So wow. I have to say, lyrics are HARD. So much harder than music writing, for me. We songwriters are really just poets that happen to know how to play an instrument or two, and... I've never really seen myself as poet. There's a lot more freedom with music (at least the way I deal with it), and with lyrics, you have to hone and craft and... it just doesn't feel particularly instinctive to me.

So that's why this freaking song took almost a year. Because of the damn lyrics.

If you want to wait until the song is posted, so you can hear it before you read the lyrics, then stop here. But if you want to read an examination of the lyrics, read on.

My small girl of five
Wants a story goodnight
She likes kittens and pebbles
And fairies asleep in the trees
It's all make believe

Just because of what I knew I wanted to say, I knew the rhyme scheme was going to be difficult. So I relaxed it and went mostly for assonance rather than true rhyme. I'm hoping people won't notice too much. God knows I don't, given that I actually rhymed "too" with "too" in My Favorite Clown. Oops.

All I know is
Heroes and spies
Just some comic book lies
They have nothing to with
Those little girl things that she sees

It's interesting what phrases come quickly and what come slowly. This first half of that stanza was very slow - I knew I wanted to introduce some fairly major parts of the narrator's character - his history but also his somewhat hapless attitude about it - in a very limited number of syllables. But then the second half of it, "They have nothing..." was almost an afterthought, and I love how the tone of it captures so much.

So because of me, now
She Believes
In Star Wars and Butterflies
In Love and the Enterprise
And Wolverine

The chorus starts with "She Believes". That was the first phrase that came to me naturally while playing with the piano riff. And that tied in so nicely with what I knew the song concept was going to be. I was initially torn between whether I wanted to only explain comic book things that the little girl believes in, or whether I wanted that tension between the comic book stuff and other normal little girl things. I liked the tension better, it was just a little harder to earn. I think it was letting that concept roll around in my head a lot that drove the earlier phrasing of "those little girl things that she sees". I needed that there to earn the chorus juxtapositions. And there's just something I love about ending with Wolverine. I mean, it's funny. Kind of. It's impossible for it not to be funny, but the music there is sweet. I love that.

I wonder each night
If I'm telling them right
Do they ruin those little girl stories
That live in her dreams
Are they too extreme?

I might revise that. That was a hole in the song, one of the last stanzas I wrote. All I knew is I needed something to suggest some fatherly doubt to tie into the father's memories of his own childhood. And "If I'm telling them right" isn't quite right - the issue isn't whether they're being told right, it's more whether he should be telling them at all, but I couldn't make the syllables work. I love the recurrence of "little girl stories/things", though.

But I remember
This small boy of five
And the cars that he'd drive
Transformers that'd crash into
Dinosaur bones
And explode
And I'm fine, so

I was worried that would be a little too much comedy but it seems to come across well with the music. The intention was to tie the narrator's childhood with his daughter's, and also to push the song forward a bit and into the chorus again. Second verses are really quite hard, because their responsibility is to push the story forward without giving anything away, and it's a difficult balance. I err towards the conservative side here, as the verse is mostly just a thematic repeat of the first verse.

She Believes
In Kryptonite and clear blue skies
Kaleidoscopes and Kitty Pryde
And when she dreams,
She's Beyond
In a world I helped describe
But it's all just silly lies
My lies that she believes

Here the chorus is twice as long. I love the chorus not having the exact same words each time it is repeated - the music takes care of that. And it yields more interest for the listener, I think. Plus, "Kaleidoscopes and Kitty Pride" is just so fun to sing. There are parts of this that strike the same chords in me as "My Favorite Things" - just with pairings that appeal more to geeks like me. :)

The second half of the chorus was another section that came fairly late in the writing process, last Friday or so. It kicked my ass. I knew I wanted "But it's all just silly lies", but couldn't think of what to come before it. I exhausted all my rhyming dictionaries, and even grepped word endings from online dictionaries in my Terminal shell. Nothing fit. So, back to assonance, and the line that I ended up with, I think I quite like. It's utilitarian, and explains a lot.

On to the Bridge. The bridge is always a high pressure part of the song, because it's the real game-changer where you want to introduce the twist or the poignancy. And in addition to that, I already had the music written, and it had a HUGE crescendo, where I could only sing "Whoooooa!" I mean, that was the only vowel I could use where I could hit the high note. I was really painting myself into a corner here.


She's so small in this world. I am too.
A father can never do what those caped superheroes do.
But if it's a hero I fear I can't be
I'll tell stories that soar in her dreams

I don't know how to explain it, because I had every other part of the song written before I wrote the bridge, and I feel like I hit the jackpot with this bridge. They say in music theater that when the characters break into song, that's where they are actually telling the truth of what they're really thinking and feeling. (Which Joss Whedon explored to such great effect in his Buffy The Vampire Slayer musical episode.) I kind of see the bridge of a song serving the same purpose within a song. It's where the more internal layer of it becomes apparent, to change the context for the rest of the song.

"Soar" corresponded to the high note. It just worked out kind of perfectly. It was weird. I had delayed tackling the bridge for so long, from being intimidated by it... I just tried to zoom in slowly, hold as much of the concept in my head as I could, and zoom in slowly without rushing, and then I just basically freewrote the damn thing. I hate lyric writing, but when that happens, it's pretty cool. It feels kind of outside myself. Kind of a head-scratcher.

Please believe

That's over the post-orgasmic instrumental section, and was one of the first things I wrote. Typically male of me. But the "please" part reinforces the new element of how the narrator needs to tell those stories on some level. I really like that.

She belongs
In a world where heroes fly
So I'll tell these silly lies
As long as she believes

That's the end of the song. It probably doesn't feel very earned just reading the lyrics, but I thought of "In a world where heroes fly" one day just playing through the song in my head, and it just kind of came to me, and my eyes welled up. It just felt like a perfect way to end the song, and a great concept to work towards in the rest of the song.

I wrote that before I wrote the earlier mentions of "in a world" and "silly lies", so I guess the earlier mentions were written in efforts to give the final moments extra resonance.

So, that's the song. Zooming out, the song concept actually shifted a few times. I knew it was about a girl being affected by her father in a kind of sweet and dopey (lovably) way, but the way to transform that was the question. An earlier idea for the song was to take it in a more insecure direction, like a father's worries of a girl that didn't believe in him... ending with "As long as she believes in me"... but I didn't like that so much. That level of insecurity and emasculation was pulling it too far into Ben Folds "Still Fighting It" territory... plus, I didn't really see the subject matter of the song that way, anyway. It really is more of a heroic song.

I've always been fascinated by the nature of vulnerability and insecurity and why they are seen as "bad", and just with how my relationships have played out, it seems to be something of a life mission for me to uncover those things and try to rephrase them in a way that shows how they can be accepted. I guess I don't really know how the song will come across - I imagine to most people it will just come across as "sweet" (for better or worse), but for the ones that it hits harder, I am hoping it comes across not as a description of insecurity, but as a testimony of how much the character loves his daughter and just how heroic he is.