This is one of those odd songs that you can listen to and enjoy several times before you start listening to the lyrics and are startled into realising that it isn’t your typical pop or rock song. Unlike REM’s ‘It’s the End of the World as we Know it’, ‘Belong’ isn’t gleefully belting it’s end apocalyptic credentials. It’s a quiet song with a soothing tone, offering us a mother’s mantra to her child:
[She] Stood and whispered to her child: belong
She held the child and whispered
With calm, calm, belong
The spoken lyrics are said in the same calming mode that we imagine the mother must be using with her child, and it’s easy to be soothed by them into not listening. But when one does, the words are striking indeed:
Her world collapsed early Sunday morning
She got up from the kitchen table
Folded the newspaper and silenced the radio
Those creatures jumped the barricades
And have headed for the sea, sea
There’s clearly a metaphorical mode to this. The video ties the song to a political message – the creatures jumping the barricades perhaps representing protestors fighting for freedom. But the song resists a direct, simplistic meaning. Such a broad, political meaning is contrasted with the deeply personal opening line. It is her world that has collapsed, and the little mundane details speak to a smaller, more personal event, the sort of thing that could go utterly unnoticed by the rest of the world. It is ‘early Sunday morning’ – a time evocative of peace and solitude: it’s early, before other people are up and moving about; it’s a spiritual time, in the Christian religion, and an empty time, in that (for Christians) work is forbidden – it’s evocative of the stillness and echoing quiet of churches. She gets up from the table, folds her newspaper, turns off the radio – the sort of details one would only put in a story – much less a song – unless they has some significance, and yet, there is nothing momentous in the actions themselves. Three lines are devoted to these very ordinary notes in a song that opens dramatically about the world (or her world) collapsing, yet fails to say why. What the barricades are. What the creatures are.
And we must note the oddity that it is not people who are describes jumping the barricades, but ‘creatures’. Even in metaphor, it is a startling phrase. If these are protestors fighting for freedom, it is strange that they should be cast in such an alienating light. But equally, if the creatures jumping the barricades is the cause of the world collapsing, it seems odd that they are headed to the sea, presumably away from the mother and child at home. And, moreover, the mother is inspired by them:
She began to breathe
To breathe at the thought of such freedom
It sounds as though she has been inspired to rebel, possibly against her own domesticity, the smallness of the details of her life. But then, one has to wonder, why does she tell the child to ‘belong’, which has such connotations of conformity, or repressing individuality?
I don’t think this song is meant to be open to an easy reading. I think it is meant to sooth us and wake us up at the same time. The calming voice of the spoken lyrics is contrasted with the hopeful (yet also somewhat melancholy?) wordless singing that rises up above the monotone, like a bird soaring to freedom. I suspect it is in part meant to express the unavoidable tension between our need to belong and our need to be free to express ourselves and control our own destiny. Which, of course, is central to the appeal of apocalyptic fiction. We imagine the apocalypse in part to scare ourselves – we depict it as hard and wild and dangerous – but also because we long for a peace and solitude that is unattainable in the press of rules and restrictions, and even the bodies of our fellow humans… the barricades can only hold for so long before we long to burst free.
I think this song shows the real genius of poetry in REM’s music, and I think, when the barricades break and the world collapses, this would be a very good song to listen to, contemplating the uncertain future. And I can’t help but not that it is particularly appropriate for the girls of the apocalypse, some of whom may be mothers with babes in their arms to care for.
– Apocalypse Womble out
This is an apocalypse Christmas if ever there was one, with the Mayan calendar ending just a few days ago, it cannot be doubted that these are the end times. And no Apocalypse Girl can be without a little apocalypse cheer in these dark days.
Last year we gave you a Christmas Music for the Apocalypse Playlist, this year, we’ve revamped the old one, replacing dead videos, and made you a brand new one with brand new songs!
Even if the literal apocalypse hasn’t reached your household yet, you may be in need of a little light relief from the usual Christmas fair your family insists on playing. Trest yourself to these tunes, both bleak and chipper, and feel the hectic Christmas holiday world melt away.
The eagle-eyed amongst you may have noticed that some of the videos that were a part of the list last year had been deleted. These have now been replaced, and the list is whole again.
We’d also like to remind you that most, if not all, of these songs are available for purchase at the following sites:
#1 Christmas at Gound Zero, by Weird Al Yankovic
#2 Stop the Cavalry, by Jona Lewie
#3 Carol of the Old Ones, by the HP Lovecraft Historical Society
#4 Chiron Beta Prime, by Jonathan Coulton
#5 Death to the World, by the HP Lovecraft Historical Society
#6 A Post Apocalyptic Christmas, by Art Elliot
#7 Little Rare Book Room, by the HP Lovecraft Historical Society
#8 Post Apocalypse Christmas, by Gruff Rhys
#9 Old Men’s Brains (A Zombie Christmas), by Julie Webster
#10 The Night Santa Went Crazy, by Weird Al Yankovic
#11 Nuclear Winter, by The Department of Public Safety (can’t find an mp3 anywhere! I’ll gladly link if you know one)
#12 Silent Night, Blasphemous Night, by the HP Lovecraft Historical Society
#13 The Power of Love, by Frankie goes to Hollywood
#14 Have Yourself a Scary Little Solstice, by the HP Lovecraft Historical Society
Playlist 2: 2012 bonus tracks
I’ll be honest, I snatched the most professional apocalypse-themed Christmas songs for last year’s playlist, but the Internet is a creative place, and there are some fun little ditties floating round YouTube. Most of these you can’t download and buy and seem to be just on YouTube for now, but let’s show our support – if you like the tune, go like the vid!
#1 Happy Christmas (It’s the End of the World), by Trojaniksr
#2 Post Apocalypse Christmas Song, by Matt Falk
#3 Apocalypse Not Now, by Polly Wolf
#4 Have Yourself A Merry Apocalypse ( Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas Parody), by ROSE!
#5 “All I Want For Christmas Is You” PARODY Zombie Apocalypse, by AmandasChronicles
#6 Zombie Christmas Medley, by James Lacey and Edith Murphy
As a girl equipped to survive the apocalypse, I’m not generally inclined to wait around for a man to save me – chances are I’ll still be sitting there when the zombies eat me. Or the man will have been manfully hiding a bite and will turn into a zombie and eat me. But it’s hard not to hear this song and feel cheered. I feel it has a place in a post apocalypse world.
Also? The women in Flash Gordon are awesome. Especially General Kala. I mean, if the Apocalypse is coming, why not be in charge of its armies?
And as villains go, this is some kind of formiddable woman:
What do you mean, ‘Flash Gordon approaching’?!
Open fire! ALL weapons.
No half-measures with this lady. I challenge anyone to deny that this is a woman who commands respect with her every gesture, look, and tone.
General Kala: Apocalypse Girl extraordinaire.
And let’s not forget Dale Arden. Not without fight in her, and even as she calls out: ‘Flash! Flash! I love you’ She adds as though to call him back to the matter at hand: ‘But we only have fourteen hours to save the Earth!’
Yeah, I think, come the apocalypse, this’ll be one I’m glad to have in my record collection.
Ok, this may seem like an odd one, it’s an 80’s power chord song we all associate with Stallone rather than the end of the world. The video I am linking to however is the end credits of an episode of Supernatural and Jensen Ackles having fun with the song.
Really, who knows more about the end of the world than the Winchester brothers. Embedding is sadly disabled, but here is Dean doing Eye of the Tiger
Also check out these lyrics, they may not be intended for the apocalypse but they still have value.
Risin’ up, back on the street
Did my time, took my chances
Went the distance
Now I’m back on my feet
Just a man and his will to survive
So many times, it happens too fast
You trade your passion for glory
Don’t lose your grip on the dreams of the past
You must fight just to keep them alive
It’s the eye of the tiger
It’s the thrill of the fight
Risin’ up to the challenge
Of our rival
And the last known survivor
Stalks his prey in the night
And he’s watching us all with the
Eye of the tiger
Face to face, out in the heat
Hangin’ tough, stayin’ hungry
They stack the odds
Still we take to the street
For the kill with the skill to survive
Risin’ up straight to the top
Had the guts, got the glory
Went the distance
Now I’m not gonna stop
Just a man and his will to survive
I had to follow up who’s next with this little love song for serial killer/zombie fancier types. It’s not really an end of the world track, but it has a suitably sinister note in spite of the chirpy piano playing.
On a personal note, I will always associate this song with Newcastle train station and my old uni flatmate Jolanda. Enjoy.