Have you ever wished you were a bird?
Maybe not, but I bet that most of us have imagined what it would be like to fly. Not superman style, with humanoid arms reaching above and a cape billowing behind, but to really, truly fly. To naturally, and biologically defy gravity with lacey chitin, or taut skin, or, of course, carefully preened feathers…
While the freedom and exhilaration of flight are enough to make me think spending a day as a bird could be good fun, there are so many great reasons to be a bird! Could you imagine being able to sing like a veery? Or hover in place like a hummingbird? Or fly underwater like a puffin? Or…
Ok, enough with the pondering…I’m here to share some music! Not surprisingly, it turns out that wishing to be a bird is a common lyrical device. One that is taken in other directions than simply WOW the freedom of flight is fantastic!
Texas-based singer-songwriter and fiddle player Amanda Shires doesn’t so much want to be a bird—she just wants to look like one…
I LOVE the use of binoculars in this video! Happily, I suppose, she does not turn into a bird, Black Swan style, but there are plenty of references to birds both lyrically, and visually. Amanda even mentions four species by name-yellowhammer, grackle, raven, and night hawk-which is a relative rarity, as most birdy songs simply talk about nonspecific “birds” (which is ok too!).
Look like a Bird, which is the first track on Shires’ 2013 album Down Fell the Doves, is upbeat, with a fantastic fiddle interlude, but the lyrics are a little bit darker. Not somber, exactly, but wistful. As if the narrator is pained over something and is wishing for an avian façade with which to face the world, confident and aloof, instead of with an all too vulnerable and exposed human face. Or, maybe I’m reading too much into it? Regardless, it’s a great song, and a beautiful video!
Folk musician Lauren Shera takes a more melancholy approach to the concept of being a bird in Once I was a Bird, the title track from her 2010 album. Lauren uses bird and sky metaphors to explain why a relationship (at least I assume it’s a relationship? Not necessarily a romantic one, though) fell apart. While Amanda Shires’ bird is tough, and free, Lauren’s bird is fearful, and overly dependent on the security provided by the sky. Yes, Lauren’s bird falls, but she also gets up again; the bird metaphor is an explanation for what happened in the past, which leaves me feeling like there is hope, even if the hope must be read between the lines. It’s definitely not uplifting or happy, but I think it’s still a beautiful song, and I think the metaphor is a good one—albeit one that could have played out differently.
This artfully shot video fits the mood of the song, and highlights both Lauren and the rest of her accompanying musicians.
Ok, the video is decidedly young—it’s mostly shots of Jacob embracing, not birds (but wouldn’t that be adorable!?) but girls, or singing in front of screaming audiences (of young girls). But, let’s give it to the guy—he is, after all, only 18. And he’s singing about metaphorical birds (and drinking hot chocolate)! So, let’s not be judgy: play the video, close your eyes and listen to the song. It’s fun. It’s catchy. It’s hard not to dance and sing along. Yes, the sentiment of living in the present, exploring the world, and giving love a chance is youthful, and maybe impractical. But it’s also a message that I think every single person can benefit from listening to. Slow down. Enjoy the beautiful things in life. 18 year old aspiring pop star or not, I actually love this song.
Continuing with the positive bird metaphors, Valley Shine’s If I was a Bird, from their 2015 debut album Loca is a sweet love song. To be fair, only the first verse is about being a bird (the next verses are sun, moon, and sky), and the metaphor isn’t deep, but the sentiment is cheerful, and the feeling of the song as a whole matches it well. As the Californian band’s album was only released in November, there isn’t a video out yet, but this is a full, official recording of the song. I look forward to hearing more from them!
Finally, I implore you, listen to I wish I was a bird, lyrics by Griff Martin, sung by North Carolina singer-songwriter Laurelyn Dossett. This song is part of the album My Life is Bold, a beautifully heart-wrenching collaboration in which musicians put instrumentation and voice to poems written by terminally ill kids, as part of the Arts for Life program (based out of North Carolina). What a fantastic concept! I enjoyed this song before I knew the story behind it, but knowing where the lyrics came from puts it in such a new and deeper context. Yet, still, it’s a song about beauty. And love. And hope.
Let’s be birds!