Happy hump-day internet. Even though April Fool’s Day was Monday, here at Lemonwire, we’re celebrating it all week long. Instead of grouping our songs this week by genre, they’ll all be connected by the holiday keyword, “fool”. And there are so many different ways that artists write songs about them.
So far, we’ve looked at The Strokes’ “Taken for a Fool”, a message to a loved one regarding how foolish they can be, as well as “The Fool On The Hill”, by The Beatles, which looks at the fool as a misunderstood wise one.
Now, we’ll take a look at our first song this week that doesn’t actually have “fool” in the title. That was never a prerequisite, by the way. Our song of the day today comes from one of my favorite bands, The Flaming Lips.
“Fight Test” is a single from The Flaming Lips’ 2003 album, “Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots”. After its release, The Flaming Lips were forced to turn over publishing royalties to Cat Stevens (Yusuf Islam) as part of a settlement for the melody resembling Stevens’ “Father and Son”.
In an interview with The Guardian in 2003, lead singer and frontman Wayne Coyne went on record and apologized for the unintended plagiarism.
“There was a time during the recording when we said, this has a similarity to “Father And Son”. Then we purposefully changed those bits. But I do regret not contacting his record company and asking their opinion. Maybe we could have gone 50-50. As it is, Cat Stevens is now getting 75 per cent of royalties from ‘Fight Test'”.
So while we can’t necessarily give The Flaming Lips full credit for the music and melody of “Fight Test”, we can still take a look at their lyrics.
“Fight Test” may at first come off as a silly song full of the kind of toxic masculinity that encourages fighting, but there’s a sensitivity to it that warrants second and third listens. It contains themes of existentialism, regret, and the power of choice.
In the first verse, the narrator reflects on how he used to be.
“I thought I was smart, I thought I was right
I thought it better not to fight, I thought there was a
Virtue in always being cool, so when it came time to
Fight I thought I’ll just step aside and that the time would
Prove you wrong and that you would be the fool”
And there’s our keyword. While “Fight Test” isn’t blatantly about fools, it’s motivation still comes from trying to prove someone else as a fool. Well, turns out this strategy doesn’t work out so well for our narrator, who ends up surrendering and failing to “be a man”. “I just wept and regretted this moment, oh that I, I / Was the fool”.
The chorus provides a look at the narrator’s existential crisis, paralyzed with no clear answer available.
“I don’t know where the sun beams end and the star
Lights begins it’s all a mystery
And I don’t know how a man decides what right for his
Own life, it’s all a mystery”
Considering the lawsuit that “Fight Test” incensed, you might say that The Flaming Lips were foreshadowing their own, foolish fall by unintentionally plagiarizing the melody. They weren’t the first band to do it, and I’m sure they won’t be the last. And, in no way does learning this fact make me love their music any less. I think it’s good when people own up to their own foolishness, because we all have our moments.
So listen to “Fight Test”, and then listen to “Father and Son”, and see if you can hear the similarities. Personally, I still love both songs, and consider them different experiences, but that’s just me.