“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.
It’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: