Hi ! After knowing harry's meaning of SOTT what do you think of it? Honestly that's not what i was thinking... like i never thought it would be a perspective of a mother dying. all the interpretations everyone's made idk harry is so difficult to read what are your thoughts?
The Rolling Stone/ Cameron Crowe interview was quite a nice bit of theater this morning, wasn’t it?
On the one hand, we have Harry state in radio promo interview that SOTT was his most literal and personal song on the album. On the other hand, he offers an interpretation of a mother dying in childbirth and urging her child forward. He paints quite a dramatic tableau– but if it’s personal/ literal, which one was Harry? The mom? Or the child?
Was the dying mother the one shouting, “We’ve got to–away”? Because she, this dramatic character, wasn’t going to make it. Or was it the baby talking to– the neonatal intensive care unit staff?
Then we have contradicting versions of how the song was written. A prior interview had said Harry sat down at a piano, thrummed out some chords in the rented Jamaica house that ended up being the opening of the song.
The Rolling Stones interview says, “The song began as a seven-minute voice note on Styles’ phone, and ended up as a sweeping piano ballade.”
So which one was it? A spontaneous improvisation on a Jamaican piano, or a voice note?
I think the clue to these contradiction lies in the one true thing Harry said:
“Like, fuck, I don’t know what Prince eats for breakfast. That mystery … it’s just what I like.”
I was talking to @lawyerlarrie about the French deconstructionists, Foucault and Derrida. Deconstructionism is a movement of literary criticism which focuses on literary texts to the exclusion of authorial intent. “Pride and Prejudice” means something because of the words (the text) themselves, not because of what Jane Austen wanted them to mean. In this school, it doesn’t really matter what Austen wanted. What we have is the text.
Similarly, when songs are written, they acquire an existence of their own, regardless of what the songwriter wants them to mean.
You can carry this to an absurd end, of course. Other ways of interpreting are valid, including a psychosocial reading connecting the song to a songwriter’s biography. For example, we now know that Stevie Nicks wrote “Sara” about her abortion of the baby she conceived with Don Henley. That fact is relevant to the song, no matter what the literary interpretation is.
SOTT’s lyrics describe separation and oppression; a promised end that never comes; a relationship in which one person has been given reprieve/ freedom while the other person is left behind. It is about false reassurances, about someone giving comfort despite knowing that a situation is hopeless. It’s a song about an impossible escape. And about the guilt of the person (the singer) who has been given the freedom. The cost of his freedom was pain to the person he loves. That meaning is unarguable.
These words have meaning, no matter what the writers want them to mean. A mother dying is one way to express this situation. But a mother dying is a metaphoric representation of the situation. In other words, it can’t be literal– not for Harry. The literal meaning is hidden. Harry didn’t say it; he didn’t want to say it.
So much is left unsaid or obfuscated in this interview. I (with some discomfort) admire Harry the Escape Artist. He has left just a smoky outline of himself on the page. There’s an irony in his honesty. “I’m honest because I’ve told no lies”; this isn’t the same as “I’m honest because I’m telling the truth.”
We say he’s “swerving,” but I don’t think that’s a great description either.
I think the whole solo promo has been about creating another theatrical persona for Harry– one who is a hip, down-to-earth, creative, sweet, genuine, charming, HONEST musician who doesn’t get many dates, and whose heart is broken over and over by intense (heterosexual) love affairs, which are then converted to art. And who, finally, gets to do exactly what he wants– so it’s all above ground and transparent, right?
Wrong. It’s all illusory.
Harry has created an iron curtain between his public and private lives, which no one but family are privy to. I’m not just talking about his sexuality, but the whole question of his privacy. The iron curtain deflects peskier personal questions and allows him to work. It separates his celebrity status from his artistic achievements. Not that he’s above using celebrity to promote his art– why else would he do the interview? Of course he’s going to use his celebrity when the occasion arises. But he’s treading a thin line.
The iron curtain lets him swim in the private cove of his Jamaican imagination without being under public scrutiny.
The ocean doesn’t care who he is. It doesn’t care whether he was in love with Taylor Swift. It is big enough for him to disappear in.
So if his whole album is filled with love songs dedicated to female pronouns, so be it. He has raised the wall.
“The mystery … it’s just what I like.”