The Genius of Ben Folds

Thanks to my friend Brandy, I was able to go see Ben Folds on Tuesday night (4/7) at Nashville’s historic Ryman Auditorium. On the way to the show I was thinking of the meaning in his song “Not the Same,” and how cool the story in the song is. But during the show, I realized that the guy has some brilliant observations on life, and critiques of the music industry, through a number of his songs.

It’s great to have someone like Ben Folds as a musical option; someone that writes intelligent lyrics and doesn’t “ghettoize” (as Bono would say) himself through ridiculously obscure music.

Here are some of my favorites, with a few thoughts. I’d love to hear about your favorite Ben Folds song and your feelings on its meaning(s).

“Not the Same” – At a party, a dude goes up into a tree tripping on acid. The next morning, comes down a born-again Christian.

I love this story. It’s so anti to what a lot of people think could/should/would happen regarding this topic. But who really knows? Motivation/inspiration can come from a lot of different places, at a lot of different times.

“One Down and 3.6 To Go” – To fulfill his music publishing deal and get his money, he’s contractually obligated to write 4.6 (sarcasm) more songs. Situations very similar to this do happen when the number-crunchers take over the (what should be) organic birth of art. 

My commentary is best explained by sharing the part of the song I find most important:

“I’m really not complaining, cause I realize it’s just a job / But I hate hearing belly-achin’ rock stars whine and sob/ cause I could be bussing tables / I could well be pumping gas / But I get paid much finer, for playing piano and kissing ass”

“Fred Jones Part 2” – Fred Jones has worked at the newspaper office for 25 years, but he’s being laid off. No one cares. No one cared when he started, and no one notices that he’s no longer there. A normal life-occurence that takes place way too often. We all have significance; working for a newspaper, writing ridiculously-catchy pop songs or feeding lunch to hungry 2-year olds every day. I’m glad Ben has the heart (and platform) to remind us of a topic like this.

“There was no party, and there were no songs / cause today’s just the day, like the day that he started / no one is left here that knows his first name / and life barrels on like a runaway train / where the passengers change, they don’t change anything / you get off, someone else can get on”

“Still Fighting It” – I have to admit I didn’t really get the full-impact of this song for a good long while. However, as I’m getting older, I’m realizing just how much I am fighting it. And my first-born is almost here (a boy), which is why it all suddenly clicked.

“…You’re so much like me, I’m sorry / Good morning, son / In 20 years from now, maybe we’ll both sit down and have a few beers / And I can tell, you ’bout today / And how I picked you up and everything changed.”

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One thought on “The Genius of Ben Folds

  1. Jealous. Way to pick out some of his most memorable songs. I’m a sucker for his ballads like “The Luckiest” and “Gracie.”

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