‘Favorite’ is Relative

Posted: August 30, 2013 in A Little Less Profound
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

By Susan

On Aug. 15, The Airborne Toxic Event asked fans, via Facebook, to share their favorite lyrics. We all place a lot of importance on Mikel’s lyrics and we all have our favorites. After some internal debate, I added mine, which were quickly swallowed up by the other 1,204 entries. You’d think that this simple request would just be a fun fan interaction, taking 30 seconds out of my very full, busy life, but you’d be wrong. Here it is, a week later, and I cannot let go of the request. I keep replaying songs in my head, mentally highlighting other lyrics which are equally important to me. More times than I can sanely admit, I’ve considered revisiting Facebook and editing my choice. It’s obvious I am taking this way too seriously!

My contribution to the Facebook thread was one of my favorite lines from All At Once: “We get old all at once, and it comes like a punch, in the gut, in the back, in the face.” I can certainly relate! Since my husband and I met at 18, we’ve been happily together for 40 years. Do the math. I am certainly not modern music’s target audience, yet while I don’t feel old, I know that is exactly how it happens, and it does feel like a punch. You blink and your baby is 28. You get lost in mundane chatter and the next thing you know, you’ve lost your parents and friends have had heart attacks. And it really does seem to happen all at once.

But I digress; I’ll get back to my inexplicable angst over sharing my favorite lyric. As I mentioned, a week has passed and I have been lamenting my choice. How could I not choose, “Cause the truth is hard to admit. I’ve never known love, this is just my best guess?” The first time I heard Elizabeth, that line changed the entire song for me. I was listening along, appreciating the nice little tune about an ex-girlfriend, not thinking it terribly deep, when that line comes and it literally stopped me in my tracks. How can Mikel keep doing this? How can he make such an impact with two lines?

How could I ignore so many of the other obvious fan favorites? I could arbitrarily pick any line from Graveyard Near the House or All I Ever Wanted, or All For a Woman, or Wishing Well. Duet. Letter to Georgia. This Losing. Innocence. I feel as if I’m betraying so many of my favorites by not mentioning, “We could lie to each other like they do and say we’re so happy,” or “I’m a desperate and lonely, frightened, unholy thing.” There are so, so many.

And then there are the not so obvious choices that have come to mean a lot to me. Tokyo Radio is probably not a song that comes to mind to most, but I find it perfect. My son was studying in Tokyo and we spent a couple weeks visiting and traveling through Japan. I found the entire experience unnerving. I was totally out of my element. There were just too many people, too many lights, too much activity, unrecognizable food, strange customs, unreadable signage. It was as if the world was swirling around me and I couldn’t find solid ground. I’m a seasoned traveler so I struggled to explain why I found the experience so unsettling. “It’s a waking dream at best, I could use a little less… All the bowing and waving, so goddamn polite, I was thinking of jumping from my window last night.” Mikel nailed it succinctly in 2:38.

More than a few fans stated Sometime Around Midnight as their lyrical choice, many citing the entire song. While it’s impossible not to connect with the desperation of Mikel’s experience, I am drawn to a different night spent in a Silver Lake bar. I connect to the quiet despair described in Parson Redheads as ”the singers all cry as she whispers in my ear, and I stare down at the ground, holding tightly to my beer.” Remove the word “tightly” and the power of the lyric shifts. One word. One perfectly placed word and my heart is squeezed. I find this slow fading, desperate disconnect much more poignant than the drunken anguish described in Midnight.

Many of these lines are like old friends. They’ve had years to work their way into my emotional lexicon. However, it didn’t take me long to embrace, “I wish I could scream myself awake,” “Your body so much like a blanket thrown on a warm bed at night like a house in a storm.” Dear God, is there any way to ignore the refuge of home when it’s describe so beautifully, or the gorgeous arrangement of The Fifth Day which speaks as clearly as any lyric?

So I continue to think about my favorite lyrics and have come to the conclusion that “favorite” is relative. We can reserve the right to change our minds. My favorite lyric is my favorite lyric at the exact moment I am thinking about my favorite lyric! It’s a fluid process, a snapshot in time. I have to believe this because it’s the only way I’ll stop obsessing over what should have been a fun Facebook moment with a band I adore.

And while I’ve come to peace with all this, I can’t wait for new lyrics to vie for my “favorite.” Keep writing, Mikel, I have room!

Susan, fan of The Airborne Toxic EventSusan is a wife, mom, & an avid road cyclist. She teaches Spinning classes at 4 gyms in the Philly suburbs and she always has an ear out for new interesting music to use in her playlists. Rarely does something grab her attention like “Sometime Around Midnight” did when she first heard it on college radio, months before its official release. The obsession has been going strong ever since. She can often be found in The Airborne Toxic Event forum, where she operates under the name Pink.

  1. I approve of this 100%. I also reserve the right to change my mind at any time, at any moment, for any reason. This Facebook query left me frustrated, angry, and otherwise lost in a sea of words fighting for the coveted title of “Favorite.” Forget it, Facebook. Airborne, you should know better than to ask to your fans A Question That Has No Right Answer, except the vague, general one that feels lazy to use: “All of them.”


  2. jenlargent says:

    I love that your favorite lyric changes with each mood or day. I can never pinpoint my favorite lyric either. I have always had a connection to Tokyo Radio, but “It’s a waking dream at best, I could use a little less…is something that I say and feel when I go though weeks of no sleep – life seems like a waking dream….You are the first person to even mention that song and sleepless memories came flooding back. I agree with Miss Stunning Ruins that its a cruel game to ask us what our favorite lyrics and lines are because everyday we change and so does every favorite lyric.


  3. Anna says:

    I 100% agree that favorite is relative, though you all said it better than I can. It changes based on what happened in the day, what mood you’re in, etc….but TATE seems to have a lyric to fit almost any combination of events in my life. Keep ’em coming, Mikel!


  4. Susan says:

    Ladies, I’m glad I’m not alone in my indecision. It’s nice to be in such good company!


  5. […] ‘Favorite’ is Relative: On the folly of choosing your favorite TATE lyric (not that it stopped us from trying). […]


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