Song Analysis: The Rainbow Connection

One of my hobbies is to analyze (or over-analyze) song lyrics.

A lot of times, it’s a non-starter: there are a lot of songs that make no sense explicitly for the purpose of making no sense, and a lot of other times you have lines thrown together because they sound good rather than due to anything the writer’s actually trying to say. But discounting those, there’s some interest to be had.

(This is one of the reasons I like Warren Zevon so much; several of his songs take on a different meaning after you’ve dug into it a bit, frequently turning on one or two lines. Down at the Mall from Transverse City seems like a silly little piece making fun of consumerism, but I tend to find the whole concept hinging more on one line: We’ll put it on a charge account we’re never gonna pay. Which goes from “Silly people wasting all of their time and money trying to chase happiness in commercial goods” to “the entire thing is built on a fraud, there’s no actual money changing hands, and this is a very brief period of frivolous excess before everything crashes and burns because nobody’s producing anything.)

Anyway, rabbit hole.

Since I got pregnant, I started doing more analysis with children’s songs. Most of which, admittedly, don’t provide much in the way of material. But I find The Muppet Movie’s Rainbow Connection to be a fairly beautiful exception. Take a listen before I start:

It’s deceptively simple, and when I was looking for what other people had to say, I mostly found the same comment over and over: It’s just a kid’s song, meant to be light and cheerful, stop overthinking it. But, y’know, I’m constitutionally incapable of that—and more to the point, I think it’d be a lot less vague, and a lot less unsettling in parts, if it was actually meant that way.

I don’t want to fall into the trap of going line-by-line, because this has a bit of a tendency for missing the forest for the trees… but basically, after mulling it over for a long time, I basically came to the conclusion that… well. I think it’s about depression. And pushing through despite that, of finding something beautiful and meaningful even if everything in the universe tells you it only means anything in your head.

Why are there so many songs about rainbows and what’s on the other side?
Rainbows are visions, but only illusions—and rainbows have nothing to hide

Okay, so I’m going line-by line like I said I wouldn’t. But this first part of the first verse—for purposes of my analysis, I’d like to just leave this labelled as such: “The world says that the things rainbows satnd for—hope, beauty, God’s forgiveness, whatever—aren’t real, they’re illusory.”

That’s what we’re told, and some choose to believe it;
I know they’re wrong, wait and see
Someday we’ll find it, the rainbow connection
The lovers, the dreamers, and me

Label: I don’t accept that. I don’t have anything to base it on, and there’s nothing special about me to give me the knowledge or faith… but I can’t believe that. I won’t.

Who said that every wish would be heard and answered when wished on the morning star?
Somebody thought of that, and someone believed it, and look what it’s done so far.
What’s so amazing that keeps us stargazing, and what do we think we might see?

Label: My own good sense and reason tells me that everything hopeful, beautiful, and magical is stupid and illusory, just like the world said in the prior verse. Someone made it all up, and… it’s ambiguous, and I think intentionally ambiguous, what that’s done so far. Because you really could go both ways with it—that wishes don’t come true, or that the belief in wishes makes extraordinary things possible. I see that as a struggle within the singer, spoken wryly. (Because this is the speaker singing of his own observations, now, not a nebulous world that he can reject.)

Someday we’ll find it, the rainbow connection
The lovers, the dreamers, and me
All of us under its spell
We know that it’s probably magic

Label: But I’m still clinging to the fact that there is meaning, even if it’s nothing I can reason or sense, and that someday isn’t here yet.

Have you been half asleep, and have you heard voices? I’ve heard them calling my name
Is this the sweet sound that calls the young sailors? The voice could be one and the same

…this is the main part that makes me think it’s about depression. The rest of it’s kind of got a wry, exhausted sense to it. But, taking the sweet sound that calls the young sailors to be sirens, who inspire seamen to dash their ships against the rocks…

Label: My very brain is set against me, and trying to destroy me, and convince me that hope is an illusion

I’ve heard it too many times to ignore it, it’s something that I’m supposed to be

Label: And I’m losing

Someday we’ll find it, the rainbow connection
The lovers, the dreamers, and me

Label: …but I’m still not giving up, and cling to the idea. Even if I can’t manage to love or dream myself.

So, yeah, there’s my analysis of The Rainbow Connection.

I don’t know if it’s anything like what they had in mind. But… it’s the closest I can come to something that makes sense given all the lyrics.

I’d like to see the take of someone more familiar than me with faith and Christ and all that stuff… it’s just, particularly with the rainbow being a sign of God’s covenant and the fact that the World is continually trying to sever Man’s connection with God, and that whispering demons and singing sirens aren’t fully separate concepts from one another, there might be a more meaningful reading there. But I don’t have the background and I don’t have the knowledge to do well by it, so… I work with the tools I have, I guess.

But I do like the reading I’ve managed. Kind of… it makes me think of a little man in a coracle, one against all the elements without much in the way to guide or protect himself. But pushing forward regardless, because… the good stuff is out there somewhere.

And… I plan to cling to that, myself.

More fun with crayons!

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