Carnival

Album: Tigerlily (1995)
Charted: 10
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Songfacts®:

  • Merchant grew up in rural Jamestown, New York, which is in the western part of the state south of Buffalo. That's where she formed 10,000 Maniacs in 1981, a group she was with until 1993 when she left to go solo. This track from her first album is what she calls her "New York song," as it's written about New York City.

    Merchant explained in a VH1 Storytellers appearance: "'Carnival' really evokes for me what it's like to walk down any avenue in the City. I grew up in the country, so the nearest thing I ever experienced to walking down the street in New York before I was 16 and I came here for the first time was a carnival - the Stockton Gala Days actually. I'd never seen people walking down the street eating before - that was a bizarre experience. We in the country sit down to take our meals - that just blew me away.

    Something else I'd never seen before were the gentlemen with the two-sided placards that hand out invitations to peep shows, but I never seemed to get one - they always picked the guys around me. It's an amazing city, but what I love about it even more than places like Los Angeles is that everybody at sometime has to deal with other people. It's not a car culture here. I like that: people have to rub against each other. I like to take the subway, I like to study people's faces, try to imagine their stories. In the song, I see the city as a stage, as a spectacle, as a carnival, and as a madhouse, because sometimes it is that, it's a totally insane place to live. When I was 16 and I visited for the first time, I said, 'I'm going to live here someday.' You've got to be careful what you wish for because sometimes it comes true."
  • This song was played at the funeral of serial killer Aileen Wuornos as part of her final request. She had listened to the song and the entire album Tigerlily continually while on death row. When confronted with this, Natalie was initially shocked but gave permission to use the song in the documentary Aileen: Life and Death of a Serial Killer, saying that "It's very odd to think of the places my music can go once it leaves my hands. If it gave her some solace, I have to be grateful." Wuornos was also the subject of the film Monster. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Shaney - Harlingen, TX
  • Merchant performed this song, along with "Wonder," on an episode of Saturday Night Live hosted by David Schwimmer in 1995.

Comments: 9

  • Michael Loman from Montgomery. AlLove Love Love an artist that jas a meaning and message behind the lyrics. Having visited NY on three separate occasions now, I can say it is a Carnival where the closeness and exposure to all walks of life is fascinating. Thank you Natalie Merchant for the beautiful metaphor and great song...will always be a personal favorite of mine.
  • James from Cattaraugus,nyI didn't realize until just now that Natlie and I were born in the same city
  • Jorge from Bronx, NyHer voice reminds me of Carole King,I knew her from 10,000 maniacs,but as a soloist,she's greater,now on the video the guitarist messed up the solo,lol
  • Heather from Los Angeles, Ca..."have I been hypnotized, mezmerized, by what my eyes have seen...." pretty well describes those things in life that are so very troubling. I guess that's why we listen to some music...to know we're not the only one who is troubled.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyI fully agree with the four previous comments, Natalie is an outstanding songwriter and singer...
    {When I first heard "Wonder" I thought it was about the second coming of Christ and this time Christ came as a woman!!!}
  • Fred from Laurel, MdK., Brooklyn -- I just made a similar, but lengthier appeal under the song, "What's the Matter Here?" -- that and "Eat for Two" listed under 10,000 Maniacs, and this song--those 3 are it for Natalie on this site as of now (2009 Oct 27-28). I'd like to see "Candy Everybody Wants," "Don't Talk," "Jealousy," "Like the Weather," "These Are the Days," "Trouble Me," and "Wonder," for starters. As I said under "Matter," Natalie and her voice still give me goosebumps!
  • K. from Bklyn, NyI wish there were more Natalie Merchant songs on the site. She is an extremely talented singer/songwriter w/ a resonant voice. Her songs have such a wealth of meaning behind them & I would like to find out about the facts behind them.
  • Heather from Los Angeles, CaYes, she is a great songwriter. I guess it's just hard to put into words the actual meaning of a song. But this one really resonates with me, although I don't quite know why.
  • Marco from Brownsville, Txi absolutely love this song..she is just a great singer and the lyrics are great
see more comments

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