Song of the Day #377: ‘I Wish I Was a Girl’ – Counting Crows

desertlifeIf Recovering the Satellites was a slight misstep, Counting Crows’ third album (1999′s This Desert Life) was a powerful return to form. The album marked an evolution for the band, particularly musically… there’s a richness and depth in these songs that stands out even compared to their great early work.

Kicking off with the feel-good party anthem ‘Hanginaround,’ This Desert Life makes quite the first impression. I’ve noticed that kids tend to like ‘Hanginaround’ (at least kids in my family) and I think that speaks well of its construction.

The happy-go-lucky ‘Hanginaround’ segues into ‘Mrs. Potter’s Lullaby,’ one of the best songs the band has ever recorded. That exquisite song would have been my choice today had I not featured it already as a SOTD.

From there the album settles into a groove with one solid track after another, including the dirge-like ‘Colorblind,’ made popular by the film Cruel Intentions (and performed to by a blindfolded dancer in a high school talent show I attended last year) and the R.E.M. homage ‘Four Days’ (which I didn’t recognize as an R.E.M. homage until reading that in a review, after which I instantly wondered why I wasn’t able to make such an obvious observation).

‘I Wish I Was a Girl’ is a great song that hearkens back to Prince’s ‘If I Was Your Girlfriend.’ Writing, as he often does, about his own relationships, Duritz expresses frustration with his girlfriend’s doubts about his fidelity while on tour. If only he were one of her female friends, he reasons, she’d actually believe him and not doubt him.

Being Adam Duritz, he works in a lot of references to creepy suicide dreams and insomnia, but I like the relatively straightforward subject matter of this song.

The devil’s in the dreamin’
He tells you I’m not sleepin’
In my hotel room alone

With nothing to believe in
You dive into the traffic rising up
And it’s so quiet
You’re surprised and then you wake

For all the things you’re losing
You might as well resign yourself to try and make a change
And I’m going down to Hollywood
They’re gonna make a movie from the things
That they find crawling round my brain

I wish I was a girl
So that you could believe me
And I could shake this static every time I try to sleep
I wish for all the world
That I could say
Hey, Elizabeth, you know I’m doing all right
These days

The devil’s in the dreamin’
You see yourself descending
From the building to the ground

And you watch the sky receding
And you spin to see the traffic
Rising up and it’s so quiet
And you’re surprised and then you wake

For all the things I’m losing
I might as well resign myself to try and make a change
And I’m going down to Hollywood
They’re gonna make a movie from the things
That they find crawling round my brain

I wish I was a girl
So that you could believe me
And I could shake this static every time I try to sleep
I wish for all the world
That I could say, hey, Elizabeth,
you know I’m doing all right these days

In one of these dreams you forgive me
It makes me think of the bad decisions
That keep you at home
How could anyone else have changed
But these are wrong conclusions
That leave you alone
How could everyone rearrange
How could everyone else have changed
What I see
I believe

For all the things I’m losing
I might as well resign myself to try and make a change
And I’m going down to Hollywood
They’re gonna make a movie from the things
That they find crawling round my brain

I wish I was a girl
So that you could believe me
And I could shake this static every time I try to sleep
I wish for all the world
That I could say, hey, Elizabeth,
you know I’m doing all right these days

Well I can’t sleep at night…

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4 thoughts on “Song of the Day #377: ‘I Wish I Was a Girl’ – Counting Crows

  1. Amy says:

    I, too, adore this song. And this album. Do we know which one Elizabeth is? Dana and I were trying to sort out the various references to Maria, Elizabeth, and so on. Is Monkey Elizabeth? ;-) I so love this song, but I still think I’d doubt him if I were Elizabeth.

    I particularly love the third verse and the way it flows into the chorus the first time we hear it. I just love the way he sings. Does any other singer put nearly the same emotion into each song’s interpretation? Certainly not Morrisey!!

  2. Clay says:

    Fiona Apple. I’d say she and Duritz are the two singers who most experience their songs while singing them… at least of the artists I listen to frequently.

  3. Dana says:

    Another great song, and I might argue that, as a whole, Desert Life is an even better album than August. Fighting words, perhaps. I will have to hear both again before I commit to that statement.

    And as for the fidelity issue, I think AD protests too much–we saw how those guys pulled ladies into their limo as they left Meizner Park quicker than you can get a burger at a McDonald’s!

  4. Clay says:

    I won’t argue with your suggestion that This Desert Life is the stronger album. I have pretty much a three-way tie for my favorite Counting Crows album and any one of them is worthy of the title.

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