Explain It To Me

Album: Exile In Guyville (1993)

Songfacts®:

  • This song was used in the movie Thirteen, and pretty much denotes the message of the film, which deals with a young girl who grows up too fast. It seems to be about a mother and a struggling child not getting enough space. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Hannah - Tallahassee, FL
  • In a 2018 interview with Rolling Stone, Phair explained the genesis of the song: "I think of that as a perfect little jewel song. It does so very little. Some songs, when I write them, come out completely formed, and I don't have to work on them at all, and 'Explain It to Me' was like that. It just sort of fell out of me. It's about a ruined rock hero and seeing one of your greatest figures at their weakest, I guess."

Comments: 3

  • Theresa from Murfreesboro, TnThis song always makes me think, Liz is the queen of indie rock.
  • Nicole from Woonsocket, RiI took a completely different interpretation of this song. I interpreted it as a critique of how fathers raise their sons with high standards pushing them to ?measure up? by being successful in sports and/or academics, and basically to become something great ? perhaps to accomplish things the father never got around to accomplishing. Girls, on the other hand, are less often encouraged to be competitive and successful achievers. Expectations for them tend to be lower. See the last few lines of this song:

    Tell him to jump higher
    Tell him to run farther
    Make him measure up
    Ten times longer than you
    Ever should, you never could
    Explain them to me, explain them to me

    I interpret that as saying young girls are not given the same encouragement as boys are to get out there and be something. This uprbringing shapes girls? views of their worth and their roles in life. I think the theme transitions perfectly into the following song, ?Canary.? In this song, the first verse illustrates the upbringing of a young girl:

    I learn my name
    I write with a number two pencil
    I work up to my potential
    I earn my name
    I come when called
    I jump when you circle the cherry
    I sing like a good canary
    I come when called
    I come, that's all

    And this upbringing transcends into adulthood in which she plays a similarly passive role in her marriage:

    I clean the house
    I put all your books in an order
    I make up a colorful border

    Any thoughts?
  • Jessie Ann from Purchase, Nysuch a good song. perfect for the movie.
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