A Dissection of 90's Pop Lyrics With Dr. Noodles: Yellow Ledbetter

While Yellow Ledbetter by Pearl Jam isn't a pop song in the strictest sense, it was a popular song in the 90's and remains so today. A common complaint about any Vedder-sung song is the utter incomprehensibility of the lyrics. Not that they are particularly abstract in meaning, but the Vedder's absolute slaughter of pronunciation leaves many turned off to the whole Pearl Jam experience. This is sad because Yellow Ledbetter is a solid slow-jam with classic guitar work and deep lyrics.

She sits alone by a lamppost
Trying to find a thought that's escaped her mind
She says dad's the one I love the most
But Stipe's not far behind

Vedder sets the scene of a woman contemplating life in Narnia. She is metaphorical of course, but for the purposes of this analysis I will call her Iris. She loves her father, clearly, but such adoration of former REM frontman, Michael Stipe, leads me to believe that all is not well. One of the pervasive themes of C.S. Lewis' works is the loss of innocence along the journey to adulthood; Iris is clinging to her Narnian youth while the demands of real life London make their siren call.

She never lets me in
Only tells me where she's been
When she's had too much to drink
I say that I don't care I just run my hands
Through her dark hair and then I pray to god
You gotta help me fly away

Now that we've identified Iris, who is "me" here? Obviously a love interest, probably a Narnian, and almost assuredly a famous Narnian as Earth humans tend to deal exclusively with famous Narnians. Has to be Prince Caspian, right? Anyways, Caspian has been cuckolded and is looking to the almighty Aslan for sweet deliverance. This, my friends, is not a healthy relationship.

And just...
Let her cry...if the tears fall down like rain
Let her sing...if it eases all her pain
Let her go...let her walk right out on me
And if the sun comes up tomorrow
Let her be...let her be

Helpless, Caspian can do naught but look on with agony as his cuckoldress realizes her childhood is over and she has to go back to England and it's probably raining and when she gets back she'll probably be eight years old again so her childhood really isn't over.

This morning I woke up alone
Found a note sittin' by the phone
Saying maybe, maybe I'll be back someday
I wanted to look for you
You walked in I didn't know just what I should do
So I sat back down and had a beer and felt sorry for myself

Iris has left Caspian, and Caspian is bereft. He is not sure if he'll ever be the same person again, but don't feel too bad for him because he lives in a castle with talking animal servants and that is sweet. Wonder what kind of beer he was drinking. Probably some killer imported Kalormen ale.

Let her cry...if the tears fall down like rain
Let her sing...if it eases all her pain
Let her go...let her walk right out on me
And if the sun comes up tomorrow
Let her be...let her be.
Let her cry...if the tears fall down like rain
Let her sing...if it eases all her pain
Let her go...let her walk right out on me
And if the sun comes up tomorrow
Let her be...

Doubled up chorus here. It's so easy for humans to come back to Earth and be all young and carefree again. But Narnians, man, Narnians feel if you know what I mean. Not sure we can fully comprehend this, but Vedder does well to bring this up. Humans have no idea.

Last night I tried to leave
Cried so much I could not believe
She was the same girl I fell in love with long ago
She went in the back to get high
I sat down on my couch and cried
Yelling, "Oh mama please help me!"
Won't you hold my hand."

Caspian is just coming apart at the seams. My best guess here is that he commits seppuku and the great and powerful Aslan shows him a vision of Iris' life in London. The vision depicts an emaciated version of the Iris he once knew getting high on crystal in a seedy tavern's rear entrance as her acquaintance quietly loads a nondescript handgun. Caspian lived for 12 hours after this vision, dying a slow, dishonorable death. Aslan remains a dick.

And
Let her cry...if the tears fall down like rain
Let her sing...if it eases all her pain
Let her go...let her walk right out on me
And if the sun comes up tomorrow
Let her be...
Let her cry...if the tears fall down like rain
Let her sing...if it eases all her pain
Let her go...let her walk right out on me
And if the sun comes up tomorrow
Let her be...let her be

Mortal dual chorus to shut down shop here. This time sung less as a lament to love lost and more as a venomous curse hurled into the ether by an anguished Caspian in his waning moments.

Gives me goosebumps every time I hear that opening guitar rift, knowing full well that Pearl Jam is going to spend the next five minutes absolutely ripping my heart to pieces. But that's what this is all about. Vedder makes the meanest of us feel, dammit. Like fucking Narnians. And that is a rare thing indeed.