Monday, September 20, 2010

Hey, Soul Sister by Train

This song doesn’t make any sense.

Don’t get me wrong, a lot of pop songs don’t make sense on a literal of figurative level.  It’s like the way you suspend your belief in an action blockbuster to believe that someone can survive multiple gunshot wounds. You can put aside all logic and realism but there’s a point when they go too far and you are yanked out of the film thinking “really, the guy jumped off a motorcycle into a HELICOPTER?!?”

Train crosses that point with “Hey, Soul Sister.”

Now I’m not trying to hate here. That’s not my shtick but I have to point out a couple things about this song that just don’t work. The title of this song is “Hey Soul Sister,” which is an allusion to the song “Lady Maramlade,” originally recorded by Labelle, but more recently covered as part of the Moulin Rouge soundtrack featuring Christina Aguilera, Mya, Pink, Lil’ Kim.

Cool, a tribute to great soul divas like Patti Labelle and Aretha Franklin and the first musical sound we hear is a . . . ukulele?!? Now I love the ukulele and when it’s used well.  It’s a really soulful instrument like in Iz’s version of “Somewhere Over The Rainbow/What A Wonderful World,” but it’s not an instruments that reflects Soul music.

Then there’s the chorus, “Hey soul sister, ain’t that 'Mr. Mister' on the radio, the stereo? the way you move aint’ far you know.” Do y’all know who Mr. Mister is? They are an American 1980s rock band most notable for their song “Kyrie” which misuses a text from the Latin translation of the Catholic Mass for a hook.

There is nothing soulful about Mr. Mister. Let’s say for a second he’s not talking about that mediocre band, then what is he talking about the chorus? Don’t get me started on the verse.

Here’s the thing, ever though this song doesn’t make sense (“like a virgin your Madonna”), the spirit of losing yourself in music comes across as clear as day. I watched a class of about sixty 6th graders last week at the end of a choir rehearsal rehearsal sing this entire song through not missing a beat or a word and not one of them was not engaged in this song.  After witnessing that you can't deny that there's something that really works about this song.  

When I hear “Hey, Soul Sister” my brain can’t help but get frustrated but my heart and soul tells my brain to simply shut up and enjoy it. When my brain finally does quiet down I gotta admit, this song feel pretty damn good.


  1. Yeah, I was wondering about that Mr. Mister reference myself. However I remember the Mister for "Broken Wings", not a bad song to have around if you're in love with a new chick.

  2. I love this song -- it's so hard NOT to smile at the absolutely goofy adoration while singing along.