David Bowie, "Everyone Says 'Hi'"

>> Tuesday, January 12, 2016

My favorite line in this song, one of my favorite Bowie lines ever, comes at the end of this song.  Bowie is going through the list of people who might miss you as much as he does, now that you've gone away--

And the girl next door
And the guy upstairs
Everyone says, "Hi"

And your mum and dad
Everyone says, "Hi"

And then (this is the best part, my favorite)--

And your big fat dog
Everyone says, "Hi"

Oh, I love that.  I know, seems like a small thing after all that buildup, and this is a guy who wrote some really beautiful, poetic lyrics, and maybe my favorite line is "And your big fat dog."

But this is also sort of like "Five Years," isn't it, in that when Bowie sings that line, you pictured the dog, didn't you?  The assured way he sings it, the smile in his voice, and it's like he knows your dog that you left (probably with your mum and dad, and that's not fair; I'm sure they love the dog, but he was your responsibility) even though all he's really saying about it is that it's big, and fat, and a dog.

Oh, this is such a cheery, such a winsome song.  What is he doing here?  He's singing about something sad--missing someone, losing someone--and it's such a happy and hopeful song as much as it's a sad song (and make no mistake, it's also a sad song).  We miss you, we love you, please come home.  We're happy you're having your big adventure, but if the food is lousy, come back and your favorite restaurant is still up the road where it used to be.

(I find myself, by the way, thinking about an old high school friend who is overseas teaching college in Kurdistan right now.  If the money is lousy, you can always come home, if the food gets you leery, you can always come home.  Hope the weather's good and it's not too hot.)

A lot of bittersweet songs are mostly bitter, y'know?  But this one--this is one that's mostly sweet.  It yearns, but it still keeps the love and hope up front.  This song isn't "goodbye," it's "au revoir," we'll see each other again.

(Though, if it speeds up your return, there's that quiet little guilt trip in it, too, and isn't that well-played?  They may not care for you where you are now, but we love you.)

Another thing I love about this one: another thing I'm a sucker for is random doo-wops stuck into a song, and around the 2:30 mark in this one, would you dig those background vocals?  This is late-period Bowie, or what goes for late period (Heathen (2002)), and therefore supposedly (and maybe truthfully?) inferior to Scary Monsters and Super Creeps (1980) or the Berlin Trilogy.  But this is a fun song, with those "Wop-wop-wahoos" at the crescendo.

Also, listening to it again: kind of a similar dynamic structure to "Five Years" (weird to be comparing these two songs), starting relatively quiet (albeit not whispersoft) and rising to the joyous-but-somber climax.  But here... well, maybe I already said it with "joyous-but-somber".  Where "Five Years" is climbing to the top of the tree because the valley is on fire, this one's climbing up to...

...well, to say "Hi."


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