Saturday, November 6, 2010

November 6: The Flaming Lips, "Do You Realize??"

Artist: The Flaming Lips
Song: "Do You Realize??"
Album: Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots
Year: 2002

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While one can see nearly every style and trend in music eventually being "re-invented" by a later generation, one thing that seems to occur in each generation is one band that emerges to remind the world that at its most basic, music must be both unique and beautiful.  Regardless of the style being played, whenever these two elements come together in an authentic way, the band is almost always catapulted to the forefront of music, and in nearly every case, they have become legends.  Yet there are instances where it takes such a band a fair amount of time before the general public realizes the genius behind their playing, and it has rarely been as true and obvious as in the case of The Flaming Lips.  Though they did gain a bit of notoriety with a single in the early 1990's, it look nearly fifteen years before the world as a whole finally began to "understand" their musical style, and in 2002, the band released an album that is nothing short of a masterpiece in the form of their record, Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots.  Perfecting their unique musical style which blended together synthesizers and sound effects with an often almost overwhelming symphonic quality, the album was a runaway success, cementing the groups' legacy and proving that there were truly no limits to what could be done musically.  Though every moment of the album is superb, both musically and lyrically, the group outdid themselves with their unforgettable 2002 single, "Do You Realize??"

While "Do You Realize??" has garnered many labels over the years since its release, perhaps the most fitting is that in nearly every aspect, the song is absolutely majestic.  From the instant it begins, there is a feeling that the parts of the song come together to become something far larger, and this is one of the many reasons the single became a hit across the world.  Yet the song is just as musically unique as any other Flaming Lips song, as the group combines small sound effects, synthesizers, and guitars that are toned in a distinctive manner, along with a string section that pushes the mood to a point of undeniable musical bliss.  The overdubbed acoustic guitars of Steven Drozd and Wayne Coyne have a beauty to them unlike anything else ever recorded, as it is within this aspect that the more mellow, almost folk-like side of the song lives.  Playing in an odd contrast to that sound, bassist Michael Ivins brings a bit of a more aggressive feel to the song, and the two styles work in perfect harmony with one another.  The programmed drums hit comparatively hard for the song, and there is a lone hi-hat cymbal that is so far forward in the mix, it is often mistaken for another instrument.  The Flaming Lips add in a small but full string ensemble in the background, and it is in this aspect that the song soars, with the clock chime pushing "Do You Realize??" to a point where the overall impact is an almost religious experience.

Along with the absolutely stunning musical performance, Wayne Coyne's vocals and lyrics push "Do You Realize??" to a point that makes the song nothing short of legendary.  Though he has a comparatively limited vocal range, it is songs like this where he proves that even can't sing every note, if you use what you have to the best of your ability, the results will be nothing short of stunning.  As Coyne croons and cries across the song, he creates a mood that concurrently sounds a bit scared, yet hopeful at the same time.  This clashing of moods is yet another aspect to which people quickly latched onto, as the honestly in his words and sincerity in his vocal delivery was far beyond that of any of his peers.  Furthermore, the lyrics which Coyne penned for "Do You Realize??" were so ubiquitous and able to be applied to a wide range of circumstances that the general public could not help but feel a personal connection, regardless of their interpretation of the song.  At its face, "Do You Realize??" comes off as a commentary on the shortness of life and the need to appreciate every moment and every person you encounter.  Though Coyne has admitted that the song was inspired by a personal struggle for Drozd, the words can be seen as universal in a way unlike any other song ever recorded.  simultaneously coming off as prophetic and a bit unnerving, Coyne turns the song into a truly legendary work when he sings the unforgettable lines, "... do you realize, that everyone you know someday will die..."  Both in how he sings and what he is saying, there is not a moment of "Do You Realize??" that fails to completely enrapture the listener, whilst at the same time delivering a somewhat somber message.

Few songs have become as instantly beloved across the globe as was the case with "Do You Realize??," and the song continues to be regularly featured in nearly every form of popular media.  This is almost a bit odd, as on nearly every level, the song stands in start defiance of all musical norms, epitomizing a band that was going to create music "their way."  Yet "Do You Realize??" is without question far more accessible that a majority of the catalog of The Flaming Lips, and due to this, one can make the case that the band members themselves figured out how to balance their own musical integrity with a catchy, unforgettable musical arrangement and lyric.  This in itself shows the almost uncanny musical knowledge within the trio, as well as their exceptional talents for creating full, almost overwhelming musical landscapes.  Truth be told, few bands of any style from any point in history have been able to create similarly beautiful musical arrangements with the consistency of The Flaming Lips, and due to this, there are simply no other bands in history to which they can be compared.  Somewhat "acid-rock," somewhat avant, somewhat psychedelic, The Flaming Lips prove with every album that they are making the records that "they want to," and this focus on musical integrity is one of the keys to why their music is so fantastic.  Finding a perfect balance between their distinctive musical approach and a sentiment that can be felt across all musical and cultural borders, there are few songs in history that carry as majestic and moving a tone as one finds in The Flaming Lips 2002 masterpiece, "Do You Realize??"

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