The Laramee Filter: pseudorandom thoughts, subsequently put on the Internet.
Tom Laramee
Date Published:
May 17th, 2021
Word Count:
1,103 (10:00 read time)
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It's Highly Likely I'm Spending Way Too Much Time Thinking About These Three Songs

Three of the Best Songs of 2019 Are All From the Same Artist

Three of my favorite songs from 2019 were written by an Australian songwriter named Toni Watson, known professionally as Tones & I.

When I listen to them, and after reading about the origin of the songs, as well as looking up the lyrics to each one, I get the impression that people are hearing something different from what I am hearing (also something different than what she intended to convey when she wrote them).

The three songs are:

     1. Dance Monkey
     2. Jimmy
     3. Johnny Run Away

They're all excellent songs, with superb production, and interestingly enough, each one tells a story.

What I Hear When I Listen to Dance Monkey

What's interesting about Dance Monkey is that it was one of the biggest pop songs of the year and therefore played with nearly autistic frequency on countless radio stations and whose music video has garnered more than 1.5B views.

Some impressive stats from her website:

In 2019, Tones And I made chart history when she became the first artist to spend 24 weeks at #1 on the ARIA singles chart with her global smash ‘Dance Monkey’. Since its release in May 2019, the hit single has reached #1 in 30 countries, including a record-breaking run of 11 weeks at #1 in the UK. In total, the song has amassed over 7 billion streams, held the #1 spot for the most streamed song globally for over 4 months, earned 3 x platinum certification in the US, and reached multiplatinum or diamond certification in fifteen other countries, including 11 x platinum in Australia. It's also now officially one of the highest-streamed songs ever on Spotify. The song reached the top 5 in the USA Billboard Hot 100, making it the first top five Hot 100 hit solely written by a woman in over eight years.

I have to hand it to the producer of this song. When all instruments drop out except the bass, the song is sublime. The production here is top-notch.

The impression I get from all of this celebration of the song is that Dance Monkey is an upbeat, danceable, happy pop song.

However, after looking into the origin of the song, I think what's key here is that this isn't a happy song at all. She's actually angry. It's a sort of "payback" song about her days as a busker in Australia.

She had an incredibly negative experience while busking (drunk people reaching over and touching her keyboard, someone stole her busking money, etc), and that was the basis for the song. She said "replace `dance` with `sing`" and the song will make more sense.

So when I listen to the song, I hear someone who is angry. She said she "never writes a song about herself" but that's not the case here.

If you listen to her tell the story on the origin of the song, and then listen to the song itself again, you may see it/hear it in a different light.


The chorus to this song is a total mystery to me. The lyrics to the chorus are:

Jimmy on my mind, felt like yesterday
But I don't see him anymore, anymore
Jimmy, he got tired, so he couldn't stay
Now I don't see him anymore, anymore

This makes absolutely no sense to me. Who gets "tired", and as a result they "couldn't stay"? If anything, getting tired makes you more inclined to stay.

Additionally, "couldn't stay" implies he didn't think he had a choice. Which means either (a) he was forced to leave or (b) he believed the choice to stay did not exist or was not valid.

What I hear when I listen to this song (which I've done several dozen times), I don't hear "Jimmy he got tired", I hear "Jimmy he got god". That lyric makes much more sense to me. It's practically a cliché for people to be indoctrinated into a religion and disavow their previous lives.

Why would the original song-writers write "got tired" as the official lyric? Simply because religion is an incredibly divisive topic and they wanted to sell more records (vs offending most of the people in the world).

There are several other clues .. this is from the co-writer of the song:

Jimmy is a character that was actually introduced earlier on the EP on a track called “Johnny Run Away”. And in that particular song he is depicted as a young boy who is likely gay. “Jimmy” was written by Tones and I and produced by her regular collaborator, Konstantin Kersting.

If Jimmy turned out to be a homosexual, and he lived in a deeply religious family, then it would make a lot of sense if the reason he "couldn't stay" was because he "got god".

Of course, I could simply be mis-hearing the song.

What I Hear When I Listen to Johnny Run Away

Now this one's subtle, but since I'm this far into squandering my time over-thinking these songs, I see no reason not to go all the way. The bridge of this song contains the following lyric:

So we go and find someone that will love and support us
Says they adore us, maybe fought for us

.. but of course that's not what I hear. What I hear is:

So we go and find someone that will love and support us
Says they adore us, maybe forbore us

I've listened to this song over and over [and over] and I simply cannot get "fought" out of the vocals, not matter how hard I try. Additionally, the proceeding, rhyming word is "adore" .. which rhymes perfectly with "forbore".

And if we consult the definition of forbore:

1. To tolerate or endure (misbehaviour, mistakes, etc)
2. To spare; excuse; treat indulgently.

... it fits perfectly within the meaning/intent of the bridge.

All of which is to say: I'm sticking with "forbore" here.

I'd like to wrap all of this up with a quick aside:

I wonder if Canadian English teachers shudder when they hear this song, which contains proper use of the word "forbore". You have to admit, it's pretty impressive.
This when they compare and contrast with the lyrics to the song Ironic by Alanis Morisette, which demonstrate, in a nutshell, the complete failure of the Canadian educational system to teach the meaning of the word irony.
In this regard, the Australian educational system looks a lot, lot better.