Manhattan – The City that Never Sleeps in a Song


You can view the lyrics, alternate interprations and sheet music for Cat Power's Manhattan at Lyrics.org.
Article Contents:
  1. Music Video
  2. Lyrics
  3. Song Meaning
  4. The Ephemeral Cityscape: A Backdrop for Transience
  5. Unraveling the Secret Life: The Quest for Authenticity
  6. The Luminous Metaphor: Why the Moon Hides the Truth
  7. The Disintegration of Illusions: Destined to Never ‘Be’ Manhattan
  8. A Dance of Shadows and Light: The Final Act of Defiance

Lyrics

The hotel above and the street below
People come and people go
All the friends that we used to know

Ain’t coming back
Ain’t coming back
Ain’t coming back

See your heart has a rhythm
Well see you got your secret on
You say hey and nothing to hide
You and secret life

Don’t look at the moon tonight
You’ll never be never be never be Manhattan
Don’t look at the moon tonight
You can never be never be never be never be Manhattan

Your badge and your suitcase on
Your suit and your hair’s not right
Cause nobody knows this woman by your side

It’s not me you know, it’s a useful woman by your side
It’s not me you know, it’s a useful woman by your side
Manhattan

See your heart has a rhythm
Well see you got your secret on
She say hey and nothing to hide
You and your secret life

Don’t look at the moon tonight
You’ll never be never be never be Manhattan
Don’t look at the moon tonight
You can never be never be never be never be Manhattan

See your heart has a rhythm
You got your secret on
And you say you got nothing to hide
You, you, you and your secret life

You’ll never be never be never be Manhattan
Hollerin’ at me hollerin’ at you
Hollerin’ at me hollerin’ at you

Even in a basement light
Free speech lipstick in the moonlight
?

Now we’re in a dark back room
Dancing to a different tune
Hollerin’ at me hollerin’ at you

Full Lyrics

Cat Power’s ‘Manhattan’ is a melodic stroll through the complexities of attachment, identity, and the relentless passage of time. The sparse, piano-driven track juxtaposes the romantic imagery of one of the world’s most iconic cities with the personal reflections and intimate realizations of the artist.

Delving behind the façade of the city’s glamour, ‘Manhattan’ uncovers layers of emotional dissonance and the ache of nostalgia. Here’s an exploration of the haunting beauty wrapped within the song’s poignant lyrics, revealing the silent stories that glide beneath its chorus.

The Ephemeral Cityscape: A Backdrop for Transience

The opening lines of ‘Manhattan’ set the scene against the continuous ebb and flow of a metropolitan backdrop. It’s within this hotel above and bustling street below that we find our narrative, speaking to the universal experience of change as friends and circumstances ‘come and go’ like the tide against the city’s unyielding shores.

This transient reality echoes with the unmistakable ethos of Manhattan itself – a place of relentless movement and temporary crossings. Cat Power uses this setting to symbolize the impermanence of relationships, the solitude in crowds, and the serene acceptance of the inevitable.

Unraveling the Secret Life: The Quest for Authenticity

As the lyrics weave through the assertion of a hidden self, ‘see you got your secret on’, it begs the question of what facades we wear to wander through our own Manhattans. Cat Power’s refrain is not just a literal nod to the city, but a metaphor for the layers we don to navigate life’s complexities.

The song contemplates authenticity amidst the guise of conformity – the suit that doesn’t fit, the company that doesn’t know us. It is a call to introspection, challenging the listener to ponder over their genuine self, separate from the roles and expectations imposed upon them.

The Luminous Metaphor: Why the Moon Hides the Truth

A pivotal line in the song, ‘Don’t look at the moon tonight,’ serves as both a warning and a revelation. The moon, traditionally symbolizing romance and mystery, becomes an obstacle to self-realization when gazed upon while longing for the essence of Manhattan.

Cat Power suggests that striving for the unreachable — being ‘Manhattan’ — requires looking away from beguiling distractions. It’s about the futility in seeking identity in place or another person. In essence, the moon represents the false sense of whole that we search for outside ourselves.

The Disintegration of Illusions: Destined to Never ‘Be’ Manhattan

Repeated throughout the track, the mantra ‘You’ll never be never be never be Manhattan’ reinforces the central theme of existential striving and the acceptance of limitation. This line resonates not with resignation, but with the empowering recognition of the individuality that cannot be confined or defined by a locale or a love.

By addressing these words to the listener, Cat Power invokes a raw confrontation with the truth of self, beyond the allure of the city’s identity. It is an invitation to carve one’s path, distinct from the seductive dreams of becoming something or someone we are not meant to be.

A Dance of Shadows and Light: The Final Act of Defiance

Toward the song’s denouement, we encounter the imagery of a ‘dark backroom’ and a ‘different tune’ wherein the protagonist breaks free into an underground world separate from Manhattan’s glaring skyline. It is here we feel the pulse of resistance against the binding narrative of place and expectation.

In essence, ‘Manhattan’ culminates in a liberating act of defiance as we hear ‘Hollerin’ at me hollerin’ at you’. It’s a fierce reclaiming of voice and self within the noise – a celebration of the secret life now fully owned and unabashedly lived, creating one’s own personal Manhattan, beneath the city lights.

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