathetic waitress comes along? Maybe. But, the song says, people can be convinced, can change. The singer explicitly states it:
And who I am–is a big time believer
That people can change, you don’t have to leave her
When everyone’s talking, you can make a stand
This is wonderful songwriting, an epiphany emerging sneakily from a situation that probably doesn’t deserve it. Plus, I believe those things too. I hope the guy, and everyone, is listening.
(One more aside: I’ve totally lost patience with Lucinda Williams exhorting her emotionally stunted, man-child boyfriends to step up to her example. But when Lana does it, here and on the rest of this excellent album, I find it utterly compelling. I will have to do some thinking on why that is.)