Yesterday I grumbled about a song I hate. So today, in the interest of being Fair and Balanced, I shall ramble about a song I love.
(Skip ahead to 1:03 for the actual song)
This is “Some Nights” by “Fun.”. Now, first off, that’s not a typo there; the band name actually has the period as part of the name, so doubling up is really the best I can do to reflect that. Honestly, the simplistic name could be better, but then again, too complex and your name just gets abbreviated anyway. I guess bands just can’t win.
On to the music.
The first thing I love about this song is the catchy hook/bridge/I-don’t-know-the-official-term in the back of the chorus – the “Oh whoa, oh whoa-oh, oh whoa-oh, oh” part. It sticks in my head like an earworm, but is not so annoying as to make me want to claw my ears out because of it. It’s got a good beat and some fun rhythm, making it a joy to listen to. (Now, admittedly, I do hate the autotune part. If you can’t hit those notes, you probably shouldn’t put them in your song.)
But what really draws me (as yesterdays post should make no surprise) are the lyrics. Because I have not been able to find any official word from the lyricist (or, indeed, a clear indication of who the lyricist actually is), I am free to assign my own meaning to the words. Which is good, because I was going to anyway (art should not, as a rule, come with a predefined meaning).
“Some nights, I stay up cashing in my bad luck; some nights, I call it a draw“
In my reading, this song is a soldier’s thoughts (something I thought, for the record, even before seeing the video). Here, he’s “cashing in his bad luck”, playing the sympathy card on his deployment to gain some companionship, while the draw is merely being lucky to be alive.
“Some nights, I wish that my lips could build a castle; some nights, I wish they’d just fall off“
This is a modern song, and it’s about a modern war (Afghanistan, to be specific); this line is about how soldiers must now be diplomats as well as warriors. Sometimes, the soldier wishes he could forge true alliance with the people and feel safe – sometimes he really regrets things he has said and wishes he could take the words back.
“But I still wake up, I still see your ghost / Oh Lord, I’m still not sure what I stand for
What do I stand for? What do I stand for? / Most nights, I don’t know any more…”
Whatever his mistakes, the soldier is still alive, and can still see the faint glimmer of nobility and hope he used to believe in, but the reality he’s faced with makes him question himself more and more – he’s no longer sure being a soldier is the noble thing it was sold as. Most nights, he questions whether what he is doing is truly good or not.
“This is it, boys, this is war – what are we waiting for?
Why don’t we break the rules already?”
Faced with the reality of war, the soldier is wondering why they have to follow so many rules, especially in regards to engaging the enemy; after all, the enemy doesn’t follow them.
“I was never one to believe the hype – save that for the black and white
I try twice as hard and I’m half as liked, but here they come again to jack my style”
Let the newspapers and partisan media believe the hype of war; the soldier never bought into the idea that these people were evil. He clings to his noble ideals and tries to be an upstanding example, but it never pays off for him; no matter how hard he tries, the locals never like him, and the native soldiers he’s training get a lot more respect despite their poor behaviour, simply because they’re not American.
“That’s alright (that’s alright). / I found a martyr in my bed tonight.
Stops my bones from wondering / just who I am, oh who am I?“
He can forget about the indignity in the short term, though; every now and then a local girl keeps him company, and doing so keeps him from thinking too much about where he is and what he’s doing there.
“Well, some nights I wish that this all would end
‘Cause I could use some friends for a change
And some nights I’m scared you’ll forget me again
Some nights I always win (I always win)”
The questions are always coming back, though. The soldier bounces between wishing the war would end so he wouldn’t be surrounded by enemies all the time (and wondering who his friends truly were), worrying that his country would largely forget about the sacrifices he’s making while wrapped up in everyday life, and the occasional feeling of grandeur and power brought about by a culture that venerates veterans and the inherent feeling of power that comes with being part of the most powerful army on Earth.
“So this is it? I sold my soul for this?
Washed my hands of that for this?
I miss my mom and dad for this?“
The soldier’s existential crisis strikes again. He truly questions his place, in the world, in the army, in his country. Trained to kill other people, the faith he was raised with has forfeited his soul, forced him to give up his old life, and his family, for a war he doesn’t believe in.
“No. When I see stars [..] that’s all they are
When I hear songs, they sound like this one”
He rejects his despair and embraces reality; he isn’t looking towards some distant heavenly reward, but embracing what life he can have in the here and now. The songs he hears are hopeful – thoughtful, but ultimately bright and positive.
“That is it, guys, that is all – five minutes in and I’m bored again
Ten years of this, I’m not sure if anybody understands“
Just redeployed, the soldier has fallen back into his old routines; the warzone isn’t exciting, it’s just mind-numbing and dull. Ten years of war is a long time – the longest war America has ever known – and very few people back home really understand the sacrifices soldiers make.
“This one is not for the folks back home; I’m sorry to leave, mom, I had to go
Who the fuck wants to die alone all dried up in the desert sun?“
Soldiers are often driven into service by a need for accomplishment; their lives feel empty without service, and through their service they try to find purpose, whatever sacrifices they make. But even if it’s something the soldier felt driven to do, as he says literally, who the fuck wants to die alone all dried up in the desert sun? Dying in Afghanistan is not part of his plan, or his purpose.
“My heart is breaking for my sister and the con that she called “love”
But when I look into my nephew’s eyes…
Man, you wouldn’t believe the most amazing things that can come from…
Some terrible lie“
The soldier has come home, and his sister has been knocked up by some con (I’m not sure if this is a confidence man con, or a convict con – it doesn’t really matter) who is obviously no longer there. His heart breaks for the pain his sister is going through, and again for what he will become again should he ever encounter this “con she called love”. But then he looks into his nephew’s eyes, and sees the glory of new life, and new love. The child eases his heart, and he finds something new to live for.
“The other night, you wouldn’t believe the dream I just had about you and me
I called you up, but we’d both agree
It’s for the best you didn’t listen
It’s for the best we get our distance…“
The soldier wants to tell everyone how pointless and terrible war is, but he knows nothing good will come of it. So instead of fighting over the issue of war with chickenhawks who have never served, he – and the fictional politicos in his dream – agree that it’s best they not argue, and he just walk away from the military life, having served his time.
Anyway, that’s the story I hear when I listen to this song. There’s likely no basis in reality for it, but I don’t care. Art exists to be interpreted, even if it gets interpreted wrong.