Thursday, March 01, 2012

Learning to Love What I Hated

Okay, hated is a strong word.  I've been analyzing all of the songs from Dave Matthews Band's Under The Table And Dreaming for a writing project.  Going into the project, I enjoyed most of DMB's stuff, but I didn't care for "Typical Situation."  It seemed too hipster-preachy, with a little whine as Dave would sing "Too many choices."  So I was putting off analyzing that particular song, going back to "Satellite" or "The Best of What's Around" instead for more details.  But then I read that Dave was inspired by a poem in the writing of "Typical Situation," by a poet I had never heard of before.  This inspired me to look up Robert Dederick, and then to read his poem, "Prayer in the Pentagon."

Freaked out by the poem's "Sirs" flung out in despair over the fate of the world, I started analyzing the song to see how Dave had used the poem.  I kept digging deeper and deeper, as I quickly moved beyond the superficial structural similarities of counting down to zero.  Dave wasn't being earnest in his preaching, he was being ironic!  The melodic line in the chorus subverts the message of happiness in conformity.  While Dave's countdown doesn't lead to a nuclear holocaust like Robert's, it does lead to a nihilistic view of society.  Conforming just so one can enter the big doors may make one happy in the short term, but "it all comes down to nothing."  Now I keep listening to the song, and various live versions, to see how much Dave portrays this view.  And I listen for audience reactions.  Do they get the message, or do they just hear that there are too many choices in life, but everybody's happy?

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