Friday, October 23, 2009

I Demonstrate the Inherent Power of Cher's "Heart of Stone"

Cher's "Heart of Stone" is probably one of the greatest songs to come out of 1989. It rocks. It aches. It rhymes. And it has tambourine. It has everything (no cowbell, but tambourine is as good as cowbell). I'm going to dissect it to prove how poignant it is:

Begins with an excellent acoustic guitar being strummed in a heartfelt manner.

Cher: "Beneath the white fire of the moon, loves wings are broken all too soon."

Obviously this sets up the story. The setting, if you will. The protagonist is clearly pondering the fate of her love beneath the full moon. It doesn't say it's a full moon. I'm taking literary license here. Usually a moon is full when someone thinks to remark about the amount of light its giving off. So, we have the moon and it's night and the wings of love have been broken. So we have a bird. No, no, not a bird; love, love is a bird. The bird of love has been grounded, thus the dream has been broken.

So the protagonist is regarding the landscape of the night, musing about the moon, and realizing the dream has been lost. It's a nice scene, established in two short lines. Good metaphors and such. Also, I really like that the moon has "white fire." That's fantastic crap right there.

Cher: "We never learn. [begin tambourine] Hurt together, hurt alone. Don't you sometimes wish your heart was a heart of stone?"

So there we have the age old lament that "we never learn." It's true. Humans are worse than animals when it comes to learning. We struggle. We have hope. We return to the former things, the things that have hurt us, because of hope. Nicely done, Cher. It's always good to fall back on proverbial sayings and whatnot when you're making a statement. Right? Because they're universal.

And then the protagonist goes on pondering, more lamentation, the lovers in the song "hurt together, hurt alone." Also very true. When love ends, does either party win? No, unless of course one of the parties is abusive and then the one abused wins, good job in that case. But typically, both parties lose because the entire universe conspires to break lovers apart, and that seems to be acknowledged here in that short line when coupled with the next line, which says, "Don't you sometimes wish your heart was a heart of stone?" The unspoken content of that line is that hearts are always being broken and if only (if only!) the heart could be made of stone, it couldn't be broken and break ups wouldn't hurt. Right?

Next we have the introduction of more instruments, always a powerful moment in a song. The pause, then the drums come in and the electric guitar, and bass. Fantastic. Who doesn't love this type of song-furniture?

Cher: "We turn the wheel and break the chain. Put steel to steel and laugh at pain. We're dreamers in castles, made of sand. the road to eden's overgrown. Don't you sometimes wish you're heart was made of stone."

Now what Cher is doing is giving us some concrete images. Applause. Why? Because concrete images are always a good choice. So we have a wheel, and a chain, some steel, and then the only abstraction in those two lines, PAIN. Abstract emotions are nearly always weak, so when Cher prepares us with some actual hard, cold images, we feel the meaning of pain. Pain is a broken chain (like on a bicycle), steel on steel, ooh that's cold. Then pain. But not just any pain. Pain you laugh at sarcastically, like, ha ha, Pain, think you can hurt me?

Then we get another hearty helping of very good metaphors. Sand castles. Roads to paradise overgrown and difficult to traverse, i.e., we're never going to make it, this is bull crap, why even try? That sort of thing. Works very well. Also, very sarcastic. As though to say, "What, you don't think love is worth it? Fine. Let me just mock what we had and by the way, I wish my heart was made of stone."

Fantastic. Just fantastic.

Then we have the chorus. It's an interesting chorus. Not your typical chorus. The first chorus has some interesting, not-boring drum fills and cymbal crashes.

Cher: "Look at the headlines: Big crowd at the crazy house, long queue for the joker's shoes, ten rounds in the ring with love, do you lose and win, oh, oh win and lose."

Ok, this part is very confusing. I'm not sure what the protagonist is trying to say here, except that only insane people put themselves through love, and if that's true, then bravo because it's VERY effective. VERY. I don't know what the deal is with "look at the headlines" and in any case, the newspaper reference is tired. But I do enjoy the "long queue for the joker's shoes" and the reference to the boxing match with love. Yes, that's good. We all get that because most of us have been pummeled by love enough to empathize with the reference.

Cher: "Sweet rain like mercy in the night (lay me down, wash away the sorrow) caress my soul and set it right (lay me down show me your tomorrow) summer tears, winter, and the moments flown, don't you sometimes wish your heart was made of stone. Mercy mercy wish your heart was a heart of stone."

Oh man. This part is probably the crowning bit of the song. In my opinion. Cher's voice changes when she moves into the line "sweet rain like mercy in the night," leaving the chorus behind, and it makes sense because suddenly the protagonist is singing about redemption ("caress my soul and set it right"). The rain has come and covered the moon (presumably), and then we have the backing chorus going on a baptism type theme, and the rest of Cher's lines are like a prayer, almost. The rest of the section is about moving on, "summer tears, winter, and the moments flown." Nice. It's always effective to bring in the seasons to represent the passage of time. Very good.

Cher: "Get the picture? No room for the innocent, peak season in lonely town, knocked out of the ring by love, are you down and up, or up and down?"

Good images. Much like the previous chorus, only this time it's referencing a brochure for a vacation trip, but the catch is, it's the off-season. No one wants to be in Jackson Hole or Sun Valley during the summer. Lonely town (unless of course you're there for the mountain biking, but that's easily ignored in my case). And instead of just being IN the ring with love, the protagonist has been knocked OUT of the ring. That was a killing blow, my friends.

Cher: "I ask the river for a sign, (in a dream, we go on together) well how long is love supposed to shine? (in a dream, diamonds are forever) but you and I, we hurt together, hurt alone! Don't you sometimes wish your heart was a heart of stone? Mercy mercy, wish your heart was a stone."

In this section Cher really belts it out. With emotion. It's loaded. She's the protagonist, it suddenly seems, she's truly looking to that river for a sign. I assume this river was always part of the song's landscape, and since she's just been baptized by the rain and a river, it makes sense that there's a river. And Cher sees that in a dream things could have been different, the lovers could have been together and the ring of promise (the diamond) actually kept the love true. But alas! The dream fades and the reality is that the relationship is over. They hurt at the same time and wish there was no pain.

Ahhhh, weak mortals. But without all that pain, songs as great as "Heart of Stone" wouldn't exist. And how gloomy a world would be without love songs, break up songs, and songs of redemption! I believe, my friends, that I've successfully proven my point, that "Heart of Stone" is an awesome song, full of excellent metaphors and imagery, and not only that, it's Cher! Cher! Of course, my words can hardly do it justice. You must listen to it to really feel the greatness. I'm particularly fond of the backing chorus during the redemption sections. Fabulous!


Amanda said...

Nikki you are adorable- this is exactly the kind of post that is you to me. I loved your analysis of this classic song- have you ever heard the original? The one by Bucks Fizz? I just love that name it is so classically 80's- of course Cher's version is so much more deep and meaningful- but theirs is funky and fresh and fun. I'm happy I checked your blog today- I needed a good dose of Nikki :)

Anonymous said...