Friday, November 2, 2012

Lyric Review: Loser by Beck

By JccKeith

Beck, was born Bek David Campbell, so let’s just call him, well, Beck.  It works well since that’s the stage name he goes by.  Anyway, for today’s Lyric Review, I’ll be attempting to solve the riddle that is his song, Loser.

Now, I did a lot of research to try and figure out this most beautifully written piece of art.  I have to say, there are quite a lot of people out there who think the song is merely meaningless rhyming words strung together one afternoon in a kitchen with a friend while Beck was high.  I looked everywhere to try to find anyone who might have some idea what the words mean.

There were a couple of interesting thoughts, one claiming the entire song is an anti-Canadian rant and that Beck is a racist.  These same people seem to think the song is a coded message to some alternative anarchist group.  Interesting stuff.  Yet other people, who possibly think too much, believe the song to be anti-establishment oriented.  I found one explanation so well thought out that I felt the need to share it. 

I have to say, I at least read the entire thing and paused for a moment to consider the possibility it might be close.  It is not but here it is so you can all read it and be as amazed as I was:

In the time of evolution we go backwards,
Now with chemicals in the body, they wage the war on drugs,
And spray the plants with toxins
My dog gets better food than most people, even my clothes are edible
They disguise all of this and put development to a halt
Show races on my TV but tell me not to speed up
Feed my children our manufactured vitamin pills
I have many homes, I live in the biggest.

Don’t believe what they say is in the air
They will punish you but nature is not our enemy
And keep you in the dark, selling chemicals as beauty products
With poverty ever growing, they say to blame myself

And they say: you are a loser, keep on killing yourself

There is evil all around you, but only evil spreads fear
They don’t want to hear the music, so they blame music and try to control it
All under the supposed values of nationalism and consumerism
So keep watching the same on your TV, they supply the treatment for the cancer they have caused
You consume all crap they make, making you fat and deprived
And you will not blame evil for it, but good instead
Because they distort everything and make you believe their lies
They make the rules and compliance is rewarded
But profit leads to hate, not love
So you are made stuck in their created finity, but you can still cough out all these things that are killing you

Hopefully now you see my amusement at the above attempt at analysis.  Back to reality, Beck was a musician in New York in the late 80s and early 90s until he moved back to Los Angeles in 1991.  Working in crappy jobs to support himself, he also played at local bars and coffeehouses.  Due to lack of interest in the crowds, Beck often made up ridiculous lyrics to attract the attention of the audience.  Courtesy of Wikipedia, here is Beck’s exact quote:

“I’d be banging away on a Son House tune and the whole audience would be talking, so maybe out of desperation or boredom, or the audience’s boredom, I’d make up these ridiculous songs just to see if people were listening.  ‘Loser’ was an extension of that.”
The song itself was mostly ‘written’ by Beck while visiting Carl Stephenson’s (a producer for Rap-A-Lot Records) house.  Beck said there was no way to have just spontaneously written the song without having been a little prepared.  He claims to have had ideas for the song since the 80s.  One further note about the song is that Stephenson was really not impressed by Beck’s rapping ability and after hearing the recording played back, neither was Beck.  Beck recalls having thought, man I suck at rapping, I’m such a loser and that is when he began singing the line, ‘I’m a loser baby, so why don’t you kill me.”

Alrighty, now that we have established the history of the song, let’s attempt to put some meaning into the words, or at least as many as we can. So off we go, let’s break this thing down, one line at a time:

In the time of chimpanzees I was a monkey [Chimpanzees are extremely smart creatures and are the closest living species to humans whereas monkey’s on the other hand are not as smart, not able to use tools, etc. ~ so this is just another way of saying, I’m a loser, even in the time of chimps, I was a loser monkey]

Butane in my veins and I’m off to cut the junkie [This is a drug reference, specifically, butane is a solvent used in making hash.  It would seem in this case, he has too much butane, not enough hash, so he’s been gyped and now is after the junkie that sold it to him]

With the plastic eyeballs, spray paint the vegetables [Plastic eyeballs is just a really cool way to say the guy wears contacts and spray painting his vegetables would be a way of poisoning him or the guy also works at a grocery store/farmers market/vegetable stand and it’s his job to paint the veggies to appear fresh]

Dog Food stalls with the beefcake pantyhose [A continuation of the veggie spray painting thing above – in some grocery stores they do ‘paint’ the veggies to make them shinier and more appealing.  So if this is the case, the dog food stalls refer to the little cubby like things they put the vegetables in at stores and the dog food are the vegetables which are not really as pretty and edible as they have been painted to seem.  The pantyhose could be those clinging little plastic bags you put the veggies in.  Dog food stalls could also be some other containers in which some food (beefcake pantyhose) is sold, although I have yet to figure out which food beefcake pantyhose refers to, sausage maybe?]

Kill the headlights and put it in neutral [clearly this is exactly what it says although the only reason you would turn off your headlights and idle would be if you are stalking someone or ‘watching’ them and don’t want them to know you’re there]

Stock car flamin’ with a loser and the cruise control [Stock cars are your basic cars without modifications, generic compact or midsize car – only this one has flames along the sides which apparently indicate, to Beck, that the owner is a loser.  Cruise control is another pride of the average loser – basically, the car is average, has cheesy flames and crappy cruise control so the owner thinks he is all that because of these modifications but really, he’s just a loser]

Baby’s in Reno with the vitamin D [girlfriend is in Reno soaking up the sun.  Vitamin D is only produced in the human body upon exposure to the ultraviolet rays of the sun so this is why he says she’s there with the vitamin D]

Got a couple of couches, sleep on the loveseat [They don’t have a bed just couches where they sleep]
Someone came sayin’ I’m insane to complain [I shouldn’t complain because I have nothing to complain about really]

About a shotgun wedding and a stain on my shirt [A shotgun wedding is a forced marriage, in old days, forced by the woman’s father due to an unplanned pregnancy – so the guy was forced at gunpoint (shotgun point) to marry the girl because he got her pregnant.  So he has been forced to marry this girl, they have a baby and the baby has puked on his shirt, hence the stain.  But really, this is nothing to complain about]

Don’t believe everything that you breathe [Really, don’t believe everything that you smell, just because something smells good doesn’t mean it is, there are a lot of ways to make things smell good that in reality shouldn’t]

You get a parking violation and a maggot on your sleeve [You have been misled and now you have a ticket and something is rotten – whatever it was which seemed good, was definitely not]

So shave your face with some mace in the dark [Another way of saying, ‘but hey, go ahead, stay in the dark, believe what you want, put yourself in danger’ – reference to the being misled in above lines and willingly continuing to be misled]

Savin’ all your food stamps and burnin down the trailer park [Not sure how it ties in to the above other than yet again a reference to misleading someone, cheating the government by saving up your food stamps and then perhaps using them to pay someone to help you defraud the insurance company by burning down the trailer park – food stamps are given to the poor and most see trailer parks as domains of the poor]

Yo cut it [just a rap phrase]

Soy un perdedor [ Spanish for I’m a loser]

I’m a loser baby, so why don’t you kill me [see above paragraphs on history of song for how this phrase came about, basically Beck sucks at rapping so he’s a loser]

Forces of evil in a Bozo nightmare [This is a jab at a specific musician which Beck does not like and sees as a clown and those promoting/helping him are forces of evil]

Ban all the music with a phony gas chamber [We should ban all music made in recording studios – most likely because they are fake and manufactured in the studio, aren’t really music]

‘cuz one’s got a weasel and the other’s got a flag [Referencing two specific studios, one who is run by someone Beck considers to be a weasel and the other which uses a flag as its symbol]

One’s on the pole, shove the other in a bag [A flag flies on a pole, duh.  Shoving the other in a bag refers to putting the body into a bodybag.  Whoever this weasel was, he’s dead now]

With the rerun shows and the cocaine nose job [this weasel produced the same crap over and over again and was a cocaine addict]

The daytime crap of the folksinger slob [pretty straightforward, the everyday life of the folksinger, who Beck sees as slobs/out of shape/not on the cutting edge people]

He hung himself with a guitar string [the folk singer hung himself after giving his life to the music]

A slab of turkey-neck and it’s hanging from a pigeon wing [image of the slob hanging himself]

You can’t write if you can’t relate [You have to know what’s going on, have a little life experience to be able to write good music]

Trade the cash for the beef for the body for the hate [Sell out – sell your soul for money to feed yourself/pay the bills then hate yourself for selling out]

And my time is a piece of wax fallin’ on a termite [wax drips slowly, life is slow]

Who’s chokin’ on the splinters [termites eat wood and here this termite is choking on splinters, he’s a 

Soy un perdedor [see prior]

I’m a loser baby, so why don’t you kill me? [see prior]

(get crazy with the cheese whiz) [just a meaningless line, they were in a kitchen when some of this was done, so maybe there was a bottle of cheese whiz nearby]

Soy un perdedor

I’m a loser baby, so why don’t you kill me?

(drive-by body pierce) [you got me, maybe just another meaningless addition, reference to being a loser]

(yo bring it on down) [another rap type phrase]


Em llik ouy t’nod yhw os, ybab resol a m’I rodedrel nu yos [chorus backwards]

I’m a driver, I’m a winner, things are gonna change I can feel it [loser trying to get motivated to not be a loser anymore]

Soy un perdedor

I’m a loser baby so why don’t you kill me?

I can’t believe you

Soy un perdedor

I’m a loser baby so why don’t you kill me?

Sprechen Sie Deutsch hier, Baby! [Pretty sure this means he speaks German]

Soy un perdedor

I’m a loser baby, so why don’t you kill me?

Know what I’m sayin? [You get me?]

Well there you have it, some, maybe most of the lyrics explained.  After trying to decipher Beck’s mad libs style writing, I believe I’ll go back to songs that are easy to understand.

1 comment:

  1. Lol!! I absolutely LOVE this song, and I a lot of people I knew in school said this was a really deep song and that Beck was a genius. I was enamoured by the weirdo music video with the traveling coffin as a kid and the song just stuck with me. Heck, I didn't even know all the lyrics, but they were all just random spurts of nonsense to me. I think I like your interpretation better than the former that you found. :)