The Great Songs: The Flaming Lips – Do You Realize??

by Eric Melin on June 9, 2010

in Columns,The Great Songs

“Do you realize that you have the most beautiful face? Do you realize we’re floating in space?”

So begins the most recent song to appear in The Great Songs series. It’s a simple statement that says so much about humanity’s tiny, fragile existence and forms the beginning of multiple musical crescendos that make you want to gesture toward the sky like Flaming Lips‘ lead singer Wayne Coyne.

do you realize?? flaming lips singleIt’s hard to tell right away when a song is going to be a classic (since radio constantly rewrites rock history by ignoring certain terrible hit songs and adding artists who were completely ignored by radio at the time of release due to current cultural significance), but its been been eight years now since the release of “Do You Realize??” and the song still holds up better than any other from the past decade.

I mean, this song wasn’t named Oklahoma’s Official State Rock Song for nothing. With its perspective-shifting lyrics and joyous vocal melody, “Do You Realize??” is as weird an anthem as you would expect from The Flaming Lips, but it’s better than just being weird for weird’s sake.

Why? It’s a sentiment that’s right in line with these busy modern times where everyone sits in front of computers all day (like I am right now) and fails to recognize how special the short time they have on Earth really is.

The brilliant part is that Coyne undercuts all that heaviness with his unpretentious delivery: “You realize the sun doesn’t go down, it’s just an illusion caused by the world spinning ’round.”

Have I mentioned the production? This song comes from the Lips’ breakthrough record “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots,” (which is such a cult hit that it may be adapted for Broadway, God help us) and is just one of many songs that features a sonically dense Dave Fridmann-produced palette of electric and acoustic guitars, sound effects, echo-filled choruses and backup vocals, bells, chimes, string-tinged keyboard tones, and a bunch of other unidentified stuff. (Pick up the 5.1 Surround Sound mix on DVD for a real treat!)

Somehow, after all this time, and even with such naked sentimental content, the song continues to enchant and intrigue. Every time I hear it at one of their amazing concerts, it’s still a highlight. It’s what you might call a modern classic.

Here’s a video interview I did with Wayne in 2008 where I don’t mention the song once.

The Great Songs Series so far:

The Great Songs: Big Star – Thirteen

The Great Songs: The Kinks – Waterloo Sunset

The Great Songs: The Jayhawks – Blue

The Great Songs: Pavement – Summer Babe

The Great Songs: The Zombies – Care of Cell 44

The Great Songs: The O’Jays – Back Stabbers

The Great Songs: Queen & David Bowie – Under Pressure

The Great Songs: George Jones – He Stopped Loving Her Today

The Great Songs: Joy Division – Love Will Tear Us Apart

The Great Songs: KISS – Deuce

The Great Songs: The Flying Burrito Brothers – Hot Burrito #1

Eric is the Editor-in-Chief of Scene-Stealers.com and writes the Screen Stealers column for The Pitch. He’s President of the KCFCC, and drummer for The Dead Girls and Ultimate Fakebook. He is also Air Guitar World Champion Mean Melin. Eric goes to 11. Follow him at:

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Reed June 9, 2010 at 6:09 am

Great choice, Eric. I like how you say that it’s hard to know when a song will hold up. The first time you hear this one, you think, “Yeah that’s a good tune.” But then it gets stuck in your head and you walk around living with it and you want to hear it again and again. And it’s on some crappy commercials and you don’t care because it’s that good. In fact, you LIKE the crappy commercials.

Here’s what I had to say about it just last week:
http://fightingtheyouth.blogspot.com/2010/05/top-50-albums-of-00s-24-flaming-lips.html

The album made my Top 50 mostly on the strength of this sweet-ass track.

In sum, I totally agree!

Reply

2 Reed June 9, 2010 at 6:09 am

Great choice, Eric. I like how you say that it’s hard to know when a song will hold up. The first time you hear this one, you think, “Yeah that’s a good tune.” But then it gets stuck in your head and you walk around living with it and you want to hear it again and again. And it’s on some crappy commercials and you don’t care because it’s that good. In fact, you LIKE the crappy commercials.

Here’s what I had to say about it just last week:
http://fightingtheyouth.blogspot.com/2010/05/top-50-albums-of-00s-24-flaming-lips.html

The album made my Top 50 mostly on the strength of this sweet-ass track.

In sum, I totally agree!

Reply

3 Reed June 9, 2010 at 6:09 am

Great choice, Eric. I like how you say that it’s hard to know when a song will hold up. The first time you hear this one, you think, “Yeah that’s a good tune.” But then it gets stuck in your head and you walk around living with it and you want to hear it again and again. And it’s on some crappy commercials and you don’t care because it’s that good. In fact, you LIKE the crappy commercials.

Here’s what I had to say about it just last week:
http://fightingtheyouth.blogspot.com/2010/05/top-50-albums-of-00s-24-flaming-lips.html

The album made my Top 50 mostly on the strength of this sweet-ass track.

In sum, I totally agree!

Reply

4 Eric Melin June 9, 2010 at 10:07 am

So true. When I first heard it, I knew I dug it, but I didn’t know how successfully and joyously it would remain in my brain since then! I will be checking out your Top 50 of 00s ASAP. Thanks for the link!

Reply

5 Eric Melin June 9, 2010 at 10:07 am

So true. When I first heard it, I knew I dug it, but I didn’t know how successfully and joyously it would remain in my brain since then! I will be checking out your Top 50 of 00s ASAP. Thanks for the link!

Reply

6 Eric Melin June 9, 2010 at 10:07 am

So true. When I first heard it, I knew I dug it, but I didn’t know how successfully and joyously it would remain in my brain since then! I will be checking out your Top 50 of 00s ASAP. Thanks for the link!

Reply

7 Barry September 13, 2010 at 5:43 pm

Great pick for the Great Song series – which I’ve enjoyed quite a lot! But I’ve gotta call you out on misquoting a significant line. It’s “realize the sun doesn’t go down, it’s just an illusion caused by the world spinning ’round.” Consider yourself Barryed, Mr. Melin.

Reply

8 Eric Melin September 14, 2010 at 7:49 am

Thanks for the edit, buddaye. Good call. It kinda doesn’t make as much sense any other way–corrected.

Reply

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