Thursday, February 21, 2008

R.E.M.'s "World Leader Pretend"

About this song, Michael Stipe once revealed that: "I felt the lyric would actually look good to read, and it does read well - there's words like divine and decree, they all start with a 'D', which is good, and things rhyme,but they don't rhyme too much. I can't remember what it's about... Well, somone's at war with themselves.....Anyway, in World Leader Pretend, that was me copying Leonard Cohen, using something like military terms to get across a very simple human emotion."

But what makes this song more than that imitation of Cohen is that we can read the metaphor back upon the actual World Leaders, and question to what degree they themselves have engaged in self-struggle, to what degree they have walled themselves out of the realities around them.

"World Leader Pretend" by R.E.M.

I sit at my table and wage war on myself
It seems like it's all, it's all for nothing
I know the barricades, and
I know the mortar in the wall breaks
I recognize the weapons, I used them well

This is my mistake. Let me make it good
I raised the wall and I will be the one to knock it down

I've a rich understanding of my finest defenses
I proclaim that claims are left unstated,
I demand a rematch
I decree a stalemate
I divine my deeper motives
I recognize the weapons
I've practiced them well. I fitted them myself

It's amazing what devices you can sympathize, empathize
This is my mistake. Let me make it good
I raised the wall and I will be the one to knock it down

Reach out for me and hold me tight. Hold that memory
Let my machine talk to me, let my machine talk to me

This is my world
And I am world leader pretend
This is my life
And this is my time
I have been given the freedom
To do as I see fit
It's high time I've razed the walls
That I've constructed

(repeat chorus)

You fill in the mortar. You fill in the harmony
You fill in the mortar. I raised the wall
And I'm the only one
I will be the one to knock it down


Chaerephon said...

Nice -- I just picked up Reckoning on disc and sold my old vinyl copy. "Time After Time" was my least favorite song. "Time After Time" was my LEAST FAVORITE SONG!!

Good point on the WLP lyrics. Think Musharraf is singing "I demand a rematch / I decree a stalemate?" Or Kibaki?

Chaerephon said...

P.S. The dBs are gonna open for Musharraf, but Pylon opens for Kibaki

Philip Metres said...

Funny to be back in the kudzu-infected landscape of R.E.M., eh? First band to make me feel like I was in on a secret.