Miss America essay

Rock's Renaissance Man

Miss America essay

Postby Oedepus on January 11th, 2011, 12:44 am

Here's something I wrote about my feelings regarding the song, warning: it's rather long

Miss America

I’m writing this to celebrate the 500 plays this song reached on my ipod.
I remember watching this video a few years ago in vh1, but it all seems like a dream now, I was vaguely familiar with Byrne, but I had never heard any of his songs before. I remember liking the song, and finding the video to be something rather peculiar, however I don’t recall thinking much about it afterwards.

Fast forward to the trip to Argentina in 2009, sitting on the plane, looking at someone else’s ipod, I noticed Byrne on the list, with his album “Feelings” I clicked on it, and there it was to my surprise: Miss America, track 2. I played it but didn’t finish the track, it was a lot like I remembered it from the video though, and the “Super girl” section had stick with me all the time.

Then fast forward to mid 2010, I just asked a friend of mine randomly: Hey, please send me a song called “Miss America” by David Byrne. I have no idea what prompted the request, it just happened. He shared it, I downloaded it and that was the beginning of everything. It was only a matter of days before I was playing and singing the song all the time, the play count started rising…

At first I began with a self made greatest hits, but it was only a matter of time before I gave in and got all the albums, and all the Talking Heads material as well. But that was the easy part, then me and my good friend ventured into an incredibly difficult and long journey to track down all of Byrne’s rare, hidden and generally unknown material…we did it, emerging on the other side with little sanity left, but that’s a different story.

Miss America has won the title of my favorite song of all time, and I even got the cd single! Thanks to this song, I became obsessed with Byrne and all of his work; I am in huge debt with Miss America, for introducing me to a world of fantastic music and soundscapes that have kept my mind running wild for the past months.

I have listened to this song everyday since the moment I added it to my music library, it doesn’t matter what I heard on any given day, when I know I’m just a few minutes away from home, everything must be paused because it’s time to spin Miss America. It has been a great companion for countless walks, and it’s rather amazing that after so many plays, it still sounds fresh and new each time I play it.

Every time I hear the first few seconds of the intro’s synth, I know I’m in for a treat, and by the time the 4 minutes and 20 seconds are over, it feels like less then a minute passed, and I’m always hitting the repeat button in an act of surrender…to the most addictive song I’ve ever heard.

What is so special about the song for me?

It’s easy yet hard to describe, it’s something simple but very complicated too…
I’m a daydreamer, I have a very active mind, and this song in particular triggers my imagination and sends me into another world, a very pleasant one.
Just like a character in Byrne’s “Uh-Oh” album, I have girls on my mind, all the time. It is something that can’t be fixed about me; I just picture them all the time like a movie director acting in my plots and scripts. Miss America, of course, is a very feminine, sexual and arousing song. It is playful and naïve, beautiful and warm, it is like touching very smooth skin. Miss America is a song which has long and gorgeous hair, a perfect body and a delightful voice, when she talks and when she sings.

Every second of the song is essential, every instrument sounds impeccable, but if I had to choose my favorite moment of the song, it would def be the last segment, before the instrumental closure. Byrne comes back after a bridge to deliver 2 more Super girl segments, which are basically the core of the track, and then he leaves with an amazing vocal harmony he does with a female backup singer. This particular vocal harmony is one of the top musical moments for me, of all time. Every time I reach that part when I’m singing the song, I put 110% to try to reach its perfection. Sometimes I nail it (to my own surprise) and sometimes I fall short, sometimes half of it comes out great, the other half not so much, but the important thing is that I’ll always try my best. It should be pointed out though, that the truly magical perfection of this harmony has never been reproduced live, I mean David and Christina do a wonderful job and they do sing a different harmony at the end, but nothing quite like the studio recording, which is a slice of heaven.

That final vocal harmony is the voice of Miss America, it contains the full song, it captures everything without words, and it is poetry, even though it can’t be written or repeated with a speaking voice. It goes really high; it is tender and soothing, it’s the most feminine moment of the song, it’s the climax of the piece, when you can almost touch Miss America as she’s delivering the final notes. Byrne sounds so different in that part, like he’s one with the female singer, their voice becomes the same. I have dissected this part so much, I have noticed a lot of things about it that a casual listener might not pick up on the first listen, like a couple of “heys” sung very softly at the end of the harmony, like the female singer is delivering her final word, exhausted and in need of recovery, it sounds really lovely. In the remix version found in “The Visible Man” the female singer does the harmony alone, it sounds cool but not as outstanding like in the regular track, and this goes to show Byrne is a huge part of the magic in that harmony. How odd it seems that he probably sat in the studio thinking “what should I add to finish the song? Maybe a couple of “heey’s” will do it” and little did he know that ending would actually become something so beautiful and moving. Or did he knew that from the beginning?

In regards to the song’s overall meaning, people say it’s some kind of satire, that it mocks (or maybe embraces) Americans who love their country to death even though it’s faulty and perhaps really ugly, I know it’s supposed to be an ironic song, but I decided to give it a different meaning for myself, because it makes it bigger in my grand scheme of things. I think of Miss America as the official soundtrack tune to every beautiful woman that has occupied my thoughts, they truly are Super girls. I’m sure I’m not the only heart they have conquered, and I’m sure they have parts I’ll never see. The song for me is pure admiration for beauty and empowerment in a woman, so endearing, they can be cruel or heartbreaking, but you still can’t help yourself.

In each of the song’s verses, Byrne describes a little detail from our story’s main star. It is mostly regarding her character and personality, but you can create a full image of her with those facts for yourself. Miss America can wear a dress like in the single cover and hold a Popsicle while boys are watching standing next to their car, or she can arrive in her motorcycle wearing a red catsuit, she doesn’t need a helmet, just her glasses, her platform shoes and a lot of attitude, she will sit at the bar and have a milkshake, or she can dance close enough to you so you can hold her and smell that gorgeous blonde or black hair depending on your mood. For example, I remember looking at a black and white photograph of a really beautiful Model at a book, and I thought: this is Miss America! But she keeps changing in my mind, because as I said, she’s everyone.

After 2 verses, I’m not sure if the following parts can be described as the song’s chorus, but they are marked by a very distinct change in the tempo and instrumentation, they all have the opening line “Oh Super Girl, you’ll be my Super Model” this line for me, is the most exciting and moving part of the song, after the final vocal harmony I mentioned earlier. This line is what originally sold the track for me, it’s simply marvelous and genius. It can be interpreted in many ways, you are a super model, everyone knows that, but you will be my super model, all mine. Or, the rest of the world might not see you that way, but you are so pretty that for me, you are a super model. Either way, it’s a really nice thing to say isn’t it? And the Super girl part…well, she is out of the ordinary, she is so remarkable she is like a heroine.

She is a heartbreaker and she knows it, she is the type of woman you would feel incredibly proud to have next to you walking down anywhere, because everyone will turn their heads, everyone will be at her feet, and they’ll wish to be in your place. But she’s a free spirit, she will never be tamed or tied down, she’s always going to be riding her bike to the next place, weather you are over her or not. You ask her why she’s treating you this way, but there’s no point in asking, and when Byrne sings “I’ll be your teenage fanclub” I picture myself wrapping my arms around her knees while she’s looking away with her arms crossed. And I like it, it doesn’t make me feel any kind of heartache at all, because I know that when I sing the rest of the verse, and the following sacred harmony, she will be singing with me, letting me hold her and lean closer to her, and because of the song fading away instead of ending properly, it’s like we’ll be like that forever.

The music video is bizarre and compelling, the song is edited but at least the main parts remain somewhat untouched (though “when she is fucking you” and Dirty Harry were removed) Byrne acts a number of characters, all of whom have apparently succumbed to the charms of Miss America. A 70’s type of guy with a moustache, a futuristic man with some giant speakers on his head, an adidas, hip-hop styled Byrne, the regular Byrne singing at the centre of it all with his guitar, an overly tanned, Elvis hairdo runway host and most notably a rather scary Television Man whom appears to be blind, and constantly smiling. All of them gathered in a night club (which is actually a Chinese restaurant) with an S&M area, a lot of devilish women at the bar, and a few cross dressers.

I really like how Byrne holds the girl that is dancing with him, lustfully yet with some kind of distance, instead of grabbing her breasts, he holds her with his full arms and rests his head on her shoulder, while she puts her hand on the back of his head. Wouldn’t it be the ultimate experience to have a moment like that with Miss America? it would be for me, I wouldn’t want to let her go. The final vocal harmony is sung by all of the characters, most notably the blind Television Host who opens his mouth really wide to sing it, creating a really cool and crooked effect that I really like in the video. So now we see the vocal harmony is not only the song’s climax, it’s the video’s climax as well!

We can also catch a glimpse of the Byrne doll in the video, the one from the iconic album cover. The video has it all, it’s sexy, it’s scary and it’s funny. When the first Super Girl verse kicks in, we see Byrne singing with a shot that makes us watch as if we were above him, so we can see his feet, for some reason I always remembered that shot, I think it’s very striking. And to wrap it up with the video, we all love Byrne because in his musical diversity, he can be eccentric, unusual and “quirky” as people often describe him, but I think in Miss America, when he presented himself as that mysterious TV smiling man, it was his most visually imposing and bone chilling.

As I said in the beginning of my essay, I owe a lot to Miss America, it is thanks to her that my shelf is now packed with Byrne’s cd’s, most notably an autographed Visible Man album. Receiving that item was a dream come true for me, because from the first day I caught a glimpse of what Byrne’s catalogue looked like, I knew that if I ever met him I would ask him to sign that one, I even dreamt about it, and it became true! And I will always treasure it; Byrne now rests at the shelf with my other beloved artists like Manson and Bowie.

I have written a lot about my favorite artists, and their albums, but I had never written something like this about a song, but when you find that special song, that one which is crowned with the title of your all time favorite, it deserves all the pages that your fingers can type, as a homage and as a thank you for existing, for being so wonderful. It’s a real shame that it was forgotten and never played again after the Feelings tour, but I guess it would have been out of place next to all the string arrangements of the following tours, but if it ever returns, I must witness it and sing along!

David is criminally underrated and his work outside of the Talking Heads sometimes goes unnoticed, but I hope he knows he created the most awesome song ever and he should be really happy! As a side note, the dance moves he applied to it in Sessions 54th were quite memorable, I think he would be proud if he knew I learnt them and follow them step by step! Although nothing is quite as charming as the one on one dance in the music video.

All this talk about Miss America makes me very impatient to listen to it one more time, as it happens everyday, rest assured that when I finish this sentence, I will play it and my own version of the music video will play in my head, super girl will come rushing into my mind and transport me into that night club where Miss America does the perfect vocal harmony while I wrap my arms around her and rest my head on her shoulder.
Howdy-do? This is Peter McCalister, the FATHER. I'd like a hotel room,
please, with an extra-large bed, a TV, and one of those little
refrigerators that you have to open with a key. Credit card? You got it!
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Re: Miss America essay

Postby Wickeddoll on January 11th, 2011, 4:39 am

Don't get me started on the manufactured products that purport to be artists, who manage to get rich, while DB and his work, are too smart to reach the reality-TV demographic. It's sad and wrong.

Natalie, still grousing about Sarah Moron and her hate-spewing toadies

"Wicked little doll, you have no soul"
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