Monday, August 18, 2008

Why Don't You Come and Play Here?

In light of the lack of any more Maria Bamford Show to post here, I’ve been pondering what sort of series I could dedicate Sundays to. Words already get Saturdays. And video games get at least one of the weekdays, easily. What for Sundays, then? After some thought, I realized I don’t write enough about music here, so now I’m giving this a shot. Starting today — which, yes, is a Monday, but bear with me, because this is new — I’ll be writing each Sunday about one song that I think is good. I’ll give my thoughts on its merits, its lyrics, its music video, and then tell you all how you can download it, if you so choose. I’ll try to offer a range of sonic delights — old stuff, new stuff — but on the whole I’ll focus on stuff the average Cereal Box reader doesn’t already have jammed into his or her ears like so many forceful Q-Tips.

So here goes nothing.

Truth be told, I might not have picked She & Him’s “Why Do You Let Me Stay Here?” as the song to launch this series had it not been for its phenomenally strange video. I hope this doesn’t jinx the whole series and somehow predestine me to pick songs that are notable more for their music videos than anything else. I’m fairly optimistic this won’t be the case, however, because “Why Do You Let Me Stay Here?” had become my stand-out favorite from She & Him’s Volume One since I first heard them at Noise Pop earlier this year. I just didn’t know what the song was called back then.

In short, this song, to me, represents the perfect cross of indie pop with the type of old-fashioned country with which I’ve recently become enamored. The country influence isn’t all that profound, I suppose, and maybe it lies more in the background singers than anything else. (I’ll say it right here: This song utilizes background singers better than most songs I’ve heard in ten years.) Perhaps the country associations I’ve made result from the fact that the song’s opening lines — “Why do you let me stay here / All by myself? Why don’t you come and play here? / I’m just sitting on the shelf” — remind me on some level of the song the cowgirl character sang in Toy Story 2, which, I’m not ashamed to admit, moved me more than a song sung by a computer-animated action figure should have. The songs do bear a thematic resemblance, what with them both using unused toys as a metaphor for the end of love. Thankfully, “Why Do You Let Me Stay Here?” is actually good, and is nether schmaltzy not sung by Sarah McLachlan.

Have a glance over the lyrics for this (good) song and see for yourself.
Why do you let me stay here
All by myself?
Why don’t you come and play here?
I’m just sitting on the shelf
Why don’t you sit right down and stay a while?
We like the same things and I like your style
It’s not a secret
Why do you keep it?
I’m just sitting on the shelf
I gotta get you presents,
Let’s make it known
I think you’re just so pleasant
I would like you for my own
Why don’t you sit right down and make me smile?
You make me feel like I am just a child
Why do you edit?
Just give me credit
I’m just sitting on the shelf
Nothing profound, really, but rather tight for a pop song, especially when you actually hear Zooey Deschanel belt it out.

As I said earlier, the song has received a bit of attention as a result from it’s surreal and slightly disturbing video. I don’t actually feel the video matches the tone of the song all that well, but as far as being something to watch while listing to the pretty words, it’s not so bad. It’s certainly more violent than the Toy Story imagery I had in my head and more populated with ghosts, but, on the other hand, Zooey dresses up like a cowgirl in it, so I actually have to wonder if the unused-toy-as-discarded-lover things was as intentional reference.

Here’s the video, which is worth the 150 seconds it takes to play through.

Bonus points: It gives M. Ward more to do than just lurking in the background, being less centrally wonderful, as seems to be his duty in She & Him performances. And you really have to enjoy those background singers at the end, getting more out of repeated nonsense syllables than their ilk usually are allowed. (Admission, however: For all I know, those singers could very well just be Zooey Deschanel, digitally multiplied, as if by magic.)

I’d say “Why Do You Let Me Stay Here?” is one of the better tracks to hit this year, and I’ve yet to tire of it. If my recommendations or the above video are motivation at all, I encourage you to download the track yourself, which you can either do through iTunes or, better yet, through the MP3 store.

Enjoy! And do check in on Sunday for another song I dare to say is fit for your ears.


  1. Anonymous2:22 AM

    I'm not too proud to admit I have "When She Loved Me" on my iPod.

    Though strangely, I have a version sung by one of the popstars Disney churns out by the name of Jordan Pruit. I've never heard of her before, I think, so she must not have been a successful case. My nieces keep me informed on the at least mildly notable ones.


    PS: Have I mentioned how bizzare it is to sign my first name when commenting? I think the only time I do so now is when paying bills or stopping by your or Meg's blog.

  2. I'm fairly certain the background vocals are all Zooey - at least this is what a vaguely remembered NPR interview led me to believe. Those NPR bastards can be tricky.

  3. Pedro: It seems to me that the fairly un-Disney Sapphic undertones of "When She Loved Me" would be even more prominent if the song were song out of the context of the movie itself. Strange.

    Dina: If that's the case, then the song makes good use of background-type vocals, if not full-on background vocalists. And, also, then I think I like Zooey all the more.

  4. Pedro: One more thought. You know it's possible to just comment as yourself, right? Instead of picking whatever option you are currently, pick the third one down, "Name/URL," and enter the name as Pedro and enter the URL as whatever you'd like.