Cleopatra

Album: Cleopatra (2016)

Songfacts®:

  • This melancholy tale of an aging woman looking back on her life and loves came from an encounter vocalist Wesley Schultz had with a taxi driver in the Republic of Georgia. She related to him a tale of personal tragedy without a trace of self-pity.

    "As an American, a lot of what we do is tell the world how great our life is," said Schultz. "People create stories about themselves through social media which are completely disconnected from what we personally know about their lives. I felt cleansed to be around someone who was just telling me how it actually was for them."
  • Schultz combines the taxi driver's story with that of Cleopatra, the 'last Queen in Egypt'. After the death of her father, Ptolomeo XII Auletes, in 51 BC, Cleopatra was forced to marry her younger brother, Ptolemy XIV, according to the tradition of the Pharaohs. In the opening verse Schultz imagines how Cleopatra felt about having to wed her close family member.
  • The song is the title track of The Lumineers second album. The black and white photo on the record's cover depicts silent movie star Theda Bara in the 1917 production of Cleopatra. "It's such an arresting image, vulnerable but strong. I think a good song is like a beautiful woman and no matter whether she's wearing something crazy front of fashion or old sweat pants, you can still tell she is beautiful," said Schultz. "We want to focus on the core, not the illusion."
  • Weezer also recorded a song titled after the Egyptian queen. In their instance, vocalist Rivers Cuomo likens a girl to Cleopatra.
  • The song's music video was directed by Isaac Ravishankara, whose past projects include clips for the likes of Ellie Goulding and Hosier The visual follows a divorced taxi driver as she picks up various passengers, all of whom evoke memories for her. Towards the end of the video, she picks up her own son.

    Look out for The Lumineers at 1:26 when Cleopatra spots them heading out of town at the airport. The video is the first in a series that tell the story of the Cleopatra album in reverse-chronological order.

    "Cleopatra was the bedrock of the album," said Wesley Schultz. "She drives taxis and is this badass lady - she'll pick you up at the airport with a cigarette hanging out her mouth and a beer can between her legs."
  • I was Cleopatra, I was young and an actress

    Schultz told ABC Radio the opening line of the song, is meant to reflect the "archetype" of the iconic Egyptian queen.

    "To me, that was trying to say, Cleopatra, this archetype of I'm gonna be this force of nature," he explained. "The world will see who I am, and if I don't I'll make them. And that's how we feel sometimes in our youth, this destiny idea of greatness."

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