Updated: Sep 16, 2020
"Pink Flamingos" by Rickie Lee Jones: Here is a song that will take you to church. Eventually. The service may take place in a seedy chapel outside of Las Vegas, but the Elvis impersonator/pastor seems to know what he’s doing, the drink tickets are good for holy water, and salvation lies within. Pink Flamingos is all about these sorts of juxtapositions; the sacred in the profane, measuring the distance from where we find ourselves to where we aspire to be. Gravity and weightlessness are the central metaphors here, and RLJ perfectly captures that feeling of being stuck while longing to be airborne. It’s easy to imagine this song as a sort of long runway. In the opening, we take these initial steps, haltingly at first, leaving these sporadic lyrical footprints. The song takes its time – not at all plodding or slow, but somehow out of time altogether. We can feel the entropy holding us back, like waking up hungover and groggy and trying to shake off the sleep. Even as the song starts to pick up speed, it feels like meaning is always struggling against the gravity/sound of language itself. There’s this remarkable extended passage where each syllable is drawn out in a long string of equally accented triplets. The words sound like gangly feet trying not to trip over each other as they find their footing:
This is our moment of doubt; How foolish are we that we ever thought we could aspire to grace? How foolish must we look?
Those final, heavy, alliterative consonants try to nail us to the ground, but instead we are released by this prayer of a lyric:
“All you heavenly earthbound
But the spirit cannot wait
To fly like the pink flamingos.”
These last few words are almost whispered with an airy sweetness. All extra weight has been left on the runway; the body waving below as the soul takes flight.