Pop rhetors

The Last Royals - Crystal Vases

Ahem: this song, which like the Limousines track occupies a prominent place on Sirius radio's various playlists, contains a perfect example of anadiplosis (repetition of the final word of one sentence at the beginning of the next). Who said classical rhetoric was dead? It's not dead, it just shows up in the lyrics to weirdly smooth cosmopolitan-fantasy songs. The subject matter here is like, uh, close to someone's attempt to write an outtake for Royal Tenenbaums, maybe? There's a divorce, a Park Avenue apartment, a maid, lots of cigarettes, and a crystal vase.

I'm most interested in the maid, who's said to be the narrator's only friend--mostly because she's always there to "apprehend the dust and grime that settles in around the crystal vase." Are they equivocating on the word "apprehend" though? Like is it not that the maid 'seizes' the dust, but that she 'understands' the dust? That the maid understands the meaning behind the dust, i.e., the narrator is smoking himself to death (as advertised in the song's lyrics anyway) after the divorce (and ostensibly spending too much time in the apartment, shedding dead skin cells everywhere and adding to the piles of dust like a fucking weirdo), and tries to help him through the tough situation by doing...what? Cleaning? The song doesn't have an answer for this. The song leaves me wanting more about the maid, less about how fresh and new the apartment smells. In fact, I have zero idea about what the verse lyrics even refer to--who is being discussed here?:

"Ooo baby she walks with a thorn in her side/Them big sunglasses on her eyes/All the uptown girls say, 'hi, old woman'/'I can't take another day of this,' she says/'All I wanted was a drink and a kiss/but I guess I'll just have to call on my bank 'cause it's Swiss.'/She never knew no better than to follow her nose(?)/So I ask for your forgiveness cause I'm part of the show/Now she's gone and all she's left with is a house full of clothes/'Sometimes madame, it's okay to cry."

There are too many ambiguities in there for me to make any sense of what's happening. I don't think it's the maid that's being talked about, but why then would the uptown girls say, "Hi, old woman"? Why would anyone--even uptown girls--say that, ever? Why didn't this woman, presumably the ex-wife, know any better than to follow her nose? Is she related, perhaps, to Toucan Sam? This might be why the marriage didn't work, because this woman was partially a tropical bird (prob. also why she wears those big sunglasses when she's out and about).

[Buy the Last Royals EP]

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  1. I think the “old woman” is what the people say behind her back and under their breath. I think she’s one of those crazy old rich bats who wander around the upper east side with nothing to do but spend their ex-husband’s money. I know the singer said he was living up there when he wrote it.

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