Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Song Analysis: Natasha Bedingfield - "Stumble"

The Song: Featured on the American release of her Unwritten album, Natasha Bedingfield's "Stumble" was never a single. But yet, it's a rather lovely little acoustic rock number that would have contended for top 50-ish single of the year had it ever been released. It's the only song on the album not cowritten by Ms. Bedingfield, which may make it seem like I'm slighting her. But I'm not! Her songs are great too, and some are even better than this one ("Unwritten", "The One That Got Away")! But this was the one I felt like analyzing, so that's where I'm going with it. No offense intended TashBed, you are a great songwriter!!

Youtube: "Stumble" [Not that anybody does what I say, but listen to this before you read the review if you don't know the song. The song depends on misdirection so it's better if you are "unspoiled"].

I'm not the kind of girl you bring to mother
I'm not the kind of girl you kiss in public
My manners leave a lot to be desired
At least i'm not a liar

And I'm not about the subtle innuendo,
More likely to throw rocks up at your window
We'll walk on eggshells so you don't hear
The crazy things I'm saying when you get near me
I'd rather disappear than be faking it, anyway

You like me, yeah, I know it
You're so transparent
How you stumble 'round those words so well
You like me, there I said it
Don't need a dictionary helping me
'Cause I can spell

My foot was in my mouth the day I met you,
All my friends they said I'd never get you
But they don't know it when they see it
They need glasses to believe it
They dont understand, so be it
What can I say, anyway?

You like me, yeah, I know it
You're so transparent
How you stumble 'round those words, so well
You like me, there I said it
Don't need a dictionary
Helping me, cause I can tell

By the way you turn me on to your favourite band,
By the way you pour me coffee when I'm too tired to stand,
The way you lift me up when I'm fading,
Breathe me in when I'm suffocating
Don't say that it's just because you can

Don't be stupid, thinking I've misjudged you
I know enough to know when someone trusts you
Why fight it now, It isn't gonna hurt you, anyway


Song Analysis: I love a good misdirection based song, and this is one of the ones I've been listening to a whole lot lately. The general story is about a girl who likes a guy, and thinks she likes him back too. Does he really like her back or not? It's unstated, but I have my thoughts on the matter. The story itself is nothing special, what I'll get into here is how it's told, and I'll get a little bit into how the music helps the story along.

The song opens with a rather plucky piano line and a breathy, light tone to Natasha's voice you'd expect from a love song. The first half of the first verse details all the ways in which she is imperfect, but, the verse ends, at least she tells the truth always. The next half of the verse confirms this, she is up front with her feelings and doesn't hide them in. But she's bursting; she likes this guy and she can't keep it in any longer. She can't "walk on eggshells" and just sit around being coy and quiet. She's exploding trying to fake it and has to let it out, so we get to the chorus and...

Rather than the declaration of love, as we would expect, it's a declaration of how much HE loves HER. Ha, a nice little switch up there, and one that changes the complexion of the song entirely. "You like me, there I said it" -- so what's been building up all this time, is not that SHE likes HIM (as one would naturally assume from the first verse), but how obvious it is that HE likes HER. Hey, you stumble round words and whatnot, so let's get it out into the open. Of course, the whole first verse was saying/implying that she was stumbling with words around him. But, at this point all her feelings for him are just implied, never actually stated. Note that nowhere in the chorus does it contain any response as to how she feels about him loving her. Interesting. There's a nice bit of musical misdirection here too. Like I said I don't know music theory at all, so maybe I lack the tools to properly describe it. But, from the "rather disappear than be faking it, anyways", it sounds like it's building up to a really big chorus, the big declaration of love. But the chorus is almost some kind of small breakdown. It really comes out ouf left field, just like the declaration itself! Nice synergy there. The song continues...

Verse 2 makes her feelings for him explicit, where it was only implicit from verse one. So now at least that much is unmistakeable. In fact, verse 2 is a nice bit of misdirect too, as it calls into question the very issues brought up by the declaration in the chorus. The chorus is a nice little unequivocable statement that she KNOWS that he likes her. In verse 2 we reveal that none of her friends really think that he likes her. They all know that she loves him, and think he's out of her league and that she's deluding herself. She remains undeterred. "They need glasses to believe it", kind of a weird line, but the point of this verse is clear. She likes the guy and wants to be with him, but her friends doubt the possibility of that. Verse ending line of "What can I say anyways?" is I guess supposed to be the response to her friends. She can't say anything to convince them, but she knows what she knows, as far as she is concerned. "So be it", she'll go on without them. Chorus continues with no change, except that "spell" is changed to "tell" in the last line, so as to lead into the bridge.

The bridge details all the ways that she knows he loves her. And, once again, it starts out with a nice misdirect. The line "By the way you turn me on to your favorite band" contains a brief but definitely noticeable pause between "turn me on" and "to your favorite band". Not too long as to kill the effect, but just long enough so you think the line ends at "By the way you turn me on", which would be an odd line and had my mind racing with possibilities for about a half a second before the line continued. Right, so he tells her about new music, pours her coffee when she can't be bothered to do it on her own, these are standard flirting items, though they are also gestures of simple friendship. But then it goes off onto "By the way you lift me up when I'm fading", which honestly sounds to me more like a sign that she loves him, but whatever. Then we get the immensely weird line "Breathe me in when I'm suffocating". I like this line because it sounds creepy and stalkerish (actually it sounds like a Kelly Clarkson lyric), but I don't have the first clue what it's supposed to mean. "Don't say it's just because you can" -- I know you love me and nothing you say will change my mind. Actions speak louder than words. Last chorus then song over.

Based on verse 2 and the end of the bridge, I'm going to go ahead and make the call that this is a song about how when you really, really like someone, you tend to read way too much into their actions and become convinced they like you back. A deadly, and I think fairly universal, cycle. As I see it, and stripped from all the misdirection in the song the story is as follows: TashBed sees this guy and likes him a lot. Really really likes him; a love at first sight kind of thing. Not normally accustomed to holding her feelings in, but she doesn't want to screw this up! She's friends with the guy and he does nice stuff for her and she assumes he likes her. These feelings bottling up are killing her and she wants to let them out. But rather then put herself out there on the line by saying how she likes, she couches it in terms of HIS feelings rather than HERS. So it's not like "Hey I like you tons lets go out", which makes herself vulnerable. It's "I KNOW you like me, and sure since you like me so much I'll go out with you", which allows her to maintain her cool. Whether her really likes her or not is never known and is immaterial to the song. We never do get to hear his response. But anyways, I'd run run away if I was him, this girl sounds like a creepy stalker to me. I love this story because I think a lot of us have been there before and I'm not sure if I can think of another song offhand that tells the same story. And great musical misdirection too because it just sounds, based on the instrumentation and TashBed's tone like a cute little love song and it's totally not!

FINAL RATING: The song has a nice little catchy melody to it, although it's very musically simple, and features a truly stellar vocal performance by Natasha. But the clear standout in the song are the lyrics. Constantly taking you in new directions, and featuring several surprising twists, but always grounded in a central story that I think is interesting and insightful. For a simple, silly little love song this has quite a few layers of depth to it. Should have been a single, it's a better song than "Single", at any rate. 8/10.

META COMMENTS: OK, way shorter than the Charlotte Church song review, which I think is better for everybody. Still haven't received any feedback about this, but as long as I don't receive really negative feedback I'm going to keep going ahead, because I enjoy writing these. Probably will grow less and less frequent due to laziness but whatever. Next song in the queue is "So Yesterday" by Hilary Duff, so be on the lookout for that, probably within the next couple weeks.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

i loved to read the post... i liked the in depth analysis of the song that has been shared here... i would surely drop by this blog again to have some more exciting informations and reviews...!!!

5:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

wow, thanks so much for this in-depth analysis. i was listening to this song over and over again today, and was really puzzled by the lyrics. to me nothing is more beautiful (well, i guess other than the singer and the music itself) than lyrics that actually make you ponder. it's a great song. and the lyrics are, to me, poetry on its own. awesome job interpreting! :)

2:01 AM  

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