I find it interesting when a song has an “actual” meaning completely other than that which it has for a particular person. The most obvious examples of this are all the songs like ‘Angels’ or ‘Perfect Day,’ ‘Nothing Compares 2 U,’ ‘Eternal Flame’ etc. which get played at weddings despite they’re about drugs and/or one night stands and/orSinead O’Connor’s dead mum but radio segments where listeners can call in with a story and get “their song” played demonstrate that this isn’t isolated to soppy balladry and indeed, for every song there is someone, somewhere, misinterpreting it, probably to the chagrin of others.

I don’t get particularly annoyed by people “misinterpreting” songs (instead, I get annoyed at them using rubbish and generic songs at their weddings) since surely they mean whatever you think they mean, etc. but I do, as I said, find it interesting. Partly, probably, in a completely vain way because I’ve realised as I’ve got older there are a hell of a lot of songs I heard as a child and completely misunderstood. For instance: ‘Rock The Casbah’ is not quite the same as ‘Kajagoogoo’ in the ‘senseless party songs’ stakes and ‘Eye Of The Tiger’ is not actually about an actual tiger, not to mention all the countless song’s I’ve had the “hang on a minute, this is about shagging!” shock moment about. 

There are, though, the songs you attribute meaning to that probably (or in fact definitely) isn’t anything to do with the intent of the original songwriter but which has nothing to do with a basic misunderstanding. I was thinking about this last night, whilst listening to ‘Flamboyant’ by the Pet Shop Boys on repeat because somehow, it felt like it was dealing with the sadness/frustration I was feeling regarding an elderly relative’s decline.

Clearly, this is absolutely not what a song about a flamboyant young person is about but somehow the meter and key of the synths serves to represent frustrated sadness to me, with the lyrics blurring into insignificance (indeed, the entire vocal line essentially being mentally lifted and removed from the song) in comparison to the beat, which it occurred to me actually sounds like a chorus of life support units in places, although I’m not sure that was any conscious or unconscious factor in my feelings about it.

This wouldn’t really differ from the first, mistaken, sort of interpretation of a song except that I know perfectly well what ‘Flamboyant’ is about and that it has no connection to my current situation. I suppose this is a question article, because I don’t actually understand this myself at all; whilst I know it’s to do with the synaesthetic appreciation of the song, which is to say the way the particular notes and tones associate for a particular person but it’s odd that it’s possible to override known associations for a song (“dance pop extravagaza re: showing off”) with completely different ones (“3am no sleep distressed anthem”) without feeling any particular jarring in the juxtaposition.

Possibly it’s just that ‘Flamboyant’ caught me at the right minute and any song could have fitted at the time but I’m sure I’ve done this with other things, too and that other people have done it far more. The thing I find odd is the conscious replacement of one attribute of the song with a tertiary one, which by some thought shouldn’t really be particularly possible or at least is psychologically dubious.

I don’t particularly have a conclusion here, I’ve realised (yes, it took me that many paragraphs) but rather more an open invitation for yr thoughts on the matter. Am I a raving mentalist or does everyone do this? Is it a purer (ugh word alert) form of music appreciation than when we try to ‘understand’ the song or is it just emotionally impulsive bollocks? Does anyone other than me find it even remotely interesting? etc.