Welcome to the premiere of "Great Fakeout Songs," a new series on those songs that have jaunty melodies but dark, dark lyrics, and vice versa. The art of the fakeout works well for humor in music (see Weird Al, Rilo Kiley) but can also add a sense of poignancy.
I'm kicking things off with "American Girl," by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. "American Girl" has had a bit of a resurgence lately; it was used in a key scene in Parks and Recreation, and Tom Petty has prominently issued a cease-and-desist order to Michele Bachmann, who's been using the song in campaign rallies.
Now, the flip-side of the fakeout is the tone-deaf politician (don't worry, we'll get to "Born in the USA" eventually). Michele Bachmann, or whoever her campaign organizers are, have failed to listen to the lyrics or think about them in any meaningful way.
While it's not explicit in the lyrics, the song is about a girl's last memory before jumping off the balcony, committing suicide.
Well it was kinda cold that night
She stood alone on her balcony
Yeah, she could hear the cars roll by
Out on 441 like waves crashin' on the beach
And for one desperate moment
There he crept back in her memory
God it's so painful when something that's so close
Is still so far out of reach
Even if you don't cotton on to the suicidal theme from the lyrics, this American Girl is in awful despair. Even more damning for the Bachmann handlers, this American Girl has GIVEN UP ON THE PROMISE OF AMERICA. She wants to get away from her broken heart and broken dreams.
Well she was an American girl
Raised on promises
She couldn't help thinkin'
That there was a little more to life somewhere else
After all it was a great big world
With lots of places to run to
Anyway, it's a great song, and you can listen to it below. The greatest hits is on sale at Amazon for $6, which ain't bad.