Birdhouse in Your Soul

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"Birdhouse in Your Soul"
Tmbg birdhouse ep.jpg
Single by They Might Be Giants
from the album Flood
Released 1989
Format 7", cassette, CD single, 12"
Recorded 1989
Length 3:19
Label Elektra (US)
Elektra / WEA (EU)
Songwriter(s) John Flansburgh, John Linnell
Producer(s) Clive Langer & Alan Winstanley
They Might Be Giants singles chronology
"Purple Toupee"
"Birdhouse in Your Soul"
"Istanbul (Not Constantinople)"
"Purple Toupee"
"Birdhouse in Your Soul"
"Istanbul (Not Constantinople)"
Audio sample

"Birdhouse in Your Soul" is a song by American alternative rock band They Might Be Giants. It was released in late 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[1] and remains their highest-charting single in both countries. In Australia, "Birdhouse In Your Soul" peaked at #125 on the ARIA singles chart.[2] The song returned to the UK Singles Chart in 2010, after its use in a television advert for Clarks Shoes, peaking at #70.[1] The song is sung from the point of view of a nightlight.[3] It is the band's only Elektra release not to have been released in the 1990s.


The song tells the story, in oblique 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 asks 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, it 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 nightlight 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,[4][dubious ] as well as to the Longines Symphonette, a watch showcased at the 1964 New York World's Fair. In fact, band member John 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.

Music video[edit]

The music video was filmed in the New York County's Surrogate's Court and Hall of Records building in Manhattan in 1989 and featured dancers with pictures of William Allen White's eyes attached to glasses obscuring their own. It also features John Linnell's head in a black background with small, red, candle-like lights surrounding his head, John Flanburgh's Danelectro 59DC, and both of the John's bouncing. To match the "blue canary" theme, John Linnell wears a blue turtleneck sweater. It also features several backdrops including a City-like backdrop, a forest-like backdrop, and a backdrop with buildings and palm trees. No blue canary, nightlight or otherwise, appears in the video.

In media[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.[5]"

The song features prominently in Jonathan Ames' HBO sitcom Bored to Death. In the 2009 episode, "Make it quick, Fitzgerald!," the fictionalized character Jonathan Ames (Jason Schwartzman) turns off a blue canary nightlight. Underlining the reference, the song runs at the end of the episode and through the credits.

The song was also featured in an episode of British sitcom Peter Kay's Car Share, playing on the radio in the titular car.

The song is featured as the main theme of the web series Yu-Gi-Oh: The Abridged Series: Season Zero.

During AdventureQuest Worlds 3rd birthday event this song was featured as the main theme of the event.

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



External links[edit]