Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Tonight Is The Night I Feel Asleep At The Wheel by The Barenaked Ladies

More often than not the subject of a song directly reveals what the song is about.  For example the subject of “Love Story” by Taylor Swift is well, a love story. The meaning of a song is the glory of falling in love against adversity.  But every once in a while a song reveals a meaning that is very different then the subject.

"Tonight Is The Night I Feel Asleep At The Wheel" by the Barenaked Ladies is pretty much about what you think. It tells the story of car crash but it's meaning is something that you don't really expect.

The Barenaked Ladies are best known for their 1998 rock/rap song "One Week."

While this fun song was kind of silly, other songs on the album revealed a level of depth and musical maturity like "Call And Answer."

Barenaked Ladies - Call and Answer by popefucker

Two years later the Barenaked Ladies released their second album Maroon.  Insightful and witty, the songs in this album covered a wide variety of themes while creating one of the greatest albums in popular music.

The album built up to the second to last song "Tonight Is The Night I Feel Asleep At The Wheel," a first-person telling of the experience of a car crash.  

The song opens as the driver describes driving home to be with "you" who we assume is his love.  It's a night just like any other and his love, as he expresses "you're the last thing on my mind."  This phrase is usually used to describe things that we don't care about or don't think about very often.  In this same way this is the last thing on our mind as the car crash ensues.

There's an almost eerie level of peace as he describes the car flipping over and the firefighters trying to get him out of the car.  When he concludes that it's over because he sees so much blood it isn't so much alarming but glorious.  Right after that crescendo the music pulls back and he reveals to us why he feels so serene through this entire thing: "you're the last thing on my mind."

This line from the beginning of the the song that describes his love as an afterthought is transformed to a line of love and devotion.  In his final moments as he dies it's his love that comes to mind.  It's this thought that brings him peace and in this way he finally is able to describe the way that feels.

The subject of this song is simple.  It's a guy who falls asleep at the wheel and get in a car crash.  The meaning is harder to describe.  In pain we seek comfort.  In people we find that comfort and it is in the love that people bring to us that we find peace.

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