• Elise Chandler

Behind the Lyrics - Leon Bridges: "Smooth Sailin'"



Word. Play. That is the focus of this week! So, all those times your English teachers hounded you to remember what onomatopoeia was or even how to spell it, well today is the day! 

I think wordplay can be used in lots of situations, but one of the most successful is in playful, light songs. It gives fun imagery to the light melodies, and it usually made the words easier for audiences to remember, which is crucial if you want a song to make it big. 

So, my choice this week was "Smooth Sailin'" by Leon Bridges. If you haven't heard of this man's work, I gotta tell ya, stop what you are doing and look him up. He is a great vocalist! Here are the lyrics for reference. 

"Smooth Sailin'" Leon Bridges 

"Over the horizon She's smooth sailin' These concrete seas Now she's headed East down the boule, the vard Sugar Said I like the way (Like the way) Said I like the way (Like the way) You sail your ship down Let me be your cargo I won't wear you down No honey I won't Wear you down I don't really know Her destination But I got a feeling I Get to be your passenger Sugar let me be your passenger Sugar Said I like the way (Like the way) Said I like the way (Like the way) You sail your ship down Let me be your cargo I won't wear you down No honey I won't Wear you down She's smooth Smooth sailin' (Smooth sailin' yeah) She's smooth Smooth, darling Sweet pretty baby Won't you be my lady, oh Sweet honey, darling You know I'm calling I want you Sugar Said I like the way (Like the way) Said I like the way (Like the way) You sail your ship down Let me be your cargo I won't wear you down No honey I won't Wear you down She's smooth Smooth sailin' (Smooth sailin' yeah) She's smooth, oh, darling Sweet pretty baby Won't you be my lady, oh Sweet honey, darling You know I'm calling I want you Sugar Said I like the way (Like the way) Said I like the way (Like the way) You sail your ship down Let me be your cargo I won't wear you down No honey I won't Wear you down"


The first pro move in this song is the metaphor. He is comparing this sweet-looking gal to a ship. Now, some of you fellow ladies out there might be thinking of my initial reaction, "EXCUSSSEEE me?" However, when you are listening to the song the melody and his bright tone make it clear that this is not meant to be a fat joke. No, especially when the lyrics continue to point out that what grabbed his attention was her "smooth sailin'". This could be her confident strut, it could be her "don't give a -" attitude. Either way, it is vague enough yet specific enough for us to know that it isn't an insult. Nooo, far from it. 


Next, he focuses on wanting to be a passenger. Again, it is specific enough we know that he wants to be a part of her life, but vague enough that it leads up to say...what do you exactly mean by passenger? Couple? Lover? All the above? So, the listeners can fill in the pieces with their own pasts and conclusions. 

Focusing on this idea of the sea and sailing again, I find that this is such a good idea if only because of the history of men and their love affairs with the sea. Remember, "Brandy (She's a Fine Girl)"? How about any old pirate movie? It adds to the timelessness and romance of the song by including this metaphor. 

Finally, another key thing about most of Bridges' songs is he knows how to get an audience involved. Do you see all the opportunities for the listener to "call and response" with Bridges? It becomes participatory -- like Gospel or the Blues. 

So, if you are feeling in a groovin' mood, I highly suggest you put on "Smooth Sailin" and start sailing your pen across the page. 

Until next time. 

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