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This is the second single by the English indie pop act Florence + the Machine from their second studio album, Ceremonials. The song was released on iTunes in Australia on September 14, 2011 and received its radio debut on London's XFM on the same day. It was released in the UK on October 2, 2011. Florence Welch says the song is about "getting through something or seeing the light at the end of the tunnel." She adds, "When you're on tour and things can get worrying, that song's always a good one."
This gospelly pop tune features a churchy organ and concludes with Florence Welch roaring, "It's hard to dance with the devil on your back. So shake him off!" It was produced and co-written by Paul Epworth (Adele, Bloc Party), with whom Florence worked with on the entire album. The studio guru had previously collaborated with the singer on several of her Lungs
tracks and she told Pitchfork
it was because of one of his contributions to her debut album that she got him to produce the whole of Ceremonials
. "The way that 'Cosmic Love
' turned out really made me want to do the whole next record with him," she said. "That song was written in like half an hour in a tiny bedroom studio and I always had this idea for a really big sound coming from all that clatter, and he managed to capture that on record in the best way."
Welch told A Journal Of Musical Things
the album title was inspired by some video art. She explained: "Years and years ago, I saw an art exhibition and there was this video art piece called 'Ceremonials.' It was done in the 70s and was done in Super-8 and it's kind of Coquette
-sy - there's that documentary called Coquette
about this 70s theatre troup that lives in San Francisco and I came kind of obsessed with it.
This video piece is all about these processions and it's kind of colour based and everyone's wearing masks and there's all kinds of different colours...coloured balloons...and strange ceremonies
going on. That word - ceremonies - got stuck in my head. And then went it came to this album which was influenced by hymns and poems and sounds of church bells. There's kind a lot of ceremonial influences and aspects to it, so it seemed to fit."
The song is about having a hangover and wanting to shake it out. Speaking to XFM radio, Florence explained: "I wanted to just shake something out, shake out these regrets, shake out these things that haunt you. It was one of those songs that came in about half an hour and when you've got a hangover, it is almost like a hangover cure. You're like, thank you!"
She continued: "I don't want everyone to think that I always write songs with a hangover! Cause I don't, I really don't. But with this one I have to say there was a bit of one lurking in my mind as I wrote it. It was like I was trying to write a hangover cure."
Florence told NME: "Sometimes when you're songwriting, a song will just appear and you have no idea where the words came from or what you're talking about til it's finished. That's how most of my favourite songs are written. 'Shake It Out' just happened like that."
Florence told the story of the song to MTV News: "I think I came to the studio with a bit of a hangover, and it was one of those strange days where you're not really sure where a song comes from," she explained. "[Paul [Epworth] just had these chords on the organ, and they sounded optimistic and sad at the same time. And I was thinking of regrets, like, you know when you feel like you're stuck in yourself, you keep repeating certain patterns of behavior, and you kind of want to cut out that part of you and restart yourself.
So this song was kind of like, 'Shake yourself out of it, things will be OK,' " she continued. "[Because] sometimes I have to write songs for myself, reminding me to let it go. But then, the end refrain of 'What the hell' is really important as well, because you'll dance with the devil again at some point, and maybe it will be fun. I've heard he does a really good foxtrot."
The video was filmed at Eltham Palace in South East London and directed by Dawn Shadforth, who previously helmed the clip for "Drumming Song
." It shows Florence attending a 1920s -era masked ball, and invokes references to movies such as Eyes Wide Shut
and The Great Gatsby
. Florence told MTV News: "We were kind of going for a sort of 'Gatsby at West Egg'-style house party but with maybe slightly ritualistic and sort of satanic undertones and séances."
This was voted best track at the 2012 NME Music Awards. Welch also won the title of best solo artist at the same ceremony. "I'm really incredibly grateful," she said when picking up the latter award. "It is slightly strange because I've never been quite sure myself about whether I'm a solo act or a band. I've always thought of it as a project that I've started."
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