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Simplified Song Interpretations

It can be difficult to sum up the subject matter of a song in just one line; for the example, Fred Jones becomes a "downsized newspaper man, "Still Fighting It is about "a father trying to connect with his son," and Gone "snares a jilted lover lost in a chemical haze." 

And then there are times one has no clue as to what the writer is talking about.  Josh Rothman of The Diamondback takes the cake:

In songs like "Carrying Cathy," "The Luckiest," and "Gone," he seems to be pining for his former band mates. Folds sings, "I think that you should spend some time alone." Perhaps he is calling out to Jessee and Sledge.        
The Diamondback

This has elicited a hearty "WTF?" from everyone I have shown it to in the process of creating this page.  We just can't figure it out how a character portrait alluding to a suicide and a love song to Ben's wife fit in with "pining for his former band mates." 

Ken Will (aka "Dr. Boni" ) adds, " There were about fifty interpretations of Not The Same on The Suburbs, and each one of them was more logical than that one sentence."

Here are some more examples of the simplified song-summary.  Some are just mildly amusing in their earnest attempts to decipher meaning from a song and translate it in a few short words; others are truly bizarre or otherwise questionable.  (Click the song to open comments in a new window.) 

>> Boxing >> Narcolpesy
>> Brick Not The Same
>> Cigarette >> Philosophy
Fred Jones Part 2 Still Fighting It
Losing Lisa Zak and Sara
Make Me Mommy >> Miscellaneous

Table of Contents


Missing the Point of Rockin' the Suburbs

While the title track on  Rockin' the Suburbs begs to be misunderstood, most reviewers realize the point Ben is trying to make.  A few miss the mark slightly... or completely.

The first single from the record, the title track, focuses on the struggles of those born into the middle road. “You don’t know what it’s like/Being male, middle-class and white,” he croons slyly. He goes on to mention all the bands that so inspired these middle of the road fellas.

Folds’ humor shines in this piece as he drops names such as Michael Jackson, Quiet Riot and Jon Bon Jovi — as well throwing in an obligatory “Shamon,” Wacko Jacko’s trademark.

The Crescent

First of all, Ben is not focusing on the struggles of those born into the middle road as much as he is indicating they don't have much to complain about, contrary to what modern music might suggest. Secondly, I think fellow fan "Greyseal" had the right idea when she commented, "I would like to call a moratorium on all uses of the term 'Wacko Jacko.' "

It takes shots at the entire music industry, because much of it is now based on musicians who are “male, middle class and white."
The State News (MSU)

In the lyrics Folds complains that people, especially those in the heavy metal and rap businesses, blame the white, middle-class for things beyond its control. He acknowledges Michael Jackson, Quiet Riot and Bon Jovi, and says they had the talent Folds gets only from the producers' computers.
– The Tech Talk

The band tore into "Rockin' the Suburbs," the first single off the new album, in which Folds pokes fun at well-off suburban white kids who act like they have a reason to be angry.
– Baker Orange

On the flipside of artsy, he is admirably open and honest: “Y’all don’t know what it’s like/ being male middle class and white”.
– The Lawrence

Ben Folds doesn’t talk about much on his album though. He just talks of “what it’s like being male, middle class and white,” which to him obviously means lonely and depressed. But I don’t understand what he’s so upset about. He made three albums with Ben Folds Five, two of which went platinum, and has also made two solo albums. If I were Ben Folds I would definitely be satisfied, especially since he’s managed to make the best solo album I believe he’s able to make.
– Aztec Press

Can't anybody understand how tough it is to be Ben Folds? After all, he complains about being "male, middle-class and white," three traits he honestly thinks put him in the minority. His first solo effort, Rockin' the Suburbs, is as much about the irony that's wacky (see above) as it is about the irony that hurts.

Kevin Pang, USC Daily Trojan

Wacky like Jacko? Greyseal chimes in again to add, "Dear Kevin, Go get a dictionary; look up 'irony,' and don't use it again until you know what it means.  Love, the world."

Table of Contents


One Down (and 3.6 to go)

"One Down" is a b-side that Ben included in many of sets during the "Ben Folds and a Piano" tour.  To anyone who is familiar with the song or the story behind it, this explanation is amusing:

By a certain deadline, he needed 6.4 songs written. The night before, the born procastinator chugged out 6 songs onto paper, and was left with .4 songs to write. In a sea of laughter from the crowd, he shared his .4 of a song with us.
– Ingenium

UPDATE >> The satirical "One Down" mocks the recording contract that requires Folds to write 13.6 songs a year.
– Daily Gamecock

The gist of the story is right, but the details are quite mixed up.  Actually, Ben's publishing deal required that he write 4.6 songs, not 6.4 or 13.6.  Tired of being on probation and determined to get paid, he churned out the songs in a short period of time.  In "One Down" (lyrics), he sings, "I got one I finished yesterday and I got 3.6 to go."  He accomplished the .6 of a song by co-writing "Losing Lisa" with his wife.  Ben typically tells a variation of this story in concert before playing "One Down" and some of the other songs he wrote, such as "Girl."

UPDATE >> Another article pegs One Down as something Ben wrote before his success, though the story about his publishing contract discredits this.  (He was on probation during the later years of touring with Ben Folds Five.)

"One Down," which was actually written long before Folds was famous, is probably the best of the new songs. It is a hilarious tribute of sorts to a contract Folds had to write his way out of.
– U-Wire <<



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