I Was A Lover – Decoding the Haunting Battles of Inner Turmoil


You can view the lyrics, alternate interprations and sheet music for TV on the Radio's I Was A Lover at Lyrics.org.
Article Contents:
  1. Music Video
  2. Lyrics
  3. Song Meaning
  4. Battle Hymns of the Self: A War-Torn Identity
  5. The Distorted Reflection: Self-Seduction and Loss of Congruence
  6. The Unveiling Dance: Commercialization’s Embrace
  7. Navigating the Party’s Ashes: The Lingering Embers of Lost Vitality
  8. In Search of Redemption: Bourbon, God, and the Way Forward

Lyrics

I was a lover, before this war
Held up in a luxury suite, behind a barricaded door
Now that I’ve cleaned up, gone legit
I can see clearly: round hole
Round whole, square peg don’t fit

I’m locked in my bedroom, so send back the clowns
My clone wears a brown shirt, and I seduce him when there’s no one around
Mano why mano, on a bed of nails
Bring it on like a storm, till I knock the wind out of his sails
And we don’t make eye contact, when we have run-in’s in town
Just a barely polite nod, and nervous stares towards the ground
I once joined a priest class, plastic, inert
In a slowdance with commerce
Like a lens up a skirt

And we liked to party
And we kept it live
And we had a three volume tome of contemporary slang
To keep a handle on all this jive

Ennui unbridled, let’s talk to kill the time
How many styles did you cycle through before you were mine?
And it’s been a while since we went wild and that’s all fine
But we’re sleepwalking through this trial
And it’s really a crime it’s really a crime it’s really a crime
It’s really criminal

We’re just busy tempting, like fate’s on the nod
Running on empty, bourbon and god
It’s been a while since we knew the way
And it’s been even longer since our plastic priest class
Had a goddamned thing to say

I was a lover before this war

Full Lyrics

TV on the Radio’s ‘I Was A Lover’ is an intricate tapestry woven with threads of introspection, societal critique, and emotional warfare. At first listen, the song feels like a melancholic ode to a romance lost to the ravages of time and change. Yet, upon diving deeper into the lyrics, a more complex narrative emerges, one that grapples with the collective and personal psyche struggling against the backdrop of modern chaos.

The tune encapsulates the spirit of a generation caught in the throes of existential dissatisfaction, contemplating the convoluted relationship between past identities and the present self. Through this examination, ‘I Was A Lover’ stands out as an anthem of the eternal confrontation between what was, what is, and what could still be.

Battle Hymns of the Self: A War-Torn Identity

The song’s opening, ‘I was a lover, before this war,’ sets a battlefield within, juxtaposing fond recollections of a lover’s past with the stark reality of current strife. This line serves as an emotionally charged salvo that hints at a life once lived – full, perhaps luxurious, certainly untouched by the ‘war’ that followed. The war, it seems, is both literal and metaphorical, representing not only external conflicts but also the internal battles that leave scars on the soul.

The mention of cleaning up and going legit may symbolize a shift from chaotic youth to the responsibility-laden reality of adulthood, affirming the struggle between maturation and the desire to hold onto the past. As such, ‘I Was A Lover’ speaks not just of love in the romantic sense, but of the love for one’s former self, an identity now seemingly at odds with the world’s rigid structures.

The Distorted Reflection: Self-Seduction and Loss of Congruence

In a haunting confession, ‘My clone wears a brown shirt, and I seduce him when there’s no one around,’ the lyrics delve into themes of duplicity and self-deception. The clone stands as a doppelganger – an embodiment of societal pressures and a uniformity that grates against the individual spirit. The self-seduction is an ironic dance, a futile attempt to reconcile the disconnect between who the protagonist has become and who they once were.

This segment of the song underscores the human condition of seeking validation through self-approval, even when our reflections in the mirror seem foreign. It weaves a tale of melancholic introspection, shattered identity, and the uncomfortable acknowledgment that our inner selves may morph into something unrecognizable.

The Unveiling Dance: Commercialization’s Embrace

The lyric, ‘I once joined a priest class, plastic, inert, In a slowdance with commerce, Like a lens up a skirt,’ delves into biting social commentary, critiquing the fabricated and voyeuristic nature of consumer culture. It further suggests a loss of spiritual focus and the hollow nature of chasing material gain, a critique of a society more concerned with financial transactions than meaningful spiritual or personal connection.

This part of the song shines a light on the invasive and often exploitative aspects of modern media and capitalism that reduce our values to commodities. The lens up a skirt, a violation of privacy, signals the pervasive reach of commercial interests into the most intimate aspects of human life, highlighting TV on the Radio’s deft ability to meld personal anguish with broader societal issues.

Navigating the Party’s Ashes: The Lingering Embers of Lost Vitality

Through the lines, ‘And we liked to party, And we kept it live,’ a vivid picture of revelry and vitality is painted, harkening back to days of spirited spontaneity and eruptive expression. Yet, this liveliness has dulled, symbolized by a ‘three volume tome of contemporary slang’ trying to rationalize the excitement that once came naturally. The joy has become academic, cataloged, and perhaps even sanitized – a sentiment that resonates deeply with anyone who has felt the taming effects of time and change.

What was once electric and fluid has curdled into a clinical observation of what it means to ‘keep it live’. The song confronts the listener with an uncomfortable truth: the process of aging and adapting can often lead to the calcification of what was once vibrant and expressive in both culture and in ourselves.

In Search of Redemption: Bourbon, God, and the Way Forward

The concluding reflections, ‘We’re just busy tempting, like fate’s on the nod, Running on empty, bourbon and god,’ reveals a spiritual and hedonistic quest for meaning in an enigmatic world. Both the tangible – bourbon, representative of earthly vices – and the intangible – God, or the search for higher meaning – serve as metaphors for the divergent paths one may take to find solace or escape from reality.

The song leaves us pondering the void left by a ‘plastic priest class’ devoid of genuine insight or guidance. In this light, ‘I Was A Lover’ isn’t just a rumination on lost love, but a requiem for our lost selves and the societal crutches we once leaned on, now rendered impotent. It’s a testament to the resilience required to navigate the complexities of modern existence and an implicit call to action to reclaim individual agency.

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