Why are these lights so bright?
Did we get hitched last night?
Dressed up like Elvis
Why am I wearing your class ring?
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Little Church of the West in Vegas - site of hundreds of thousands
If there is one thing that we have learned with absolute certainty from the official “Waking Up in Vegas” music video, it is that Katy Perry has huge breasts. Multiple costume changes occurring throughout the brief, cinematic romp have the pop diva donning outfits that run the full gamut of pomp and informality, with the one constant running through most being the emphasis on the pop diva’s ample cleavage. They may lead one to assume that “Waking Up in Vegas” is actually a song about Katy Perry’s ample bust, but a close analysis of the lyrics reveals to us that this is not so. Well, not too
close an analysis, let’s be honest here. Katy Perry’s lyrics are never going to be called Dylanesque
Perry’s song takes the “what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” archetypes of drunken debauchery, high-risk gambling, and bad decisions, and does absolutely nothing new with it. It’s one more rhinestone studded cliché for the Vegas vault, so shallowly peppy that one can almost hear the inevitable parodies waiting somewhere in the wings of the not-too-distant future. Songs like this are made to have the shelf life of raw sea scallops, imbued with a kind of cheery vapidity. And yet, despite being fully aware of this, it’s damn near impossible to not bop one’s head and sing along with it. The hell with it. Why try? As far as mind control goes, this is a rather innocuous form, so why not let it go and just DANCE?
The Strip at night
(thanks, Rob Young)
Truth is, there are really only two choices in how to present a song, movie, or book about Vegas. One can either glorify the wastefully indulgent hedonism, or else show the nasty after-effects of that hedonism. Drug addiction, ruined relationships, and prostituting oneself for cab fare are not, presently, particularly popular subjects for pop songs, so Perry really only had one direction to go in.
How did Vegas become such a cesspool of sin, overconsumption, and good old fashioned fun? This is a question we often forget to ask ourselves. The city stands today like some kind of monument to a civilization as old as America itself, perhaps older, a place carved out of the desert by Satan in the ages before humanity crawled forth from the primordial ooze to wreak havoc on the planet. But it was not Satan, my friends. No, if there is anyone to blame/praise, it’s President Herbert Hoover.
In the year 1930, as part of the effort to alleviate the national pain caused by the Great Depression, Hoover signed the bill to build what would eventually become known as Hoover Dam (originally called the Boulder Dam). By 1931, the Las Vegas population had swelled fivefold, reaching 25,000 citizens of which most were men traveling there for the construction jobs.
Hard working men need entertainment, of course, and so a strange triad of businessmen, Mormon financiers, and Mafiosos conspired together to
swindle the workers’ money
keep the boys relaxed and happy by building casinos and showgirl houses. The Nevada state legislature made sure to pitch in by legalizing gambling on the local level.
(thanks, Jeffrey Katz)
The honest work dried up some in 1935 after the dam was completed, but the finalized construction enables electricity on a mass scale, which opened a whole new boom for the blossoming Sin City. Hoover Dam and Lake Mead became major tourist destinations. This development spurred the city’s growth as a place to abide the varied tastes of travelers, leading us to the modern age where Vegas glitters like a neon sore in the desert, sucking the water from the land like a radioactive vampire.
There is only one Vegas, at least as far as the United States goes. Love it or hate, life would be a little less happy without it. Even for those who will never indulge, there is a certain comfort in having this inexplicable sanctuary from sound decision-making and environmental ethics. It’s like a place where one can go and pretend that the rest of the world isn’t happening, even if just for a little while.
Katy Perry captures the city’s mythologized myopia perfectly in “Waking Up in Vegas.” Really, the experience of the song is sort of a microcosm of its subject. You jump into the tune, indulge beyond the bounds of normal decency, and then creep away in silence hoping that no one saw the terribly embarrassing things you’d just done. It’s okay to let down your dignity now and then and act a fool. It may even be necessary to the human condition. That’s the lesson to take away from this pop tune. Well, that, and the fact that Katy Perry has really big breasts.
~ Jeff Suwak
Songplaces contributor Jeff Suwak is a writer and editor living in the Pacific Northwest. He is the author of the novella "Beyond the Tempest Gate" and various works of short fiction. He also writes for The Prague Revue. He loves being berated on Twitter @JeffSuwak and receiving visitors at jeffsuwak.com.
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