Lisztomania

Album: Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix (2009)
  • This was the lead single and opening track of French rock band Phoenix's fourth studio album, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix.
  • Franz Liszt (1811-1886) was a composer and pianist, who in the mid- 19th century was the most famous music performer in Europe. The flamboyant Hungarian pianist would begin a concert by tossing his long blonde hair and throwing his green gloves to the floor. He then would proceed, with hair flopping over his eyes, to thump his piano to pieces. Women worshipped him, fought over him and collapsed in orgasmic swoons while he played. The German romantic literary figure Heinrich Heine coined the term "Lisztomania" to describe the massive public response to Liszt's piano performances.
  • Phoenix singer Thomas Mars told the Washington DC free newspaper Express about this song: "We liked the idea that it's just a mash-up, that our songs bring in influences from everywhere. I think that Franz Liszt was one of them; there were other things, visuals. And maybe it was the fact that we grew up in Versailles and we were surrounded by historical things. Maybe they came back that way."
  • This featured in trailers for the film Where the Wild Things Are. It also was used in a number of TV shows including Cougar Town, Entourage and Royal Pains.
  • Regarding the word "jugulate" that shows up in the lyrics, Thomas Mars told Rolling Stone: "I love the word - it means to cut someone's throat, with an amazing amount of blood coming out. There are a lot of words we use on the album that come from French, like 'armistice.' They have a romantic feeling."
  • The French music industry was not impressed with this song. Thomas Mars told NME: "They didn't like it. They thought it was a terrible song. They said it's a good album track; keep it on the album."
  • In 2019, soon after Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, 29, was sworn in as the youngest woman ever elected to congress, a video emerged from 2010 that showed her dancing to this song when she was a student at Boston University. The video is an homage to the 1985 film The Breakfast Club; cast members Molly Ringwald and Ally Sheedy Tweeted their support, as did Phoenix.
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Comments: 8

  • Paul from UkThe lyrics printed for this song often mistake "she'll be late" when it is actually "jugulate."
  • Chris from Evanston, IlSeems odd that one of the songfacts is about the word "jugulate" but the lyrics provided do not include that word...

    In any case, I think these lyrics are about a guy trying (or at least wanting) to get a gal to have more vigorous sex with him. Using "Lisztomania" as a euphemism for the intense, overwhelming delight they will both experience if they ramp up their intimate encounters (i.e. Women...collapsed in orgasmic swoons while [Liszt] played). Many other phrases can be read as sexual innuendo as well: "see it grow", "it's not hard to let it go", "a mess", "do let (me)", " it comes" and even "jugulate" could refer to ejaculation rather than an artery in the neck squirting blood. In fact, the pounding rhythm of the song in general and especially the repeated lines "Do let, do let, do let..." and " it comes, it comes, it comes, it comes..." are very much like that of sexual activity leading toward orgasm.

    The arc of the story if you will, seems to be about the singer feeling love (but not the saccharine kind). wanting attention like the "fortunate" (people that are getting good sex from their partners) that he hangs out with, and wanting his situation to change. But when he does manage to get his gal away from "other interests" and they begin to become intimate in the way that she likes ("your favorite weekend ending") he isn't satisfied with the spirit of their encounter ("This love's for gentlemen only") because it doesn't fulfill his personal preference ("I gotta be someone else") for more enthusiastic activity ("Like a riot, like a riot, oh!"). Trying to get his partner to abandon her inhibitions ("Think less, but see it grow...It's not hard to let it go"), he tells her it's ok to get a little raunchy ("I'm not easily offended").

    In the bridge it sounds like neither partner is happy with the relationship and thus a confusing mix of strategies and responses result ("Follow, misguide, stand still, disgust, discourage"). Apparently the female chose to pursue a man of better means but was rejected, and when she returns to the singer for comfort, he again tries to persuade her to let him...uh, jugulate ("This love's for gentlemen only, Wealthiest gentlemen only, And now that you're lonely, Do let, do let, do let...")

    Turned down again, they break up and find it difficult to talk about what went wrong, even with friends who, like them, are without a partner ("When it's all over we can barely discuss, For one minute only, Not with the fortunate only". Reminiscing ("Thought it could have been something else"), he thinks of what they could have had together, reliving the turmoil over and over...

    *I used a different version of some of the lyrics than those on this site for my interpretation but I still think the concept is pretty much the same.

    If you ask me, these lyrics are brilliant, whether or not the composer was a native English speaker. The tempo of the music enhances these lyrics and the entire performance pulls the listener into it's throbbing emotional message. Great song.
  • Dan from New York, NyIt sounds like the song is about prostitution, and how being with a whore can make you get over things quickly, but I guess in reality, the song is nonsensical (per the singer's description as a "mash up"), as is most of their song lyrics. Perhaps it's because they are French they find it both better to sing in English and humorous to bastardize the language? Ironic, yes, but I think it's actually kinda clever and makes for good music.
  • Jena from Leavenworth, KsI could never figure out why they would make a song called "List-o-mania," so I decided to come here to SongFacts for some insight. As I began to scroll down the L's, it dawned on me right before I got to it that they must be saying "Liszt", not "list". Of course!! LOL
  • Kathryn from Phoenix, AzThis song was also used in a recent episode of the nbc show Outsourced.
  • Carrie from Concordia, KsDirk from Waukegan, IL.. How do you know the song was written by Bob Marley?
  • Indigo from Adelaide, AustraliaAlthough i have no idea what this song is about i still love it, phoenix are a great band.
  • Dirk from Waukegan, IlThis song was actually written by bob Marley on his deathbed
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