Lyrical Analysis: “DLZ” by TV on the Radio

The lyrics can be found here.  You can listen to the song below:

“DLZ” (‘Deals’) by TV on the Radio is a song that deals with “evil” and how it spreads.  The first half of the song describes how a loathsome protagonist rises in power; the second focuses on his impact.  Right away, the song hits you with a massive scale of sound, a crooning arriving from the highest dimensions of the cosmic sphere – the song is profound long before learning what’s being sung.  This elaborates the scale of the protagonist’s misdeeds, as if to suggest this is a dictator, high-end arms dealer or Walter White from Breaking Bad.  When the song closes, all that’s left is a quiet chanting: “This is beginning to feel like the dawn of a loser forever”.  While every human is mortal, one’s impact lives on longer than their life – good and bad.  If we take up “loser” characteristics, they may be passed on, forever.

Indirect metaphor is painted over “DLZ”’s lyrics like a coating.  Taken as a whole, however, all these symbols paint but one color – an angry crimson.  Furthermore, the paint is being thrown in frustration against the canvas, as if the painter has been remaking the same painting over and over, growing weary in the process.  Indeed, the first line of the song, “Congratulations on the mess you made of things,” is sung with condescension and jest, summing up the song’s tone in half a sentence.

“To reconstruct the air” is impossible and the protagonist fails in his attempted reconstruction (making “a mess of things”).  Oxidation is a process in which electrons are lost – this may seem out of place until making the connection that the song is describing the loss of the soul in three sentences.  For going against what’s natural (“reconstructing the air”), you’ve dug yourself into a hole from which you cannot escape (the “mess you’ve made” / “compromise you owe”) and now you’ve lost your soul (the soul representing the electrons lost in oxidation).  Ironically, it’s beginning to feel like the dog (the loathsome protagonist) wants a bone (is starting to feel guilty / wants a break).

If the first verse provided exposition into how the protagonist turns evil, the second describes why he remains evil.  He “forces his fire” then “falsifies his deeds” – his malicious wishes are subjected to the world and when it’s time to answer consequence, he covers up ever being involved in the first place.  The song implies not only does the protagonist avoid accusation; he becomes rich off of his misdeeds.

Unfortunately, no amount of fortune could ever fill the vacuous void of his soul; regardless, the protagonist still tries to satisfy this emptiness with further wealth and power.  This is the beginning of the end, the point of no return – when evil becomes impossible to sustain with a sane mind (“This is beginning to feel like the dog’s lost her lead”).  Again, the song is implying the protagonist has found great success, perhaps even admired by many, but has lost the spark (oxidation/soul) which made him admirable in the first place.

It is now when Tunde cries out “This is beginning to feel like the long-winded blues of the never” – this is beginning to feel like there is no going back.  There is no hope, escape or plan-B.  The protagonist is so consumed by greed that he’s essentially dying (“curling up slowly”) and now looks to bring the rest of the world down with him (“finding a throat to choke”).  He descends down this self-made spiral so fast and with such reckless abandon, it could be compared to a train running itself off the tracks (“barely controlled locomotive”).

At this point, the only thing in his future is downfall – with a tunnel-vision, he ignores all outside perspective and hope (“consuming the picture”).  Again, the song references the protagonist’s desire (“static explosion”) to pass along his disease to whomsoever gets in his way (“devoted to crushing the broken”) so that they too will suffer in the same hell (“shoving their souls to ghost”).

What’s the result?  Eternal admiration; his likeness objectified into stone (“eternalized; objectified”).  His “sights” were set powerfully upon the top and the song has revealed the extent of his success.  However, this is where he begins to face criticism, as Tunde once again observes, “This is beginning to feel like the bolt’s busted loose from the lever” – he’s gone mad with power.  Unhinged, derailed, insane – the public is catching on.

The narrator now enters the song as a second character, the antagonist in this case, and asserts how impossible it would be to ever fall victim to the protagonist’s evil nature (“Never you mind, death professor! / Your structure’s fine; my dust is better!”).  This insult about “dust” seems to say “Regardless how massive or complex these structures are (“eternalized; objectified”), there’s more substance to be found in the dust from my footprint, however small it’s impact may be.”  Additionally, in the same stanza is a jab toward those who are “weak” enough (“your victims”) to be swayed by the promise of power, to the point where they give everything to reach it (“fly so high”) only to realize that at the lowest pit of hell, there’s nothing to do but drag others down with you (“all to catch a bird’s eye-view of who’s next”).

Swept away in hatred for the protagonist, the narrator continues preaching upon his soapbox.  “Love is life!  My love is better!” Tunde declares.  It’s emancipation from any remaining connection the narrator has to this narrative of evil.  He theorizes if more people weren’t “confused with who’s next”, our “eyes could be the diamonds” – our transcendent focus would astound all, the same way a diamond’s shine would catch anyone’s attention.

He elaborates — “Your shocks are fine – my struts are better” – while power’s hypnotism is profound, the ability for the narrator to cast it aside allows him to rant (“strut”) with superior ease.  Still, there’s another reference to how many are swayed by twisted promises (“Your fiction flies so high”) and how these people are past the point of self-correction, for they are tumbling down the spiral (“Y’all could use a doctor / who’s sick? / who’s next?”)

Pen-ultimately, the narrator sings how his love is electric, crystalizing into the psyches of everyone whom experiences it.  Thus, the impact will last longer than any statue or monument.  Promising how “all could be the diamond fused with–” the narrator interrupts himself: “—who’s next?”  Does he question who is next to rise, or fall?  The song ends soon after.

Though filled with abstract metaphor, the song’s overall tone is quite simple to grasp.  From here, you can translate this general narrative into something much more specific.  It is easy to fixate on the song’s phonetic title, “Deals”, as if to say this is a song about the power structure in our society and how TV on the Radio have an antidote – musical expression (“electrified – my love is better!”).  However, the song is as applicable to trust issues in a relationship as it is to a critique on organized religion.  Regardless what you choose to read into and what you choose to exclude, the ending of the song is very much about liberation and the mentality one develops when freed.  What you are being liberated from, is up to you as a listener to decide.

Boredom & Purpose

We’re bored. Collectively. It is a nice thing to be conscious, because we can be aware of this boredom, and furthermore correct it. The awareness that “nothing is being done which resonates with me as an individual” — we cannot stand this. Typically, we turn to family, friends, culture, sex, entertainment or whatever it is that satisfies this individual boredom. Some may turn to work, some may turn to creative endeavors, some may converse and some may internally meditate. All temporary answers to a very real question — we are conscious, and thus, bored.

There is a desire, it would seem then, to alleviate this boredom. During peak experiences in your life, boredom is the farthest thing from your mind, and this is because in these moments, you are fulfilling a purpose. Purpose is the antidote to boredom, and excitement stems from a fulfilling of said purpose. We’re bored, because we are conscious that we have unrealized potential that could be channeled towards a purpose.

However, just as boredom comes and goes so does that which alleviates it. You can play a videogame and enter a world where your purpose becomes scaled down to singular objectives and tasks. You can work in a career with stepping stones and promotions and an entire system suggesting a greater purpose. You can write the great American Novel, every chapter, every sentence, every word defining a thought — each seemingly reaching a greater plane. Something beyond.

All these things are temporary solutions. All fades. Purpose can be realized. The problem is not with boredom — the problem is with purpose. Boredom is completely natural, and is an instant reality check into one’s personal situation — a mental inventory for one’s greater well-being. Boredom is alleviated through purpose, and purpose is defined through the individual.

Purpose is not an infinite concept, and is very much defined through human perception. This limitation suggests that there will always be an end to your chosen purpose, and thus, a point where you find yourself bored once more. The moment you become boss, the moment you finish directing your debut feature film — all of these are but peaks upon an ever-rising mountain-range of illusionary achievement. We fulfill our boredom by creating systems of purpose which we can dedicate ourselves towards, and we care not if these purposes can be fulfilled in our lifetime. In fact, we strive to find purposes that can be completed before our death, and this explains why we so frequently run into boredom.

“The meaning of life”, is almost entirely subjective. There is, however, one objective aspect that anyone can observe, and that is whether one is bored or engaged in purpose. Someone can dictate their meaning for life, but in those quieter moments of contemplation, in the midst of exciting personal success, there are certainly moments of “blah” suggesting something lacking.

This is the ultimate guilt of conscious awareness. The minute we achieve something is the same minute we find ourselves in the same place we were prior to said achievement — once more with unrealized potential, bored and lost in the in-betweens of our lives. Instinctually, it would seem that the only lasting, eternal purpose would be that which is dedicated to the human species as a whole — this is where the concept of a family comes into play as being the only thing that can ever truly matter to us as bored, individual, conscious humans.

While it is nice to conceptualize the idea of grand human progression through microcosmic action, it is not enough to satisfy the immediate ego. The individual ego is always bored unless it is engaged in distinctive, macrocosmic purpose. Just as the greatest philosophers live by example, the greatest humans live through their succeeding sons and daughters. Those who struggle for the human collective and greater good are doing so for future generations — to provide a safe zone for the youth to contemplate the absolute nothing.

There is never an answer to boredom. To be completely free from such a thing is to be dead. Purpose drives us each and every single day, to the point where we as a species can sit around the collective fire, contemplating life and all within. Contemplating our actions, reflecting upon mistakes, attempting to allow our future selves (our children) to be gifted with the wisdom of said mistakes — and maybe someday we’ll get to a place where all that wisdom is truly, genuinely applied. This is the only eternal purpose we should strive for — that day during which, after a long day’s work, our children look up to the stars, speechless as their boredom has long-since been replaced by awesome purpose. Each star, reflecting a possibility. This is all that will ever relieve our inherent boredom — the idea that tomorrow, there will be a world, and that in that world our children will flourish and prosper. Each child — a complete realization of human achievement.