September 15, 2014 by NowhereButPop
Summer has always been my favorite season, but it’s also the one fraught with the most nostalgia, and I suppose that may be one of the reasons why it’s my favorite season. I’ve always looked at the summertime from the perspective of two songs “Summerboy” by Lady Gaga and “The Boys of Summer” by Don Henley. And I know that it’s hard to find any similarities between a pixie from New York who fancies herself the next Ziggy Stardust and a coked out wannabe John Bonham from Texas, but that’s kinda the point. How can summer be viewed within the context of these different songs?
The answer to that is nostalgia. Because summer is associated with fertility and vitality, there’s an innate desire to accomplish things and to be active. The prospect of spending time outside after cold winters (where available) is cause for excitement. The nostalgia first noticed once the weather is consistently nice out, is anticipatory, waiting for the good memories to happen. You’re reminded of your youth and energy and you want to do something about it while you’re still young and able to have that kind of capricious, laid back fun. You’re nostalgic for the present, something that is already happening. There’s a sense of anticipatory excitement for everything that you can accomplish. This is reminiscent of “Summerboy” and is the “May Nostalgia”.
The other sense of summertime nostalgia, the “October Nostalgia” is more linked to the past, and more in line with traditional nostalgia by harkening back to the past and almost ruing what once was. This is because for most of us, we don’t want to see the days grow colder and for the nights to last longer. It forces us indoors and stifles our energy and activity. This, almost lamentations for summer, is characterized by “The Boys of Summer”. It’s a mix of regret for everything you didn’t do over the summer, and gloom at the realization of how fleeting the summer can feel at times.
For me, “Summerboy” will always be about impulsive and mindless fun, something that’s superficial but harmless because it won’t be mistaken for anything else. Looking for that perfect summer girlfriend or summer boyfriend is the ultimate because it reminds us that we’re still young and partly irresponsible. Having a summer fling is, I think, the embodiment of youth as it’s only as a young person that we’re really able to experience such a fleeting and superficial relationship; but it’s ok to want that because we all know and accept that there’s only a limited window where that behavior is condoned. At this age it’s ok for use to have mindless fun because we aren’t bogged down by the responsibilities we’ll inevitably have as we get older. When I listen to “Summerboy”, especially during the summertime, I’m reminded of all the options and choices left at my disposal, namely that I can embark on frivolous and immature dalliances.
Whereas “Summerboy” is really a celebration of being young and having fleeting fun, “The Boys of Summer” examines the repercussions of that selfsame fleeting fun, specifically that it ended and it’ll never come back. The lyrics along with that hauntingly nostalgic guitar riff are constant reminders that time has passed, specifically the point in time where you could have meaningless fun. It doesn’t have to be necessarily about casual sex or summer flings, but what “The Boys of Summer” does best, is convey the feeling of existential sadness due to the passing of time and the inability to recapture those old days. Is it more of a mid-life crisis song than “Once in a Lifetime”? Probably not since it isn’t as alarmist, it’s more contemplative and melancholy in its introspection. But it still reflects how we’ll eventually lose all those fleeting moments that we’ve come to enjoy. Not because they were bad or material, but because that’s just how life goes. Time passes us by and forces us to let go of the things that we don’t cling on to.
When I hear “The Boys of Summer” what, or more accurately, who comes to mind, are the girls with whom I’d been involved with for brief periods of time. Whether they were flirtations that never went anywhere, one night stands that never developed into anything else, month long flings, or sustained quasi-relationships the majority of these dalliances were fleeting, things that were bound to end. When I say that I’m reminded of these situations, or these girls, it’s not because I’m necessarily pining for them, or that I’d want a second go around with them, it’s more of the fact that these relationships are indicative of the passing of time, and how fleeting things can really be. Once they end, they’re usually done for good. Are there some girls who I’d like to be with again? Of course, there are, that’s partially the reason why I get reminiscent over these kinds of songs, but it’s mostly because I understand what he means when Henley laments “Don’t look back, you can never look back”.
Maybe it’s because I never really run into these girls again which adds to the notion of time passing since all I’ll have are the memories of them. The past is only the past with no impact on the present, which makes it become a matter of something that will most likely not repeat itself. It’s sequestered to that brief period of time so that these relationships, quite literally, existed in a vacuum. And that’s really the point, the finality of it all is what makes it a little depressing and hauntingly nostalgic when you look back on it. When these summer flings end, it really feels like once they end, they’re really over with, with no chance of reoccurring. All of these kinds of relationships are indicative of the passing of time, finality, and how time is impossible to capture or restrain; it’s a META-phor for how everything eventually ends. By the summer’s end these are the feelings that come to mind.
Ironically enough, I’ve just found out that “The Boys of Summer” was released as a single in the month of October. This will go right to my head in believing that everything I’ve just written is objectively right, even though I know it’s not, as there’re much saner people than I on this planet. “The Boys of Summer” is a nostalgic song, and an October song; it is an “October Nostalgia” song. “Summerboy” reminds me that there’s a time to have fun and that it’s ok to do that, while “The Boys of Summer” doesn’t let me forget that it’ll eventually end. With every summer’s end and the lamentations of the passing of time, there soon comes a rejuvenation and a renewed sense of vigor with the coming of the next summer. It prompts us to go out there, create new memories, and make the most of our time, because time isn’t something we’ll have for very long.