Today, we’ve moved onto “Midnight Sun”, the tenth track off of Medazzaland! There isn’t a lot of background story for “Midnight Sun” found online, although there was an Ask Katy wayyyy back in 2001 regarding its origins. Simon answered with a mysterious, “All I can say is that it is about someone special.”
As I watch you flickering slowly
In the shadows, nothing to hold
It’s as if I don’t recall our time before
And would it be so wrong
Not to remember?
There are times I look at you differently
Like I’d never seen you before
Funny after all we’ve done
You could be someone I don’t know at all
(Don’t know you at all)
Catch me I don’t want to fall
But you pull the mountain from under me
Look, I’m dangling up in the blue
And it’s a cartoon coyote eternity
Before I drop down to you
What am I supposed to do now?
There is something beautiful shining
In the far off night of your hair
Funny for a while it seemed to come from the sky
But it’s in your head
Yes it fills your head
You and I don’t always fly
Let me go I want to fall
Deep into the dark
But I’ll get back to you
And I’ll always know how to find you
Cause you shine like the midnight sun
“Midnight Sun” is one of the better songs off of Medazzaland, artfully written and recorded. The lyrics are hauntingly beautiful, even if a bit painful. While Simon chose not to share who the song is about, I can’t help but wonder if it wasn’t written about John. I don’t suppose we will ever know for sure. With themes of friendship, love and loss, the song isn’t difficult to understand on a personal level.
Musically, the song carries on the methodology of the album, layered with samplings, and filled with dozens of sounds in the background. The guitar develops over the course of the song, and it is only about 2/3 of the way through that it begins its own sort of gentle conversation with the vocals – not in an overtly loud sense, but still present. On previous albums, it has been noted that the guitar would often trade off with the keyboards to maintain control of the song, and that same technique is used in this song, but this time with the vocals, ever so gently. It is a nice, subtle touch.
The structure and production of the song deserve a note. This has always been a Duran Duran song that while I’ve enjoyed, I’ve never loved the way it sounded as though I were listening to it underwater, or through some sort of tin can telephone line. The song sounds muffled and not quite clear, which really used to bother me. While listening to it again today, I think I have a better appreciation for the production technique. That muffling – as I used to call it – kind of gives the song an ethereal, dreamlike quality. As I think about it today, I can see why they went that route because it does give an entirely different feel to the song. I think I “hear” the song differently as a result, the meaning becoming something completely different as a result. I also appreciate the way the song builds during the last set of verse, creating a sense of drama – and then the song falls off, as the outro fades, and the listener is left, still wandering around in that headspace.
Have I ever really listened to this song before? I know I have. Heck, I sang along as I listened again but I’m not sure that I ever *really* stopped and paid attention. I think that this song deserves that. There are some songs that you can have in the background and learn it and then there are others that require you to stop doing everything else and just tune into every element of the song. If you don’t, I think you are missing so much.
As with many other tracks on this album, I ponder how best to “review”, to “evaluate”. Do I think about how much I like to listen to it? Quality of the track? Artistic merit? Like many songs on this album, I’m not sure it is one that I would choose to listen to frequently. It isn’t because it is a bad song but like so many, especially towards the end of the album, this one is painful. Who hasn’t looked at someone they were once close with and thought, “Who is this person?” So many lyrics would hit home, I would think for so many. Rhonda pondered that it could be about John and I would believe it. She is probably right. It is a song, then, that people might turn to when they are faced with the sadness and grief of the loss of a friendship, a relationship. In those moments, it probably feels like Simon is speaking for you, that he is able to articulate your feelings. That can be powerful and shows the true magic of music, of song.
The instrumentation adds to the beauty found in grief. While it still feels modern with effects and instrumentation, I appreciate that the music was allowed to just be. It wasn’t trying to dominate. It felt like a good blend that added to the emotion of the song. One element that I found particularly striking is how the guitar took on greater dominance, in a subtle way, as the song progressed, much like someone’s emotionality explaining how they are feeling, especially in a moment of crisis. It never completely got out of control but the pain was palpable. Then, of course, the instrumentation pulls back, allowing the vocals to be the focus at the very end of the song. It all reminds me of a good cry. In the beginning, there might be a few tears before it builds up to a wail before again moving back to quiet sobbing. In thinking about that, I have to give props to the artistic level of the song. Again, it shows that songs are capable of so much in terms of conveying a message, capturing an emotion, and more.
So while this is not a song that I listen to often, it is a song that I can admire in terms of quality, in terms of its artistic merit. It is a quality piece of music that once again shows the true genius of Duran Duran when they just let themselves create.