“Tennessee,” Arrested Development
Young black man Speech is upset that his loved ones are dead, and also that his fellow African-Americans are always getting into trouble. He goes to Tennessee, looks at a tree and thinks about history and slavery and stuff, then returns home totally full of himself.
Sample Lyrics: “I ask you Lord why you enlightened me / Without the enlightenment of all my folks”
And then God tells him it was because he set out to better himself while everyone else is content to wallow in ignorance, basically? I think this is roughly the equivalent of a college student’s backpacking journey that, like, totally opens his eyes to the plight of other peoples and now he is AWARE. In Speech’s defense, every single lyrics site I looked at said “Dyesburg” instead of “Dyersburg,” so maybe everyone is stupid.
“Piano Man,” Billy Joel
In case you weren’t aware, the Piano Man is just a guy who plays some tunes in a dive bar — the kind that smells like beer and is full of sailors, but also has a dude on a piano? Like a baby grand? That seems classy, actually. Or an upright, like the Old West? It’s hard to tell. Did those places ever really exist? I’ve only ever seen them in sketch comedy and Woody Allen movies.
Sample Lyrics: “It's a pretty good crowd for a Saturday / And the manager gives me a smile / 'Cause he knows that it's me they've been comin' to see / To forget about their life for a while”
Well how nice that you can make these shitheel losers feel like human beings instead of failures! And he’s so great, they tell him he should move up in the world, possibly to share his gift with others? They, as a group, may have let their dreams wither and die, but they’ll be damned if that happens to the Piano Man.
“Life’s Been Good,” Joe Walsh
One of the best-known “fame is hard” songs (for additional examples, listen to any successful artist’s sophomore album) can always be excused away as tongue-in-cheek, but who really cares? You still have a mansion and fancy car and strangers telling you how great you are, and the bit about “I can’t complain but sometimes I still do” doesn’t change that. But it’s not all bad: it’s a much less self-important song than “Dirty Laundry,” and it reminds me of the time Jimmy James ran for President.
Sample Lyric: “I keep on going / Guess I'll never know why”
Remember the part about the mansion and money and adoration? That’s why.