The first time I heard “Zebra” by Beach House, it reminded me of the film 127 Hours. For some reason, I thought I’ve heard the song in the film so I checked its soundtrack and found out the song wasn’t there. A little bit disappointed and somewhat confused, I wondered why my brain was connecting those two things together. It might be the similarity between the introductory drumbeat of “Zebra” and one of the songs in the soundtrack; however, at this time, I ‘m clueless.
While listening to the album I played “Zebra” so many times, that I couldn’t help but like it. There was a certain appeal in its simplified guitar and catchy chorus. I had no idea what the singer was singing about, but it didn’t matter. The lyrical softness of the background voices made the listening process soothing and relaxing but at the same time cheerful. I believe that nowadays, many mainstream artists lack the ability to cause this impression. Not many sing from the heart. I believe Beach House does. What they say doesn’t have to be totally understandable but it surely is innate.
For example, the lyrics: “anyway you run, you run before us / black and white horse / arching among us” are my favorite part of the song. I would constantly sing them out loud as if I knew what they meant, but to be honest I don’t know! However, this inability to literally understand what they mean is what makes me so attracted to the song.
Nevertheless, while trying to attach the song to my overall perception of the album; (the remembrance of teen love) the title of the song puzzled me. Why Zebra? The lyrics have multiple references to this animal such as wilderness and his notorious black and white patterns which could represent darkness/light or hidden/visible. I think the character of the song is represented through a zebra and the singer is the only one able to perceive him differently than other people. This person might leave different impressions to others, but at the end she is the only one who can see him just as he is. That’s what I think the whole song is about.
Being the introduction of the album, and the setter of the general mood of the same, I think Zebra definitely falls into place. I think Teen Dream is trying to remind us how teen love used to feel and Zebra only show us how we [humans] always tend to think that we know someone completely, especially when one is in-love.
I’ll rate this song not only for its musical attractiveness but also for how challenging it was for me to actually find a meaning to it. I began simply by liking Zebra and now, thanks to my own personal interpretation (which can be totally wrong) I just can say I love it!
Rating: 4.5 out of 5.
Update: While writing this post, I played the song out loud and my boyfriend (who says he doesn’t like this type of music) asked me if it was part of a soundtrack. He said that he immediately related it with scenes where the main character finally decides to do something. He linked it with self- encouragement. His observation surprised me because I felt almost the same way the first time I heard the song. (Even though, I gave Zebra a very different meaning at the end.) I think it is one more reason to try to understand how people perceive music (or media) differently.