romanglass (romanglass) wrote in magne_f,

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'Foot of the Moutain' / 'The Longest Night'

On Friday afternoon, a-ha released their new single 'Foot of the Mountain' on the internet. The song is about 85% of 'The Longest Night', with a new chorus and more upbeat meaning. I've been dying to blog about this song for two days but have been swamped and/or offline.

The lyrics

Both songs have the same verses, which go like this:

Keep your clever lines
Hold your easy rhymes
Silence everything
Silence always wins
It’s a perfect alibi
There’s no need to analyze
It will be all right
Through the longest night
Just silence everything
--> Chorus

Learn from my mistake
Leave what others take
Speak when spoken to
And do what others do
Silence always wins
So silence everything
It will be all right
In the morning light
Just silence everything
---> Chorus

Here is a comparison of the chorus:
'Foot of the Mountain''The Longest Night'
Chorus 1Chorus 1
But we could live by the foot of the mountain
We could clear us a yard in the back
Build a home by the foot of the mountain
We could stay there and never come back
We could stay there and never come back
as you know that’s how it all begins
and you know they can’t touch what lies within
so keep those clever lines, so nice to hide behind,
away from me through the longest night of our lives.
Chorus 2Chorus 2
But we could live by the foot of the mountain
We could make us a white picket fence
Build a home by the foot of the mountain
we could stay there and see how it ends
We could stay there and see how it ends
as you know they can’t touch what lies within
and you know that’s where it all begins
so keep your clever lines, hold your easy rhymes
you were quick to judge, quick to criticise
but too slow to know what I’ve realised
it’s the longest night of our lives.

First reactions

My first thought on hearing this was that it's a wimpy version of a great song. The new chorus, while certainly catchy, seems to be an idyllic, Disney-esque classic pop treatment. It seemed to me that they took out the parts of TLN that might not go down well with the public - the parts that could make them think a little bit LOL - and replaced them with a vision of a peaceful place and a vague idea of happiness. I didn't like that some of my favorite Magne F lyrics had been removed in favor of this kind of (what I saw at the beginning as) consumable nothingness. Live at the foot of the mountain? Really? And Morten's almost painfully pure voice only added to my feeling of 'they've whitewashed the song!' Fail!

But then....

After listening to the new song on repeat for a while, I had to admit the new chorus easily took up residence in my brain - so much so that when I would listen to TLN I'd actually be expecting the new chorus. No fair! I discovered that I apparently didn't *want* to like the song, although well of course I did. I'm fascinated by the struggle I'm feeling, not wanting to like FOTM only because it's a-ha and not wanting to hate it only because I feel a strong affinity for TLN. There was no other solution: the song would have to be judged on its own merits. So I made an effort to only think about FOTM as a separate song, without reference to TLN, because that's what the public would be doing. Is it so bad to have such a catchy chorus on the radio? Mmm, no, I guess not!

And then....

I've been thinking about the new chorus and what I had considered 'throwaway' lyrics. Some people have said it's a wonderful thought about 'returning to nature' and finding your own place in the world. A friend of mine said on MSN that "I see it as the more positive version of Magne's [song]". Taken like that, I was definitely intrigued. I never really thought of TLN as a not-positive song, but anyway to view the song as the other side of the coin was just what I needed to really get past my difficulty with the changes and find out what FOTM could mean for me.

It's true that there is some bluntness to the lines that were removed: 'Keep those clever lines / so nice to hide behind / away from me'. Such a sentiment would be difficult for most people to swallow in a pop song. But then the original chorus continues, 'Through the longest night of our lives.' I have no idea what Magne meant by this, but somehow I took it to be an affirmation of sorts - the meaning seemed to be along the lines of a good friend saying: 'Be real with me, we're in this together." What could be more touching, more honest, and more personal than that?

[slight aside: my interpretation of this bit of lyrics is drawn from a poem of Magne's called 'Spare me your passion' which I absolutely love (click here, then click 'poetry'). ]

The same thing happens again later in TLN: 'You were quick to judge, quick to criticise / but too slow to know what I've realized'. Sounds a bit harsh, but it's nothing less than I'd expect a friend to tell me if I made snap judgements - especially if they were hurtful or unfair. People make mistakes, they jump to conclusions, and that's human. It takes a real friend to point it out and deal with it, rather than walk away in disgust or respond in kind. And yet again these lines are followed by 'It's the longest night of our lives.' Our lives - "We're in this together."

But yeah, I could be totally misinterpreting the original song, and these lyrics are perhaps not very consumable, so I have to admit that I understand why some changes had to be made to the song.

However, I do regret the loss of this line: 'they can't touch what lies within'. A beautiful and kind sentiment that was lost, IMO.

The journey's not over though...

So what about the new chorus? 'We could live by the foot of the mountain.' No matter how catchy it is and what a nice vision it conjures up, I was still not satisfied. Where did this mountain come from? Since the Universal site says 'Words and music by Magne Furuholmen and Paul Waaktaar-Savoy' and since the verses and the melody were obviously Magne's, most people are saying that the chorus was contributed by Paul. It reminds me a bit of some lines from 'Over the Treetops':

Hey beautiful farm on the top of the hill
Whenever I pass by I'm thinking I will
Find someone like you
Goodbye avenue
And then I'll be yearning for this too

So maybe the mountain in FOTM represents the same kind of sentiment - getting away from the speed of life, having an idyllic retreat to share with someone. Very cool. But then there is one line at the end that surely had to be Magne's: 'We could stay there and see how it ends.' The first time I heard that line I immediately thought of the lines from MTGE, 'We don't need to see how this road bends / don't need to know how every story ends.' Seems too close to be a coincidence, but in that case it's another turnaround - and I really like it :-)

But back to the mountain. Mountains are not part of the a-ha lexicon, you know? Rain, sun, the ocean, all normal fodder for their brand of Norwegian melancholy LOL.

To me a mountain can represent a challenge or a risk. Life is an uphill battle, sometimes with pitfalls that drag us back down so that we have to start over again. That doesn't mean you abandon the quest for the goal - I'd rather be climbing and trying to make progress than allow myself to settle for looking up from the bottom. However to follow this metaphor, there is even a touching beauty to the sentiment that we all have a choice whether to struggle or not. So I wonder if the lyrics are saying 'instead of constantly struggling up the mountain, let's find a nice place to relax and not worry about it anymore'. Something like this anyway. It's saying there is a choice, and that it's not only possible but worthwhile to 'see how it ends' - the ending isn't a foregone conclusion, it could be anything.

So the bottom line is that I've worked myself around to where I really do love this new song ;-) Over the past couple of years I've had some situations come up where life felt like a constant uphill struggle, making no progress. It does me good to think about what it would be like to stop the struggle and be content. You can't climb every mountain in life.

My interpretations are probably way off, but they work for me :-) Now go listen if you haven't already!
Tags: a-ha, lyrics, magne f, songs

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