Analyzing Difficult Songs — 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover

In this new series I will analyze and interpret difficult songs with a twist of humor, hoping to shed some light into the darkness of mysterious lyricists. If you have a song that you’d like me to slaughter embellish with my views, send it to me at fnkymonk at icloud dot com.

This post analyzes Paul Simon’s 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover.

Paul Simon's no turkey when it comes to love counseling.

Paul Simon’s no turkey when it comes to love counseling.

Paul Simon presents us with another interesting dilemma in the genre of breakup songs. This time it’s not misinterpreting lyrics with an upbeat tempo, it’s an overpromise of relationship device that underdeliver fails to define.

In the title and chorus of this popular song, Paul Simon promises not one, two, or even 10 ways, but 50 ways to get out of an unrewarding relationship. However, once we stop tapping our feet and really pay attention to the lyrics, we learn that Paul only gives us five deliverables. Yep. FIVE. I base this on the number of people being spoken to in the song. Here they are:

  1. Slip out the back, Jack.
  2. Make a new plan, Stan.
  3. No need to be coy, Roy, just listen to me.
  4. Hop on the bus, Gus, you don’t need to discuss much.
  5. Just drop off the key, Lee, and get yourself free.

Paul, my man, what’s up? You promise me 50 ways to leave and give me only five?! Aren’t you oversimplifying this obviously difficult situation? Or are you overcomplicating it with a snazzy title, then showing us how easy it really is?

I think that it’s actually a little bit of both.

Now that I think about it, I’m going to cut Paul some slack. In counting the ways he gave, I waffled counting between 5 and 7 suggestions. Finally, I decided to count based on the people being spoken to and not the number of directions (listen to me and get yourself free are to a person, not a standalone imperative). Also, when I consider that Paul rhymes each method of escape with the name of a man, I realize that the work/reward ratio for a four-minute song isn’t great enough to figure out more ways to rhyme actions with names. For instance, my name is Jason. What would he say, “Hire a mason, Jason”? Seems like a bit of a threat to me. This is probably not an area that the delightful Mr. Simon is overtly familiar with. That said, why 50? Why not just drag out the fiiiiiiiiiiiiiiive? Nah, that’s silly.

Anyway, there you have it, folks. Rhymin’ Simon gives us five easy suggestions to get out of a situation that we love to make too complex. Don’t forget to send any requests my way and I’ll work on it for you.


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