As someone who writes poetry and short stories often, I appreciate the complexity and beauty of songwriting. Although I’ve never written a song myself, I’ve always wanted to. So when I hear a song that strikes me or reminds me of a situation I can relate to, I often think to myself, “dang, I wish I’d thought to write that.” Here are three of those songs.
This track isn’t about motion sickness, but rather, emotional sickness. Although there’s no legitimate definition for “emotional sickness,” I’d say it can be defined as the feeling you get when you’re overwhelmed with love for someone, or on the flip side, flooded with grief after your relationship with them has ended.
Phoebe Bridgers tells a vivid story of the birth of an unusual relationship: “you said when you met me you were bored,” “and you, you were in a band when I was born,” and its chaotic end: ” I’m on the outside looking through. You’re throwing rocks around your room. And while you’re bleeding on your back in the glass, I’ll be glad that I made it out, and sorry that it all went down like it did.” The soft guitar reverb and subtle harmonies in this track compliment its lovely lyrics.
The driving lyric/phrase in this song, “I have emotional motion sickness. Somebody roll the windows down. There are no words in the English language I could scream to drown you out,” are what got me. Phoebe captures a very familiar experience– feeling trapped by your emotions, even dizzy with them, and wishing there was some sort of escape. We’ve all wished at one point or another that we could roll down the “windows” of life and take a break from reality.
Any sentimental music-lover will connect with this song: “Tell me why’d you have to have such a damn good taste in music? Yeah, if all my favorite songs make me think of you, I’m gonna lose it.” I’ve been there.
The first verse intrigued me, as it told the story of two people who made mixtapes for each other, not knowing that the other person had done the same thing. You’d think that this would probably mean both of them have similar, strong feelings for one another. This may be true, but it’s revealed that something went wrong in the relationship and it ended.
“When I first saw you I made a mixtape. I didn’t know you’d do the same damn thing. When I said goodbye to you it went quiet, cuz I didn’t wanna feel any pain.”
This song has a prominent bass guitar, which adds to the mysteriousness of the relationship, situation, and two people.
Fun fact: Lead singer of SWMRS, Joey Armstrong, is the son of of Billie Joe Armstrong, lead singer and lead guitarist of punk rock band Green Day. Joey and his pals formed SWMRS after watching School of Rock in school!
The metaphors in this song are strikingly beautiful. There are themes of insects, light, colors, and death through out the whole track, which reminds me of some poems I’ve read in the past. This is why I chose “Parma Violets” to add to my growing list of songs I wish I’d written.
Parma Violets themselves are a popular British candy that fizz in your mouth. (We have a similar candy here in America called Zotz.) In this track by Jealous of the Birds, the main lyric is “Oh please, don’t you swallow those pills like Parma Violets again,” which alludes to someone who may have had suicidal tendencies in the past. Lead singer Naomi Hamilton suggests that this person swallowed pills as if they were candy–quickly and nonchalantly. The quiet piano and guitar in the track reflect its somber, delicate tone.
It’s interesting to me that Naomi would choose Parma Violets candy to use as a metaphor for prescription pills. Because this type of candy fizzes in your mouth, wouldn’t it be counter-intuitive (and uncomfortable) to pop one after the other into your mouth without much thought?
Naomi continues to describe her interactions with this person, using a moth as a metaphor for a secret shared between them: “Once you showed me a secret, delicate as a moth. It barely shivered, its wings were so soft. Then it flew up to the fluorescent light. I knew right then that you would be alright.” This is the only lyric that suggests the person Naomi is singing about may be doing better.
The second to last verse is my favorite. Naomi sings about every person in the world being connected by color. Light travels through us and we all reflect different shades of the same, “true” blue.
“Our lives are prisms, the light beams through. Refracting colors is what we do. We’re different shades of the same blue. But at least we’re true, at least we’re true.”
Whenever I write poetry, I always gravitate towards themes of light and color, so these lyrics really inspired me.
I made a playlist of every song that has struck a chord with me over the years. Check out the full playlist here: