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're looking at Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats' "Howling at Nothing". I thought it was a cute, up beat little song to analyze for the Valentine's Day holiday. Full disclosure: this song has a special place in my heart because it was my husband and I's first dance. There is something about the light, playful beat and soulful singing that just transports listeners to a different, easier time.
Let's look at some of the lyrics to see a few interpretations:
"Some are waving it around Someone carried me home One was never noticed sleeping on the floor But I know we were there
Some were playing in a round Some were dipping so low It never seemed to matter as the night slipped away There was soul in the air
We were howlin' at the moon We were shaking our hips Danced until we flat out falling into bed But I won't let you go"
There are a few theories about this light-hearted song's meaning. The word "some" is used several times, making people think it is another example of a purposefully vague song to fits the needs of the listener, which is quite possible. For example, in the first line, we can manipulate to say:
"Some are waving love around"
"Some are waving soul around"
"Some are waving alcohol around" ... so on and so forth.
Any of these could fit with the idea that things were so good and fun that the narrator doesn't really remember what quite happened that night, or who was there for that matter, but does it matter? He has found someone he "won't let go". Making everything fall into the background except that special person.
We even get the werewolf comparison in the repeating chorus -- "howling at the moon, shaking our hips". This feeling of finding a stupendous dance partner that can make all of the background fade into vague descriptions also causes the narrator to feel powerful and maybe a little crazy.
This idea that the vague lyrics are only adding to the spell cast by this lovely dance partner can be reaffirmed by the fact that each stanza line ends in an affirmation that nothing else really matters except that -
"I know we were there"
"There was soul in the air"
"'Cause I know it ain't end"
"And I won't let you go"
Pretty darn cute if I do say so myself. Happy Valentine's Day, everyone! Until next time.
(Photo Credit: Brantley Gutierrez)