Pretty Girls Make Graves by The Smiths Lyrics Meaning – A Dissection of Melancholic Romance

You can view the lyrics, alternate interprations and sheet music for The Smiths's Pretty Girls Make Graves at
Article Contents:
  1. Music Video
  2. Lyrics
  3. Song Meaning


Upon the sand, upon the bay
“There is a quick and easy way” you say
Before you illustrate
I’d rather state
I’m not the man you think I am
I’m not the man you think I am

And sorrow’s native son
He will not smile for anyone
And pretty girls make graves

Ooh-ooh-oh-ooh, ooh-ooh-oh-ooh-ooh

End of the pier, end of the bay
You tug my arm, and say
“Give in to lust, give up to lust
Oh, heaven knows we’ll soon be dust”
Oh, I’m not the man you think I am
I’m not the man you think I am

And sorrow’s native son
He will not rise for anyone
And pretty girls make graves
(Oh, really?)

Ooh-ooh-oh-ooh, ooh-ooh-oh-ooh-ooh

I could have been wild and I could have been free
But nature played this trick on me
She wants it now
And she will not wait
But she’s too rough
And I’m too delicate
Then, on the sand
Another man, he takes her hand
A smile lights up her stupid face
And well, it would
I lost my faith in womanhood
I lost my faith in womanhood
I lost my faith

Ooh-ooh-oh-ooh, ooh-ooh-oh-ooh-ooh
Hand in glove
The sun shines out of our behinds
Ooh-oh, ooh-oh

Full Lyrics

The haunting anthem ‘Pretty Girls Make Graves’, a deep cut from The Smiths’ eponymous debut album, unravels a complex tale of unrequited feelings, the avoidance of conformity, and the ephemeral nature of beauty and desire. In a rendering that is classic Morrissey, the song juxtaposes poetic lyrics laden with dark romanticism against Johnny Marr’s jangling, upbeat guitar work.

Yet, beneath the surface of that distinctive sound lies a lyrical depth, a melancholy soliloquy that resists simplistic interpretation. As with many Smiths songs, ‘Pretty Girls Make Graves’ is as much a puzzle as an anthem, a complex narrative driven by Morrissey’s angst and existential dread.

The Burden of Expectation and the Defiant Male Identity

From the onset, the protagonist refuses to adhere to the expectancies placed upon him, both by society and his potential partner. ‘I’m not the man you think I am,’ Morrissey asserts, rejecting presumed gender roles and the pressures of masculine bravado. This line, repeated for emphasis, is a quiet rebellion against the tropes of the lothario.

In a world that often values assertiveness and sexual conquest, the proclamation serves as a refusal to succumb to those ideals. The song’s persona acknowledges an emotional internal landscape that’s incompatible with the ‘quick and easy’ routes of casual liaisons often pursued at the expense of deeper connection.

The Emblematic Chorus: ‘And Pretty Girls Make Graves’

The titular phrase is a paradoxical musing, contrasting the allure of beauty with the somber reality of mortality. In this context, ‘graves’ might be interpreted not as physical resting places but as emotional tombs that the narrator metaphorically digs when faced with the unattainable.

The presence of a pretty girl, rather than inciting joy or carnal pleasure, becomes the cause for sorrow, underscoring a painful awareness of unfulfilled desire and the transient nature of life and youth. This line hauntingly echoes throughout the song, a refrain that etches the futility of longing onto the listener’s consciousness.

Romanticism’s Dark Undercurrent: The Hidden Significance

The recurrent marine imagery symbolizes vast emotional landscapes and uncharted territories of the heart. ‘Upon the sand, upon the bay,’ there lies a potent sense of endings, finales typified by the desolate ‘end of the pier, end of the bay.’ Here lies the twilight of innocence, the pivotal moment where choice confronts consequence.

Furthermore, ‘Pretty Girls Make Graves’ can be heard as an anthem of disillusionment and the loss of naiveté. The narrative’s progression details a relinquishment of belief in the simplicity of love and attraction, signifying a broader loss of faith in the constructs of romanticism and womanhood.

From Desolation Comes Self-Awareness

The self-reflective realization of ‘I could have been wild and I could have been free / But nature played this trick on me’ echoes the sentiment of a soul confined by its innate sensitivities. The ‘trick’ nature has played is an intrinsic disposition towards emotional intricacy, a trait that comes across as a curse in the shadow of ephemeral physical attractions.

This stark acknowledgment that ‘she’s too rough / And I’m too delicate’ sets the narrator apart from the realm of physical desire, casting him into the role of the passive observer rather than the active participant, ultimately leading to the anguished defeat: ‘I lost my faith in womanhood.’

The Lingering Resonance of Memorable Lines

Morrissey is no stranger to crafting lines that linger in the mind long after the music fades. ‘The sun shines out of our behinds’ from the outro satirically paints a picture of blissful naïveté, contrasting sharply with the preceding verses’ somber themes.

The stark contrast evoked in this last line parallels the complexity of human emotions, capable of carrying both the weight of deep-set sorrow and the lightness of carefree disregard. It leaves us to ponder on the duality of experience, the coexistence of dark and light within the inescapable cycle of human existence.

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