Unwillingness to Dance

So it used to be that whenever I finished writing a song, I posted the lyrics on this blog. This was mostly a valedictory exercise – I find writing lyrics an extremely frustrating process that frequently leads to genuine nausea, and the feeling of emerging from that state is a good one – and it’s also true that typing the final draft out is a good way of beginning the memorisation process. But of course the main reason I did it was the assumption that you’d be interested. I’ve come to doubt that now, since encountering lyrics divorced from the music from which they were written definitely makes you see them in a different light – and not necessarily a good one – and this effect is doubled if you’ve never heard the music before. It’s a very abstract point of first contact to have with a song.

So I slowly stopped doing it. But if we’re honest, there’s another reason I stopped, which is that posting lyrics is a little bit over-sincere, a tiny bit more intimate than I usually like to be about the creative process, and it really is putting my work up in front of you unmitigated, without the ability (which I have in concerts) to disavow it, joke about it, put it down a little bit, imply to you that I don’t take it totally seriously, distract you from it with a tune. It’s therefore appropriate to post the lyrics to this new song, because it represents a return to a self-scrutinising Jeff-Lewisian singer-songwriter sincerity which I’ve been inadvertently tiptoeing away from for the last few years. Irony is all very well (and not absent from this tune), but the classic job of the singer-songwriter, to mount a bleeding heart for all to see, is not one I should entirely abnegate, I’ve come to feel. So here are the lyrics to ‘Unwillingness to Dance’.

It’s a dance song about my reluctance to dance, and it’s slightly poppier than my other material (it has more poppies in it). It’s the result of a lot of thinking about music and sincerity I’ve been doing lately thanks to my girlfriend’s obsession with One Direction (an excellent article about this is here). It’s also a genuine attempt to explore a really central part of my own personality which I hardly ever talk about or directly engage with. For both of these reasons – writing pop is hard, by the way – this song terrifies the shit out of me, and posting the lyrics is even more terrifying and entirely the right thing to do next. I hope you’ll hear the song soon, and meanwhile, here are the words:

It was the way that the dancefloor moved –
It was slightly out of sync, stuffed with amateurs
with nothing to prove, with nothing to prove,
They already knew
That the shapes that they made wouldn’t take top grades
But the marks didn’t matter, it was friendship
that was on display, and the confidence it gave
Came off them in waves.
And in every awful twist
Was a shared joy that I missed:
A language made of things I couldn’t say.

You get grabbed by the hand by a bridesmaid
Standing at the edge, pearls and smiles
so you’re giving it a try, she tells you “Don’t be shy,
See, you can dance just fine”.
And the groom and the bride tear the floor apart
All surrounded by sincerity and all the people
close to their hearts, all sharing a spark
And meaningful remarks.
In the centre of the groove
I couldn’t feel further removed.
It’s not that I’m shy or proud,
Just always outside when in crowds-

Feeling awkward and reserved and I could never go headfirst
Into a disco and just drift, no, I could never get immersed;
I’d be thinking all along that all my lack of nonchalence
Will be in vain if I can’t rearrange it as a stupid song-
Or maybe we’re all feigning and the others feel the same, and
It’s just that I’m not as good at faking, life’s a bluffer’s game-

And all this second guess when we’ll never know who’s thinking what,
When I’d forsake a first guess for a minute with my thoughts turned off:

To let my body slide unconsciously across the shiny floor,
To dance like it’s going out of fashion,
and not care at all, and not care at all.

It’s not my way, but I wish it was.
Sixty seconds sway, just a minute off.

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