I'm trying a new concept here, (noncompetitively) facing off two songs and what I get uot of them on a theme or topic. It's not a playlist, although I've done it within playlists before (e.g. "Wait for It" and "Never Heard Nothing"). But where playlists are mostly "listen to this song!" with some rambly comments, this is more analyzing my reactions and the lyrics. I'm gonna be working out the bugs if I decide to keep doing this, so I hope it's remotely interesting. If you see me anywhere else online, you probably know one will be Foo Fighters' "Everlong
." And if you read my playlists, John Craigie's "What Phase Is This
" probably doesn't surprise you either. Topic being perspectives on time, transience, and change, I guess, but hopefully you'll see more specifically why I chose these songs and not any of the bazillion others from past playlists that hit these themes.
With the exception of song past-tense singing I'll be ignoring because I don't know what's it's doing in the song, "Everlong" has only one line set in the past. It's the first line, and the one that includes the title, so it matters, and it's a continuous past, a span of waiting "everlong." From there, it shifts to anxiety about the future, which it looks at as a continuous span going on from the present.*
On the other hand, "What Phase Is This" (WPIT, because I'm lazy) is dominated by verses that are entirely past, but the chorus (emphasized by repetition) lives in the present and future. WPIT perceives the future through the lens of the past, understanding life as a series of phases that end as a result of these observations. While both songs are explicitly wondering about the future, WPIT at least has some confidence in the structure of it and the inevitability of change. Anything lasting forever isn't even on the song's radar. Change isn't a source of anxiety, it's just a fact to roll with. Anything being this good again? I think WPIT figures there will be ups and downs again and again. I think it's just less of a drama queen?
But both songs talk, completely non-specifically but centrally, about "this," the present state of things, as a generically desirable state. Everlong heavily implies that "this" is a relationship; WPIT's "this" might be inferred to be a relationship as well due to society being obsessed with relationships, but really all we know is that "this" is something he wants to hold onto for a while ("how long do I get to keep it"). But Everlong still considers "forever" possible, if unlikely. And while I'm drawn to WPIT's realistic approach, there's a #relatability to clinging to those things you don't want to let go.
I might be going around in circles and it's 5 so I should go home, but I think the thing that remains to be addressed is "you've got to promise not to stop when I say when." It continues a bit of the idealism, where WPIT probably wouldn't find such a promise to be worth much of anything. But a promise is inherently future-focused and clinging to that thing. The rest, besides being vaguely safewordy, seems to continue on the "forever" track. I'm tempted to say that it acknowledges that forever could be longer than desirable, but I don't actually think that's how it functions in the song. I think it functions more as an assurance that there's no possibility of an actual desired stopping point, and forever is the goal however lofty. The former is more interesting, but context points me to the latter.
Here's the thing, though. Everlong hopes for "forever," while WPIT doesn't believe in it, but WPIT isn't cynical; in fact, it's more optimistic. It accepts and embraces the transience of each phase, and values them all — past, present, future — with a mix of nostalgia, wistfulness, and of course a sense of humor. WPIT is at peace with who he was and who he is, and he's open to who he will become. Everlong is darker and more fearful in its attachment, while WPIT is playful and a little bit detached. Not really detached, but it feels like maybe it's learned not to take itself so seriously. I don't think that's just me associating Everlong strongly with being the kid sister when it was the credits music for The Worst Movie Ever while WPIT feels very now in my life. But maybe I'm wrong and the songs are inextricable from their emotional context.
I might revisit this. Or I might decide it's not interesting. Regardless, it may never feel this real again.
*It's all about extents of time, which I guess makes sense considering it's called "Everlong." I'm having a hard time articulating the extents of time thing; I feel like it's like the notes you hold in DDR, as opposed to moments, or, in the case of WPIT, phases. Which are more distinctly blocked I guess?
Addition: Not just because it's the trailer song, but I think "Everlong" is a great summation of our show, BE AWESOME: A THEATRICAL MIXTAPE OF THE '90S. The show is about life and memory in the face of mortality, how we remember our lives and how we want our loved ones to remember us. Its relationship to the past (and the present that is almost past) is nostalgic, clinging, but also sculpting and understanding the need to let go. Maybe that's a place I am now. "Everylong" probably knows, on some level, that forever isn't a thing, just as it knows that no one's waited "everlong." But it can feel that way, and it can cling to the idea of things staying real, not being fictionalized by memory, and those feelings are valid. And maybe for our protagonist, he knows his best days (and most of his days overall) are behind him, while Everlong's skepticism at the idea that things could be as good (let alone better) again might be youthful drama. But putting that with the reality of mortality and uncertainty kind of gets at BE AWESOME, which isn't just about being terminally ill.