Songs w/ Substance #3: The Mountain Goats – “Dance Music”


I’m always surprised that I like this song. It’s a quirky song sung by a singer with an annoying, whiny voice, but for some reason both the lyrics and the beat still find a way to reach out and grab me.

Maybe that’s because this song is about something that we have all at times experienced—the medicinal properties of music—the ability of music to heal in times of sadness or pain.

Unlike the singer, I never had an abusive stepfather or a girlfriend with a “special secret sickness” (or maybe I did?), but like everybody else, I’ve experienced struggle, and I know that during those times of struggle, music has often been incredibly therapeutic.

Dance music wouldn’t be my first choice. I’m more of a rock-country, indie slow-jam kind of a guy. But that’s another great thing about this song. Even though parts of the lyrics refer to the personal narrative of the singer, other parts are purposefully vague so that we can make our own connections and bring our own narratives into the song too.

“So this is what the volume knob’s for”—got to be one of the greatest lyrics of all time. Turn this one up.

music heals

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Songs w/ Substance is a running segment that explores songs that say something meaningful about the world and the human beings that inhabit it. Aside from being good music, these songs provide powerful social commentary about the human experience—about what it means to live and love and laugh and die on this planet. These write-ups represent my reflections on those lyrics. If you would like to share your own, please do so in the comments section below.  

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