Birdhouse in Your Soul

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"Birdhouse in Your Soul"
Single by They Might Be Giants
from the album Flood
Released 1989
Format 7", cassette, CD single, 12"
Recorded 1989
Genre Alternative rock
Length 3:19
Label Elektra (US)
Elektra / WEA (EU)
Writer(s) They Might Be Giants
Producer(s) Clive Langer & Alan Winstanley
They Might Be Giants singles chronology
"Purple Toupee"
(1989)
"Birdhouse in Your Soul"
(1989)
"Istanbul (Not Constantinople)"
(1990)

"Birdhouse in Your Soul" is a song by American alternative rock band They Might Be Giants. It was released in 1989 as the first single from the album Flood. It reached #3 on the United States Modern Rock Tracks chart and #6 on the UK Singles Chart and remains their highest-charting single in both countries. The song returned to the UK Singles Chart in 2010, after its use in a television advert for Clarks Shoes, peaking at #70. The song is sung from the point of view of a nightlight.[1] It is the band's only Elektra release to not be released in the 1990s.

Lyrics[edit]

The song tells the story, in very abstract terms, of a nightlight with the appearance of a blue canary, from the point of view of the nightlight itself. The summation of its opening statements ("I'm your only friend; I'm not your only friend, but I'm a little glowing friend, but really I'm not actually your friend; but I am") reveals that while it is not really a friend in the traditional sense of the word, its job as a nocturnal protector of its owner (the listener) makes it their only friend while they sleep. It tells the listener to make a birdhouse (being a safe place for something small and vulnerable) for the light it creates in their mind and soul.

The nightlight then goes on to proclaim its identity ("my name is 'blue canary;' one note, spelled 'L-I-T-E'"), and that it will always serve its intended purpose to the listener and their room. It references a picture in the room, probably a lighthouse ("There's a picture opposite me of my primitive ancestry, which stood on rocky shores and kept the beaches shipwreck-free"), and states that while it respects the job a lighthouse does, but would cause shipwrecks if it tried to serve as a lighthouse itself ("Though I respect that a lot, I'd be fired if that were my job, after killing Jason off and countless screaming Argonauts"). It is simply a "guardian angel" for its friend and owner.

As the song fades, the line "while you're at it, keep the night-lite on inside the birdhouse in your soul" echoes the chorus, essentially telling the listener to keep all the good things that provide light in their soul protected.

The lyric "My story's infinite / Like the Longines Symphonette / It doesn't rest" is a reference to the Longines Symphonette Society, which back in the 1960s and 1970s, released numerous albums consisting of recordings of various classical and classic pieces of music,[2][dubious ] as well as to the Longines Symphonette, a watch showcased at the 1964 New York World's Fair. In fact, Linnell attended the fair as a child, which is featured in some of their other songs. It may also be a reference to the Longines Symphonette clock/ radio/ lamp of the 1960s and 1970s, which would be near the canary nightlight and, being mains powered, would not rest.

Cover versions[edit]

The television series Pushing Daisies featured a performance of the song by Kristin Chenoweth and Ellen Greene in the episode "Pigeon", an episode whose music was awarded a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Music Composition for a Series; the song also appeared on the show's soundtrack.[3]

This song was covered by Lemon Demon on his second album, Live From The Haunted Candle Shop, released on July 23, 2003.

Jonathan Coulton often performs a cover version of the song while touring with Paul and Storm.

American punk rock band Titus Andronicus performed a version of the song in April 2011 for The A.V. Club's A.V. Undercover series.[4]

Track listing[edit]

All songs by They Might Be Giants.

7" single & cassette single
  1. "Birdhouse in Your Soul" – 3:19
  2. "Hot Cha" – 1:34
12" single & CD single
  1. "Birdhouse in Your Soul" – 3:19
  2. "Hot Cha" – 1:34
  3. "Hearing Aid" – 3:26
  4. "Ant" – 1:53

Personnel[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]