There’s a formula for power-pop success that simply isn’t used as often as it should be:
- Have a killer hook, simple and memorable, suitable for jamming and mixing things up, with multiple guitars dropping in and out to add some variety to the verses.
- Sing in harmony.
- Drum fills, drum fills, drum fills.
- Clever lyrics that reward the repeat listener.
The optional No. 5: Be Canadian.
Sloan hit this formula early in their career with a rousing garage-rock hook underpinning the timeless but uniquely told tale of a nerdy school-age kid and a not-quite-requited crush.
The lyrics paint an amusing picture. We have a pedantic protagonist who studies hard, doesn’t smoke or drink, and is falling between his twin obsessions — a fun-loving classmate and his grammar fanaticism.
They get right to the point with an opening verse set over a droning F-sharp, joined by a crescendo of power chords.
She was underwhelmed, if that’s a word
I know it’s not ’cause I looked it up
That’s one of those skills that I learned in my school
I was overwhelmed, and I’m sure of that one
‘Cause I learned it back in grade school
When I was young
Then a cascade of drums takes us into their first interaction …
She said, “You is funny”; I said, “You are funny”
She said, “Thank you,” and I said, “Never mind”
She rolled her eyes, her beautiful eyes
The verses are riddled with wordplay. The “beautiful eyes” line sets up a parallel construction with a later verse in which she rolls her Rs, her beautiful Rs — a double or maybe triple meaning depending on whether you buy the discussion at SongMeanings that the young woman in question is French-speaking (it’s Canada, after all) or possibly Latina.
Her grammar and spelling — “I told her ‘affection’ has two Fs, especially when you’re dealing with me” — must be driven by speaking multiple languages. She’s not stupid. The protagonist laments, “She skips her classes and gets good grades … she’s passing her classes while I attend mine.”
So our protagonist clearly realizes deep down that he has blown a chance at high school or college romance because he can’t roll with the occasional linguistic misstep.
I usually notice all the little things
One time I was proud of it, she says it’s annoying
And the line repeated several times at the end: “I miss the point.”
Yeah, you did.
And if you had a rep (deserved or not) as a smart kid, you’ve been there, too. We nerds have a tough time resisting any opportunity to demonstrate that we know something someone else does not. I still get caught up in it on Twitter far too often. Fortunately, I’m happily married, so it only costs me Twitter followers and maybe freelance gigs rather than prospective partners.
What really wraps this tale into a nice package is the nearly chaotic arrangement. The meter is already odd — a line that has nine syllables in one verse might cram in 13 on the next verse. Then after the basic statement of the riff, we hear it a couple of different ways — once with a guitar lightly playing around with it, then a verse that’s basically bass. And everyone drops out to emphasize a line about the guilt of not being a vegetarian.
You can just sense the protagonist’s precocious awkwardness. His brain is a tossed salad of hormones and homophones.
Maybe one day, he’ll stop missing the point. If an obnoxious nerd like me can be happily married a couple of decades later, then there’s hope for him, too.