The thing that always drew me most to music is the story behind the song. I've always been amazed at the artists ability to take a moment, a feeling or an experience and translate that into a song and have complete strangers listen and relate. Most of the inspiration behind the songs that I love I'll never fully know, since I'll most likely never meet any of the artists. But I like to try to put myself in the artists shoes, and figure out what led them to writing the song. And as a "writer" I'm always much more intrigued by lyrics than music. Like most listeners, I'm initially drawn to a song by a beat, a hook, a good riff. It's only after a few listens that I even notice the lyrics. But once I can determine what the artist is saying, I start dissecting. And if I can determine a meaning behind the words, a meaning that I can connect with, it transforms that song. It makes for a completely different music listening experience.
I recently came across a song that has quickly become one of my all time favorites. I heard "Ya Hey" by Vampire Weekend on an Internet radio station a few months ago. I was already familiar with the band and considered myself somewhat of a causal fan. I really enjoyed the first single they released from the album, largely because of some of the clever wordplay in the lyrics (the song is entitled "Diane Young", about reckless youth who don't mind "dyin' young"). I was at work when the new song came on, so I was only half listening, but I caught several biblical references in the lyrics. It opens with a line about Zion, and then Babylon. It piqued my interest with that right off the bat, and then an infectious hook in the chorus immediately sealed itself into my brain. I was whistling it, ad nauseam, for weeks. But it was the references that really stuck with me. I ended up buying the album, and after hearing the song in its full context on the album, the message behind it both amazed and saddened me.
The song is basically an open letter to God. The title itself "Ya Hey", is a play on Yaweh. The artist, Ezra Koenig, lays a lot out on the table in front of the Lord, and tells Him his honest opinion. He's not impressed. Ezra sees how God is viewed by the world , and decides he shares the same blasé opinion. God, you may be good for some, but not for me. I acknowledge your presence and your power, but would rather live without it. Thanks, but no thanks.
Like I said, the song starts out by stating the "Zion doesn't love you". And then "Babylon don't love you". Zion, often used a a synonym for Jerusalem, Gods chosen city, represents the religious world as a whole, specifically the old churches. Ezra observes that, in his view religion has always been more about power and money than God, a view commonly cited by religious critics. He then states that Babylon, often referred to as Jerusalem's enemy in the Bible, obviously has no love for God. He mentions later in the song that "America don't love you". America, representing the modern world, and specifically Hollywood, which Ezra is very much apart of, has fallen out of love with God as well. In the next line though, Ezra tips us off that He knows about God. He says "but you love everything". This is what makes the song so interesting. Ezra seems to not only be familiar with God, but even believe in His existence and His power. He doesn't understand how the Lord, with so much power and so much love, doesn't make His presence known more to the world. He sings, in the chorus, "through the fire and through the flame, you don't even say your name". He's questioning God here. He's saying, God, you've had ample opportunity, starting with the burning bush (which this passage is referencing), to give us indisputable proof of your existence, and you don't. You only say "I am that I am". Ezra doesn't understand this. "Who could ever live that way?". He sees the suffering in the world, knows God has the power to stop it, and observes that he doesn't. This is not a unique view. Many, many people struggle with this, and since they don't have faith in Gods sovereignty, they instead turn away from Him, disappointed. And that's what Ezra is doing. Giving up. He mentions later in the song that he realizes he is probably making a mistake by feeling this, but he's "not gonna change". And that's what's so sad. He knows who God is, and what He is, and what He is capable of, and therefore knows the consequences of turning from Him, and yet he does it anyway. He willfully denies God. And seems to accept his fate easier, because he knows that billions of other people are doing the same thing.
I'm simultaneously fascinated by the ability of Ezra to be this honest about such a serious and sensitive subject, and saddened by whatever experiences in his life that led him to feel the way he does. I'll probably never know what those experiences are, since I'll likely never meet him. But if I did I would tell him it's ok to be confused. It's ok to doubt and question. We all do. I've felt those same exact feelings, and almost drew the same conclusions you did. Ive looked around this world, just like you, I've been disheartened. I see the suffering too. I feel hopeless and helpless at times too. But it's in those moments of doubt were God does His best work. And I know you're seeking. You wouldn't be questioning Him if you weren't really seeking answers. We all are. Seeking for something to ease our pain. Seeking for some reasoning, some purpose to this life. And I know, from experience, that if you seek Him earnestly, and open your heart to Him, He will find you. He may not provide you with all the answers you're looking for, but He will provide you with faith in His sovereignty, and peace in His power. But since I won't meet Ezra, or the vast majority of others who share his view, all I can do is pray that that they all seek Him. And find Him.