In 2015 while I was raising $10,000 USD for a Kickstarter to create my debut album as a Singer-songwriter, a friend of mine asked if I could cover ”Tongue” by R.E.M. It was a reward for one of the higher pledging tiers. I gladly covered the song, never really wondering what it was about, thinking that the title “Tongue” sounded abit sketch, but eh, I was not about to turn away an opportunity to make some much needed moolah for my precious debut album.

As I went on a trip down memory lane today on my YouTube channel, I found myself checking out the cover I did of this song in 2015; I was impressed with my guitar arrangement of it and my singing which was done in a suitable register for my voice… I had forgotten how I had come up with the guitar arrangement, it made me nostalgic for days of being immersed in my guitar (these days I’ve been spending more time on the piano).

Anyways, in the end, watching this cover I made of “Tongue” got me curious about the meaning behind the song.

I looked up the lyrics:

Call my name, here I come.
90 to nothing, watch me run.
You call.
I am ashamed to say.
Ugly girls know their fate.
Anybody can get laid.
You want a room with a fire escape.
I wanna tell you how much I hate this.
Don’t leave that stuff all over me.
It pains me.
Please just leave it.
I should toss that vanity license plate.
Toss that make-up painted face.
Box those poems, chocolate cake.
Scratch that name on the record player.
Please just leave me be.
Don’t lay that stuff all over me.
It crawls all over. All over me.
Call my name, here I come.
Your last ditch lay, will I never learn?
Caramel turn on a dusty apology.
It crawls all over me.
You turn all over.
It pains me.
Please just leave it.

To me, it sounds like someone is fed up with her partner. They are having more than just your garden variety relationship problems. Their problems range from disagreements over where to live, ”You want a room with a fire escape/I wanna tell you how much I hate this,” disagreements over space, “Please just leave me be,” communication problems, ”Caramel turn on a dusty apology/it crawls all over me” and finally, to what seems like a pattern of manipulation or abusive power and control dynamics, ”Call my name, here I come/ Your last ditch lay, will I never learn?”

Then I looked up various interpretations of the song lyrics online and the most consistent interpretation is that it is being sung from the perspective of a girl with low-self esteem who can’t leave an abusive relationship. She obviously doesn’t feel valued in the relationship, and it appears she is being used and she feels bad about it, “I am ashamed to say… /it crawls all over me/you turn all over/it pains me/please just leave it”

Sometimes we sing, read, see the things we are experiencing without even knowing it. Maybe you are drawn to a book, a song or a person, but you don’t really know why.

The external object to which you are drawn is merely answering a question that you have inside of you, a question that you may not even be aware of as yet.

As you can see from my ring finger in the video, I’m (at the point of the video’s recording) still married and stuck in an abusive relationship; at that time I was not aware there were dynamics of control and abuse in my relationship, and that I was on the receiving end of it. However, subconsciously I resonated with the song lyrics without knowing why exactly.

As a lover of lyrics and song meanings, it’s surprising I never bothered to really think about what the song meant – but somehow I interpreted and arranged this acoustic cover intuitively and captured the pain and conflicted feelings embedded in the song albeit with some degree of dispassion and aloofness.

Here’s the original, which looks and sounds quite different:

It’s interesting how we often do not see the forest for the trees, but our subconscious (or our authentic self) never stops trying to communicate to us anyways.

The next time you are drawn to or repelled by something, maybe you can ask yourself why. Really spend time thinking about it instead of accepting the obvious and immediate rationales you arrive at.

If you allow yourself to be curious about why you are drawn to, bored by, or repelled by something, maybe the answers you discover will surprise even yourself!

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