Waiting for Gonzo

The Canadian Label “Arts & Crafts” is celebrating their 10-year anniversary by releasing a number of special compilations, the latest of which is about to drop on May 28. Titled “X”, the album features collaborations by Arts & Crafts recording artists – including Chilly Gonzales and Stars, who team up with a killer track called “Nothing Good Comes to Those Who Wait”.

Gonzales’ piano really underscores the song, and Amy Millan’s tonality really pairs well with the overall musical atmosphere.

The overall ‘theme’ of the song seems to take inspiration from a poem by Violet Fane (1843-1905):

Tout vient qui sait attendre

‘Ah, all things come to those who wait,’
(I say these words to make me glad),
But something answers soft and sad,
‘They come, but often come too late.’

The first part of the song is sung by Amy, where someone she lost comes back to her in a dream, which she simultaneously hates and looks forward to – presumably because it keeps them alive in her mind. After the chorus – complete with a reference to Gonzales: “We don’t need a key – we’ve got a musical genius”, Gonzales has a brief rap.

Lyrically, Gonzales packs plenty to think about in a few lines. Here the entire rap:

Nothing good comes to those who wait
And nothing ever comes till it comes too late
Lost in impossible gospel
Playing solitaire with my own apostle
This is the cost of exhaustive options and
Colossal obstacles constantly boxed in
I’m in mourning this morning in black pyjamas
A life sentence with question marks and lots of commas
Too much baggage – my heart sluggish
This dream was meant to carry on – hand luggage
I’m wide awake so I wrote these bars
I close my eyes and I hear stars

Ok, here’s my take on the lyrics one line at a time:

The first couple of lines repeat the mantra of the song:

“Nothing good comes to those who wait
And nothing ever comes till it comes too late”

Pretty much a corollary to the English phrase “Good things come to those who wait”, which teaches patience. At the heart of the song the characters have regrets because of their inaction (or patience). Had they been more proactive, they wouldn’t have ended up in their current situation. The second line alludes to a situation where they finally receive what they were waiting for, but circumstances have changed, and they no longer require what they thought they wanted.

It’s a bit bumpy from here:

“Lost in impossible gospel”

The Mormons have a presentation called the “Impossible Gospel” that is supposed to show the impossibility of the Mormon gospel as a ‘wake-up’ call of sorts. It basically holds Mormons up to an impossible standard that they are then motivated to try and reach. Kind of like showing students an impossible ‘perfect’ test in order to motivate them to study harder and do better than if they hadn’t been shown the test. Here the line may allude to the character becoming ‘lost’ in the motivational aspect and pretty much giving up, saying that the lofty peaks are just too hard to reach, so why bother trying?

“Playing solitaire with my own apostle”

Whoa. Ok, solitaire is obviously a solo game, so is this a case of fantasy or multiple personalities? That wouldn’t be in keeping with the inaction theme of the song. You can’t really learn much playing solitaire – sure, you become a bit more proficient at the game you are playing, but there isn’t anyone there to challenge you – except for a fantasy apostle figure. Apostle is a follower or messenger, so in this case, the character’s only follower is themselves. To me, this line speaks to the limitations we place on ourselves on growing when we retreat away from others. We all need time alone, but when being alone becomes a preferred way of life, we stop learning and are less willing to take action.

“This is the cost of exhaustive options and
Colossal obstacles constantly boxed in”

The character is justifying their resulting inward behaviour through being a victim or sorts; “There are too many difficult paths to take, so I’ll choose none.”

“I’m in mourning this morning in black pyjamas”

People who are depressed or have given up on leading what we consider a ‘normal’ life often spend all day in bed. Here, the imagery is that the character is spending the morning in bed, and is even wearing black pyjamas to mark a loss. This loss may be their former self, or someone they knew. Regardless, it has driven them to become reclusive.

“A life sentence with question marks and lots of commas”

Life sentence here has the double meaning of describing life (as in living), plus a punishment for a heinous act. The wordplay continues, with the question marks and commas being part of the “sentence”. Question marks may represent all of the “what if” moments in the person’s life, and the commas are life’s short pauses – just long enough to take another breath, possibly implying that the person is really not overly enthralled with living, but doing so because they have no other choice.

Ok, a bit smoother from here on:

“Too much baggage – my heart sluggish
This dream was meant to carry on – hand luggage”

The “carrying too much emotional baggage” adage is used in a very witty manner. Emotions are taking a toll on this individual, the life they thought they were going to have hasn’t panned out, and instead of taking the “bull by the horns”, they are wallowing in self-pity. Hand luggage (tied to carry on) implies that the only emotional baggage they expected in life was light and manageable. Obviously this is not the case.

“I’m wide awake so I wrote these bars
I close my eyes and I hear Stars”

Insomnia is a sign of depression – spending time locked in a bedroom messes up with your natural sleep rhythm, but the character may be on their way to healing. Taking the time to write lyrics is cathartic and represents a first step. The next line is another great double meaning. One interpretation is that the character hears the group “Stars” – and possibly this very song by Stars and Chilly Gonzales and that motivates them to break out of their daze

On the other hand, there’s really signs of hope here – if the character hears stars, then they are taking the first step to visualize them and possibly reach them. The simple act of writing down their feelings in the form of a song may have started a process by which they will take action in life – not be patient – because truly good things come to those who make the good happen; like this song and these lyrics!

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