Black Butterflies and Déjà Vu

Through their new single, The Maine succeed in describing the indescribable


Lovely, Little, Lonely; 8123 (c) 2017

The Maine hail from Tempe, Arizona, and their emotional new single “Black Butterflies and Déjà Vu” is pure bliss. Released on March 3, this is the second single from the band’s upcoming record Lovely, Little, Lonely, which is due out April 7. In this song, lead singer John O’Callaghan lets out how he can never find the words to describe his feelings for someone he loves, and the result is three minutes and twenty-three seconds of utter euphoria. This song is supposed to represent an instant of revelation, and it does exactly that in a way that makes you want to relive the magic of this wondrous moment over and over and over again.

I have listened to this song for a week straight, and I still cannot get over its complexities and the feelings it encompasses. As soon as we hit the play button, there is less than half a second of some sort of synth, but then we are instantly hit with driving guitars and drums. Not even an entire second has passed, but this little detail speaks volumes; it demonstrates how overwhelming O’Callaghan’s feelings are, and how quickly and fully this realization of speechlessness hits him. As the listeners, we are thrown headfirst into this song’s world, and there will be no time to contemplate why this is happening — we are sonically pushed into experiencing this wonder, and there is no turning back. We have no choice but to embrace it.

The guitars never stop driving this song forward, and the continual riff they play illustrates how O’Callaghan keeps trying to find the right words for this person he clearly has feelings for, but he can never fully explain what he is thinking. He keeps having these feelings, and they never let up, but he cannot find a way to fully express them. The unceasing drums enhance this effect, as they mirror the exhilaration and adrenaline of blood pumping through your veins faster and faster as you stumble and stutter while trying to find the right thing to say to the one who inspires these feelings. The hi-hats in the pre-choruses help prevent the momentum from ever faltering. This instrumentation is clever and intentionally very exciting. It makes you feel what O’Callaghan is feeling, and it is breathtaking.

The lyricism is inspiring while implying a sense of urgency. The frontman questions in the first line of the song, “What would you say if you could say/Everything you needed to/To the one you needed to?” He yearns for the ability to articulate his love, and by indicating that this is directed towards the one you “needed” to rather than simply “wanted” to, it subtly demonstrates the enormity of his feelings. This is not a desire for him, but a necessity. The repetition in the chorus with the lines, “Hoping for the right words/Waiting for the right words,” feels slightly wistful and even desperate — the right words are not coming quickly enough, and this is something he needs. The reference to black butterflies makes the entirety of the song much more ominous, but it additionally contributes to the nervous anticipation of this dire situation. Black butterflies are often used to represent death, and in this case, they could be a warning of the end of something; our narrator may be losing his chance to tell this person how he really feels, and the stakes are raised. There could also be some sort of meaning behind these butterflies that only makes sense to the singer and the person this song is directed to, and that mystery tied to a specific object makes it more intimate and allows the listener’s imagination to take charge.

There is so much hope in this song, especially in the overall tone, but there are urgent undertones too which heighten the emotion behind all of it. More than ever now, O’Callaghan needs to find the right words to say, but he does not find it possible to explain this overwhelming and ethereal feeling with only language — the twenty-six letters of our English alphabet are insufficient for capturing his love.

This song is an attempt to describe the indescribable, and in my eyes, it is a complete success. I had trouble writing this post to try to explain my personal feelings for this song, because it just feels like it is something that is bigger than myself. This song provides a true escape, and I want to keep getting lost in it. There is so much hope and so much anticipation, and because the song fades away without any sort of resolution, ending almost as suddenly as it began, I can’t help but replay it: I do not want to leave this moment of promise, where wholesome happiness is so close that you can feel it through the chords. O’Callaghan never tells us exactly how he feels, but only that he cannot describe how he feels — we just know that he “won’t let go.” This vagueness is honest, and the result is an unforgettable song.

I love this Arizona emo group (hysterical origins of that nickname can be found here) so much. Put on your headphones, turn up the volume, close your eyes, and enjoy “Black Butterflies and Déjà Vu.”

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