Music as Poetry - "Love Protocol" - A lyrical analysis
While it certainly doesn't work for all music, I love looking at song lyrics as poetry. Today I'm taking a look at Coheed and Cambria’s “Love Protocol” off of their newest album Vaxis – Act I: The Unheavenly Creatures. I love this song so much because it makes me think of how deeply I love my own partner and the reasons we fell in love many years ago.
If you're familiar with Coheed and Cambria, you understand that most all of their albums are concept albums surrounding a science fiction narrative which the front man and his wife have worked on telling through a series of comic books which have been released steadily after each album. This is pretty awesome, but for this analysis we're going to be leaving the whole Amory Wars narrative behind.
I hope blog posts like this encourage people to take a closer listen to their favorite lyric driven songs, maybe even pause the music once in a while and think on the words and really break it down.
You locked a knife inside my heart
Buried a key inside my mind
A knife in the heart usually isn’t good, but here, it’s valuable – invaluable. The knife has been locked inside the heart, contained in it. The knife in the heart is not a weapon doing damage to the heart, but a weapon in waiting, put there by someone intentionally – or maybe unintentionally. The key to open the lock – the key to retrieve the weapon – is buried inside the mind. This is something we don’t talk about much when we talk about love. When people ask us why we love someone, or why we love them, we tend to revert to the more tangible elements that we experience when being in the presence of that person. But I believe that one large reason we love people comes from what they give us that makes us a better person. These two lines sound like the value that someone we love has bestowed upon us. Here, the value is access to a weapon. The weapon itself was placed inside of the heart, maybe the weapon is a passion -- something intrinsic to the heart itself. The key that the lover buries inside of the mind is the knowledge required in order to access that passion. One of the greatest gifts people we love can give to us, is the ability to better understand ourselves and the world around us through an unbridled and raw experience of empathy.
The map surveyed, the X you chart
Where our hands go to hide
The lover has looked into the future and “surveyed the landscape.” The X that is charted, is the destination. But the destination appears to be a place the narrator is not yet sure they're ready to go, So they hide their hands. Maybe this is initial reluctance to commitment? As the song progresses, we see that the narrator’s world view changes dramatically. It seems totally reasonable to read the second line above as being one of hesitation. Falling in love is damn scary.
Will our needs stay level
As the terrain starts to grade high?
This is a question that I think every serious long-term relationship faces. As the world changes around us, will what we need from our relationships change as well? I love the word choice to question whether the needs will stay LEVEL, Because this implies the risk that not only could the needs go up requiring more commitment, something the narrator may be reticent about, but it also implies that the needs may go down. As the world changes around us, do we fear that those we love will no longer need us?
Should I remain unsettled
Watch goodnight turn to goodbye
Should the narrator do nothing? Should the narrator watch and wait and see if a simple goodnight turns into a more permanent departure?
Hold on to me
Tell me you got me, sweetheart
The world is going dim in my gaze
As the world grows darker, we need those that we love with us. Here, I particularly love the word choice that the “world is going dim in my gaze.” This implies that the world might not actually be getting worse, but it's the gaze through which the narrators seized the world that is going dim. This let's these lines take on a whole new meaning. The narrator is an asking for someone to hold him tight because the world is going to shit, they're asking their lover to hold on to them and keep them close because the way they see the world can only be changed through the presence of the person they love.
Vertigo is the sensation of feeling that your surroundings are unstable, tilted and uncertain. It makes sense for vertigo to feel sweet when love is causing the unbalancing of the narrator’s surroundings – the upheaval of their world.
Feel my lungs heaving, choking
Clawing down my back
There's not a lot of analysis to do with these four lines. They’re pretty clear. Without some sort of stabilization coming into play the sweet Vertigo we experience when falling in love can feel like a panic attack. And here, the narrator seems to be telling us a story of not just falling in love but falling in love and being terrified of it.
Watch me float as I fall
At first glance this line seems rather confusing. But I like to think of this as the narrator saying that they will float, as if they're dead in the water while they continue to fall into this “sweet vertigo.” It’s like saying, “Watch me here, dead in the water, stagnant as I fall from grace – because I’m not sure what to do here, how to handle this sweet vertigo and understanding that my world has now forever changed after being given something so valuable (the weapon and key).
The soundtrack / placed over this part
It shares no rhythm of mine
What are soundtracks? They are the music and the rhythm that carries through a scene. It floats around characters who are interacting with the world in a way that is only seen by the larger audience. At least that's how it works in movies. Characters generally aren't aware of their own soundtracks. (Unless you’re emo Peter Parker walking down the street in Spider-man 3). But now, the narrator can hear the soundtrack laid over this part of their life and it shares no rhythm with the music that they are used to. It's like a sudden shift in music signaling a shift in tone in a film.
It juts and sways, it ends and starts
All in and out of our time
I love how similar these two lines are too some of the prose that you might see in H.P. Lovecraft’s short stories when he's explaining non-Euclidean geometry. Now that might seem super nerdy and weird, but what that boils down to is that these two lines are trying to explain the unexplainable. The music both jets and sways and end and starts in and out of the narrator’s time. Two ways to read this: one of them being that this music is so alien and unrecognizable to the narrator that it feels like experiencing it happens both inside and outside of our experience of Time itself – yes, Time with a capital T. The second way you can understand these two lines in conjunction with the first interpretation is that this music exists against the general rhythm of the rest of the world's music. This new soundtrack is popping in and out of the time signature of the narrator’s life almost as if it's beckoning or calling their attention to a new rhythm or direction.
Oh, I can be your dancer
The one you set within your sights
These two lines are a direct reference to the description of music above. The narrator thinks now that they can dance to this music and navigate this highly unstable world which is now their reality. If one has to be a dancer to survive in this new world, the narrator wants to be the dancer that the lover sets their eyes on.
When I admit surrender
Then maybe, goodbye will turn to goodnight
Here the narrator still admits their fear of having to surrender to the music and the way of the world has changed permanently because of this experience of sweet Vertigo -- a falling in love. The narrator is admitting a fear that a simple goodbye could turn into something more permanent if they can't face the music.
Oh no, we have been cursed
This stage set for a tragic verse
The narrator fears that the world around them has been set against them. They fear that the world is an opposition to this love. I think this emotion is something that a lot of people experience when they love someone deeply. At some point or another we worry about how external circumstances will see, treat, and observe our love.
Our Love Protocoled Romance
Our air drained of happenstance
To call the romance “protocoled” is to say that it was destined to happen. To say that the air is “drained of happenstance” is to say that none of this was a mistake or coincidence.
What have we turned ourselves into?
This abstract personnel
I love this first lines question. It asks, “what have we become?” And this question inherently is tied to the world around us. The “abstract” personnel seem to indicate that the relationship itself is possibly a situation where opposites have attracted. “Personnel” here is representing the couple (a small group of people) – using a less common definition of the word. But why use the word personnel? Maybe because love is a fight. Maybe because the narrator hopes to use the weapon given to them by the person they love. It all seems to come back around to the knife locked inside a heart with the key resting inside a mind.
Hold on to me…