FFWDing to the Best Part: “Meet Virginia,” Train (1999)

Train doesn’t get nearly the credit they deserve.  Yeah, I said it. They are often unfairly heaped in with other “adult alternative” fare or trivialized due to … what, I’m not sure. The omnipresence of their music in Dawson’s Creek episodes (and, later, in AT&T commercials)?  The occasionally twee lyrics (“My heart is bound to beat right out my untrimmed chest” comes to mind)?

The simple reality is — in my opinion — the music is good (“Hey Soul Sister” features a ukulele, for God’s sake!), the vocals are near-flawless, and they are a bunch of guys that really enjoys performing night after night.  I’ve seen them a handful of times, including one small corporate gig and one huge amphitheater-based show, and they never look like they aren’t ecstatic to be there.  Other aging bands of the late ’90s era could take a note or two.

“Meet Virginia” was the first introduction many of us had to the clever but occasionally contrary lyrics of Pat Monahan. If the titular heroine “doesn’t own a dress,” how likely is it that she insists on keeping her high heels on when she exercises?  Is she just wearing jeans and high heels all the time?  Seems like she would either be totally casual or fancy-like.  Plus, the gal in the video — Rebecca Gayheart, Noxzema girl!!  (I won’t mention that threesome video. Or the vehicular manslaughter.) — clearly has on a dress-shaped uniform.

Best part? This time around, my personal “best part” is lyrical rather than musical in nature. It happens right at 3:09:  “Meet Virginia.  I-I-I can’t wait to meet Virginia.”  Twist in the end!  Up to this point in the song, one assumes Pat is singing about his actual significant other, when really he’s just imagining his idea of perfection. Which is quirkily far from perfect. She “[doesn’t] really wanna live this life,” but he wants to be beside her to make that life worth living.

 

Happy new year, all.  I hope those of you looking for your Virginia are successful in your search.

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One thought on “FFWDing to the Best Part: “Meet Virginia,” Train (1999)

  1. You raise an interesting point that being “adult alternative” (what used to be called “middle of the road” or “soft rock”) is tantamount to being trivialized. Train fits the label well; they don’t rock any harder than Air Supply. Why should such pleasures be denigrated as “guilty” ones? Girls like Madonna and Lady Gaga are allowed to be serious about pop music, to the point of humorlessness on the one hand or gaudy camp on the other. Guys however are supposed to *rock* — unless they’re chasing R&B dreams like Justin Timberlake; that apparently still counts as serious music. Why did Counting Crows, clearly a hippie band, feel compelled to rock up “Angels of the Silences” with fuzzy guitars on the album version?

    The answer is that guys, according to pop culture rules, are supposed to make subversive music for teens seeking an identity apart from their parents. American culture celebrates such independence- indeed rebellion- to a degree that most other cultures present or past find baffling, harmful, and stupid. Pop music is made by an endless series of young people who spend their lives on the road, without families of their own, singing songs that rarely acknowledge the existence of families. Parents, if remembered at all, are usually cast as agents of oppression. Children don’t exist- or at least, only other people’s children do. 90% of pop and country songs are just variations on a basic theme called, “Me So Horny.” For a spark of variety, songs from “Leaving on a Jet Plane” to “Wanted Dead or Alive” chronicle the isolation of the peripatetic musician. But who writes songs about stinky diapers, or parent-teacher conferences, or root canals? Musicians live narrow lives and thus make narrow art.

    Train subverts those expectations, at least partially. For a start, they’re older; Pat Monahan was (gasp) thirty years old when “Meet Virginia” was released, and forty when “Hey Soul Sister” became his biggest hit. (On the “CMT Crossroads” Train filmed with Martina McBride, he looks even older. Must be the smoking habit he references in “Meet Virginia.”) As you say, he seems to genuinely enjoy his job, including his lite rock niche. On the name-that-tune app “SongPop,” the Train-chosen playlist is populated by bright, catchy tunes from the likes of Jason Mraz, Colbie Caillat, and Taylor Swift. Not caring what people think about your unhip musical preferences? That sounds more like the basis of a solid self-image than sneaking out after curfew does. Just the sort of attitude celebrated in the contradictory lyrics of “Meet Virginia.”

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