Nothing and no one can remove the image of Shakira moving her body in ways that most people can only dream of from my mind when I hear this song - and nor do I want that imagery to ever be gone from my brain. ‘Coz, you know, nights can be long…
But as far as covers go, this one is quite enjoyable.
Everything is kind of rock, kind of synth, kind of indie and kind of pop… A melting pot of music. But who I am to disregard the head-bopping beat? Who am I to be stone-faced when hit by a sound that makes me happy - even if I don’t (at first glance) pay attention to the lyrics.
“A Certain Romance” – Arctic Monkeys (Words/music: Alex Turner, available on Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not, Domino 2006)
Today’s post originally ran April 8, 2009. Tonight I have a family obligation, so there will probably not be a new post until tomorrow. Enjoy!
Back in January , a Los Campesinos! song helped me come to the conclusion that our personalities may constantly evolve yet always retain some bit of all of our previous stages; in essence, there’s this thread within our evolving selves that runs from our youth well into adulthood. If nothing else, this was my theory for why youthful energy in songs resonates so powerfully with me. However, having elements of our youth embedded in our personalities isn’t always advantageous. Sometimes, these strange things from our past reappear suddenly. These events, or rather “these people,” aren’t people that we outright disown. In fact, these are people that we share a lot of history with and are valuable friends even if we don’t see them that often. However, the problem arises when this person becomes a sort of time capsule; perhaps this person brings out old habits or uncomfortable stories. However, the worst version of this is when you’ve moved on and grown up and this person, like a time traveler, hasn’t given up his immature ways and become an embarrassment by association.
Alex Turner, the principle songwriter for the Arctic Monkeys, was twenty when this song came out – old enough to have experienced this phenomenon. In “A Certain Romance,” he offers an explanation for these “time travelers” to his newer friends – these people are crude and ill-tempered, but he counts some of them among his friends. While he’s quick to point out that they lack “romance,” Turner also makes sure to qualify his description with a slight admiration for their lack of pretension and ruthless authenticity. It’s a tricky balancing act – Turner’s narrator tries his best to give respect to his hooligan friends while still distancing himself from their violent behavior. Rather than come to a clear resolution, Turner treats the situation with a nod and a wink and hopes that we’ll recognize his predicament and let it slide without further comment.
Alternately, “A Certain Romance” works as a commentary on Turner’s contemporaries. They’re too concerned with the immediate moment, whether it’s with fashion concerns, settling grudges, or engaging in hedonism, to look at the big picture. Everything becomes a quest for status, whether it’s updating your ringtone or vanquishing the guy looking at you strange. Turner respects their right to be different, and the wistful quality to his voice makes it seem like he either envies or pities their existence. Chances are that it’s a mix of the two – wishing he could subsist on simple pleasures yet mourning the fact that he can’t convince them to go beyond the moment. Instead, these friends provide constant opportunities to look inwards and question whether ignorance (or social ignorance, in this case at least) truly is bliss.
The fifteen year old me would have loved this - would have written about it in my diary, with much cursing and self-loathing. And I would have envied the angst, would have wished for someone to ‘beat me to death’, too.
Now, well… not so much.
But if you are feeling down and out and vaguely 80’s-style depressed, this is your jam.