Happy hump day LemonWire readers. Today, we’ll be looking at the song “My Girls” by Animal Collective, as our third song for this week’s loose theme of parenting.
In honor of Father’s Day, we’ve been looking at songs this week about fathers, mothers, and parenting in general. On Monday, we got an example of the funnier side of parenting songs, with Flight of the Conchords’ “Father and Son”. And yesterday, we looked at a song on the opposite side of the spectrum, with Pink Floyd’s “Mother”.
Today, we figured we’d try to hit somewhere in the middle of the spectrum. Something not too dark or serious, but also something that isn’t borderline parody. “My Girls” hits that sweet spot by being written from a parents’ perspective.
Animal Collective have a long history of making experimental, electronic music. A group born by teenage friendship and a shared love of music. Their sound includes a variety of recording techniques, including samples, synth loops, vocal harmonies, and pop melodies.
What’s now widely considered to be Animal Collective’s first album, “Spirit They’re Gone, Spirit They’ve Vanished”, was released in 2000, and originally credited to the members Avey Tare and Panda Bear. The first album to include all four members (Avey Tare, Panda Bear, Geologist, Deakin), was the 2003 album, “Here Comes the Indian”, now recognized as the band’s fourth album.
Our song of the day, “My Girls” was the lead single from their 2009 album, “Merriweather Post Pavilion”.
Animal Collective are pretty “far out” already, but for “My Girls”, they wanted to bring a sound that was as far out as Saturn. Literally.
The intro to “My Girls” contains an audio sample of the Cassini-Huygens spacecraft, which explored Saturn’s atmosphere and rings. You can hear the original Cassini-Huygens audio here.
“My Girls” was chosen as the #1 song of 2009 by Pitchfork Media, as well as in the top five of the year by NME. It was also used by Beyonce on her song “6 Inch” from her 2016 album, “Lemonade”.
The song is about a desire to provide for one’s family, as well as a disillusionment with material possessions and social status.
As we always do, let’s start with the first verse of “My Girls”, and work our way through the lyrics from there.
“There isn’t much that I feel I need
A solid soul and the blood I bleed
But with a little girl, and by my spouse
I only want a proper house”
These lyrics are repeated along with a looping synth arpeggio throughout the song. The combination gives it a somewhat trance-like feel, which is far from unusual for Animal Collective. This verse also sets up the expectations for the song.
The next section of the song contains a pledge to provide for his family.
“I don’t care for fancy things
Or to take part in the freshest wave
But to provide for mine who ask
I will, with heart, on my father’s grave”
Here, we get a glimpse at an additional source of motivation for the counter-cultural perspective touted in “My Girls”. The line “on my father’s grave” is repeated continuously after this stanza. This could mean that after the loss of his own father, the narrator translates his pain into love for his own family. Something akin to an act of remembrance.
The final stanza I want to look at serves to further drive the central message home.
“I don’t mean to seem like I
Care about material things
Like a social status
I just want
Four walls and adobe slats
For my girls”
While the lyrics in “My Girls” are repetitive, there’s not a moment in the song where you grow tired of the trance-like, catchy harmonies. The song is so well-crafted, that every element in it only provides more energy and momentum that carries through to the end.
The fact that “My Girls” became a mainstream hit shouldn’t be surprising. It’s upbeat, catchy, and unlike anything else. It also sends the opposite message of the modern pop songs that flaunt success, riches, and the achievement of the “American Dream”, which is really refreshing to hear. Instead, the message it sends is one that every parent in the world can relate with. It’s the feeling of loving and caring about another living thing more than yourself. And isn’t that what being a parent is?
That about wraps up our discussion for today. Tomorrow, we’ll be back for another song to celebrate all the fathers mothers out there.