Welcome to "Behind the Lyrics" with Elise Chandler. Each week, I find a song that I feel is understated both musically and lyrically, and I analyze it through several critical lenses.
This week, we are looking at Father John Misty's "God Favorite Customer". I love this song musically because it is blusey, soulful, and real. While with a first look, it may just seem like another sad song, I believe this song has a bigger, brighter purpose.
With this song, I think a good literary lens to view it from is cultural theory. This theory focuses on looking at all the global influences that have come together to put this beautiful song together. As mentioned before, when listening to the song, you can hear the blues influences, a nice gospel backdrop, and pair this with the real, authentic lyrics, and you can see how much music background and influence have come together to provide us what we are currently enjoying a listen and read through
However, another important aspect to this song is the influence of Christianity on the author Father John Misty. Misty has gone on record mentioning his strict upbringing in a Christian home where only non-secular music was allowed. This caused some tension because his family and him as he grew up and embraced different types of music (Wikipedia). You can definitely hear the tension and sadness in this piece throughout. Let's look into the lyrics now:
"God's Favorite Customer" - Father John Misty
Another night on the straits All bug-eyed and babbling Out on the corner Of 7th and 8th
I'm in the business of living Yeah, that's something I'd say All I need is a new friend I'm only five blocks away
Speak to me Won't you speak, sweet angel? Don't you remember me? I was God's favorite customer
Beware the man who has everything Everything that he wants You can spot him from a mile away In his gold chain and only one pair of socks
I'm out here testing the maxim That all good things have to stop The bar closes at 5 But the big man is just opening shop
Speak to me Won't you speak, sweet angel? Don't you remember me? I was God's favorite customer But now I'm in trouble
Speak to me Won't you speak, sweet angel? I need some company I swear, just one more night longer
At the beginning of this song, the narrator is quite genuine in describing what a mess he has become. He is "bug-eyed" and "babbling" due to alcohol or drugs perhaps? His biggest claim to fame at this point is being "in the business of living". Notice, he doesn't make excuses. He simply asks for a friend and leads to the chorus of informing listeners -- "I was God's Favorite Customer". Hold on to that thought please.
As the song progresses, he describes "the man who has everything" as a person
who only has "a gold chain and only one pair of socks". This leads to a couple of thoughts. 1) The man who has everything just claims to have everything, but really is barely surviving. 2) The man who has everything may have nice stuff, but does he have the human and spiritual connections he needs to survive? Also, who is the main who has everything? Is he who the narrator used to be? Is this a warning? Let's delve into that chorus again.
"I was God's Favorite Customer, but now, I am in trouble". With this line, we must
think in the cultural context of Christianity. One of the main repeated lessons is sin will always exist in this world, but it exists due to man's decisions. This man has admitted and owned he made some bad decisions, and we could even argue alluded to what they may have been. Another big piece of Christianity is that we cannot survive this world alone. We must have faith and trust in God. I "WAS" shows us that the narrator is not in past tense. While he used to follow the tenets and beliefs of Christianity, he has now left that life behind, and he admits he is now in trouble looking for an "angel" to help him get straight again.
This angel could be an actual human that helps him get back on his feet, or he could be directly trying to get into contact with heaven to help him get back on track. This, we can never truly solve.