British folk-pop singer Emmy The Great released new single Paper 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.
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