THE BLOG

Emmy The Great - my Favourite Lyrics

29/09/2011 00:07 BST | Updated 21/11/2011 10:12 GMT

British folk-pop singer Emmy The Great released new singlePaper Forest from her second album Virtue this week and it's very pretty indeed (though with a pointedly dark undercurrent).

Anyone who knows her work will be aware of her lyrical dexterity, so rather than bombarding her with lots of questions that other people have already asked her, I thought why not get her to reveal her five favourite sets of lyrics or lines from other artists' songs.

The results are eclectic and will make you want to dive into iTunes immediately...

1. "You are eighteen year old girl from an island in Japan, you heard me on the radio about one year ago, and you wanted to know all about me, and my hobbies, my favourite food and my birthday...

They don't make stationary like this where I'm from, so fragile and refined." - Weezer, Across the Sea

Unless you have lived in East Asia, you will not understand the sheer, particular delicacy of its stationary sets. When Pinkerton by Weezer was released, I was a girl from a small island in Asia, about to fall in love with Rivers Cuomo. It was still an era for letter writing, and before the song came out, I'd mailed plenty of lined, foldable paper, dotted with Japanese anime characters, in quests to find out what colours my favourite celebrities preferred. After the song, those celebrities, including the cast of Saved by the Bell and Luke Perry, meant nothing. I knew that only Rivers truly understood where I came from.

2. "That girl thinks she's the queen of this neighbourhood...she is!" - Bikini Kill, Rebel Girl

Seventeen years after Blondie's Rip Her to Shreds, Bikini Kill's Kathleen Hannah turned the traditional confident-female-to-confident-female posture on its head with a song that celebrated a girl who dares to stand out. Hannah was at the centre of the Riot Grrrl movement, a wonderful wave of 90's feminism that saw young women using creativity to stand up for themselves and each other. The moment in the song, where the assumed spitefulness of the first line is turned around by 'she is!', could be the central thesis of the entire movement.

3. "I will go to a house

Where there's a rock and roll band

Cause the groups all live together

And I will join a rock & roll band

And I will be their road manager

And I will stay there with them

And I will get the crabs

But I won't care" - Frank Zappa - Who needs the Peace Corps?

In the opposite corner from the hippie movement sat Zappa the antagonist, forever picking apart the hypocrisies and hygiene issues of free love. Zappa cast himself as a freak - a more unpredictable, less prescribed sub-culture than the hippies - but with the distance of time, the two types seem almost interchangeable. What I love about Zappa, that even his pastiche pieces carry his genius musicianship, means that when you listen to this song about the 60's being dumb, it just sounds like a great piece of 60's music. The countless portrayals of the hippie stereotype since then also make this particular portrait too familiar to shock or sway opinion. Maybe Zappa failed as a cultural commentator here, but he still reminds you that good lyrics can make you laugh out loud.

4. "She danced with me and I still hold that memory

Soft and sweet

And I stare up at her window

As I walk down her street

But I never made the first team,

I just made the first team laugh

And she never came to the phone

She was always in the bath

In the end, it took me a dictionary

To find out the meaning of unrequited

While she was giving herself for free

At a party to which I was never invited

I never understood my failings then

And I hide my humble hopes now

Thinking back she made us want her

A girl not old enough to shave her legs" - Billy Bragg, The Saturday Boy

There is not a man in the world who hasn't met this girl, and I'm glad Billy Bragg never gave her a name. She is simply 'the girl not old enough to shave her legs'. I would have watched her in awe as she wove her spell between classes, in school halls, on walks home from the bus. You would have as well, and because we both know who he means, and have probably been there ourselves, this is the most heartbreaking song in existence.

5. "Take my shoes off, and throw them in the lake, and I'll be two steps on the water." - Kate Bush, Hounds of Love

Sometimes, only simple lyrics say what you need them to. Hounds of Love contains lyrics that are the simplest, most perfect hints at the wild horror of being in love. Being Kate Bush, I guess she got the man. Imagine being him. I'd like to hear that song next.