Welcome to SONG-FREUD, a new weekly column that goes where no other blog will go in order to get to the cold hard truth hidden between the verse and the chorus. Think of it as a deep cavity search of your favorite local tunes, a staggeringly authoritative examination of what a song really means, often in ways that the songwriters themselves never considered. In reality, SONG-FREUD is a pro bono psychotherapy session available for public consumption. It is really important for society because therapy can be really expensive, isn’t always covered by ObamaCare and can totally cut into your organic produce budget. Thus, SONG-FREUD is a public service. Thus, it is good karma to write, and thus, it is good karma to read.
In the first installment of SONG-FREUD, we turn our collective piercing gaze to Toro Y Moi’s delightful new song “Empty Nesters,” the first taste of his upcoming LP What For? The upsettingly-catchy melodies may suggest that “Empty Nesters,” a sweet tune full of allusions to high school idiosyncratic pastimes like listening to Weezer, writing bubble letters in notebooks and growing up, is cute and innocent and about making out in the backseat of a prototype Prius circa 2000. But, in reality, “Empty Nesters” is clearly Chaz Bundick’s testament to worldwide infertility rates.
The song starts on a positive enough note: the crack of a snare heralds the arrival of squiggly guitars and Bundick’s upbeat melodies, yet it quickly turns ominous with the unsettling line “All those zeroes after this one,” a distinct reference to negative pregnancy tests. This theory is only confirmed by Bundick’s question “Did you meet with your advisor?” who is clearly a sex therapist. Singing in the first person, Bundick says “My baby wants me back before I even leave.” Obviously, his “baby” (a poignant and ironic word choice here) wants to take another stab at copulation, with the suggestion of pro-creation. The narrator’s parents’ nest is empty, and in a tragic twist of fate, the narrator’s nest will remain empty too, which is confirmed by the line “So are you” (that’s what genius.com says he is singing, so it’s probably true), and is likely a reference to a womb as warm and welcoming as Dick Cheney’s gaze.
Yet perhaps this is still hope that things won’t turn out like Children of Men. Lines like “Let’s try to make another year for the teens” and incredibly erotic adjectives like “smothered” suggest virility. “Toro,” the bull, is known in Egyptian mythology as a pseudo-god of fertility. But that allusion may simply be Bundick’s use of irony, a literary technique often employed by critics of his work and clearly evident in his choice of eyewear.