wonderWHY? an essay on Oasis’s Wonderwall

Just a mention of the hit song Wonderwall by 90’s English rock band Oasis is enough to play the opening notes in anyone’s head, where it is guaranteed to stay for the next 48 hours at least. The third track on their 1995 album “What’s The Story (Morning Glory)?,” Wonderwall rose to the tops of the charts in both the U.K. and the U.S., marking the peak of Oasis’ eighteen year career. For many, Wonderwall’s simple melody and soulful lyrics may evoke a sense of nostalgia or an enjoyable melancholy- for me, Wonderwall arouses a mélange of confusion and annoyance, coupled with a strong desire for an icepick to the prefrontal lobe, yet an inability to turn away.

 

As the gentle notes of Wonderwall wash over me, my helpless mind is saturated with questions of meaning, intent, and perhaps most important of all, simply “why”?

 

Today is gonna be the day

That they’re gonna throw it back to you

 

Who is “they”? What is “it”? And why are they throwing it back to you? Perhaps “you” is the general audience, or perhaps it is someone more specific, someone known to the writer, Noel Gallagher. In fact, Gallagher originally told the media that it was written about his then-girlfriend, Meg Matthews, but later said, “The meaning of that song was taken away from me by the media who jumped on it, and how do you tell your missus it’s not about her once she’s read it is? It’s a song about an imaginary friend who’s gonna come and save you from yourself.” Well. Something to bear in mind.

 

By now you should’ve somehow

Realized what you gotta do

 

Okay. Vague, to say the least.

 

I don’t believe that anybody

Feels the way I do, about you now

 

This line is the first real hint that, in spite of what Noel Gallagher says now, this song is probably a love song (in spite of the fact that he doesn’t bother to explain what exactly this feeling is that he feels about you). In classic male love song fashion, Wonderwall tells the object of its focus that there are feelings, but neglects to detail precisely what those feelings might be. It’s becoming clear that Wonderwall is a man’s vague attempt to express some borderline romantic feelings about someone. A man unable to express his emotions clearly. How novel.

 

Backbeat, the word was on the street

That the fire in your heart is out

I’m sure you’ve heard it all before

But you never really had a doubt

 

Not exactly complimentary if taken metaphorically. Medically speaking I suppose it could be a relief. Moving on from that, though, what have we heard all before? And what are we not doubting? Have we heard that the word is on the street? And is the word “backbeat” meant to contextualize these lines, perhaps cement the reference into a certain time period or memory that is not, once again, expanded upon?

 

I don’t believe that anybody

Feels the way I do about you now

 

Yeah we’ve gotten about as close to the bottom of this one as we ever will, it seems.

 

And all the roads we have to walk are winding

And all the lights that lead us there are blinding

 

Now we’re being made to walk circuitous roads beneath lights that, while intentioned to lead us in fact are disallowing us to see much at all. All the lights that lead us there. Where is there?

There are many things that I

Would like to say to you but I don’t know how

 

Ah, another way of saying “Yes, I certainly have feelings in your direction, but I refuse to expend the emotional labor (or perhaps don’t know how) to pinpoint and communicate those feelings to you, the object of them”. And if that weren’t quite enough to send up a red flag:

 

Because maybe, you’re gonna be the one that saves me

And after all, you’re my wonderwall

 

We now have an expectation akin to that of the manic pixie dream girl. The speaker expects that this object of his affection, in returning his feelings, will also simultaneously save him from something. Save him from what, we cannot say for sure. But as a woman who’s dated men before, I’d be willing to guess it’s “himself”.

Additionally, what the fuck is a “wonderwall”?

 

Liam Gallagher explains:

“ ‘A wonderwall can be anything,” Liam told Rolling Stone in a 1996 article titled, “Ruling Asses.” “It’s just a beautiful word. It’s like looking for that bus ticket, and you’re trying to fucking find it, that bastard, and you finally find it and you pull it out, ‘Fucking mega, that is me wonderwall.’ ”

 

Oh. Okay.

 

Today was gonna be the day

But they’ll never throw it back to you

By now you should’ve somehow

Realized what you’re not to do

I don’t believe that anybody

Feels the way I do, about you now

 

Well everyone, the situation has changed on the throwing front. While we’re still not sure what is being thrown, or by whom, now we’re told that we’ve missed our opportunity, that we’ve made some mistake

And all the roads that lead you there are winding

And all the lights that light the way are blinding

There are many things that I

Would like to say to you but I don’t know how

 

Oh it’s this again.

I said maybe, you’re gonna be the one that saves me

And after all, you’re my wonderwall

 

This too.

 

I said maybe, you’re gonna be the one that saves me

And after all, you’re my wonderwall

 

And in case you missed it.

 

I said maybe, you’re gonna be the one that saves me

you’re gonna be the one that saves me

you’re gonna be the one that saves me

 

And as the gentle tones of Liam Gallagher (who will go on to profess his own hatred for the song years later) fade away into the nothingness of a mid-nineties, denim nostalgia-dream, I can’t help but wonder how long the tune will take to disperse from my own memory, only to be reignited every time someone says the word “oasis,” the phrase “today is gonna be the day,” or whenever I slightly mispronounce “wonderful”.

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