Song Analysis After Hours: Johnny Belinda by Active Child

So I think we need to talk about a song for REASONS you will soon understand after listening to it.

For the past few weeks, I’ve been listening to a track, Johnny Belinda, by Active Child. Throughout that time, it was difficult to decipher the lyrics; it wasn’t until a couple of days ago that I went online and read them out of sheer curiosity.

And it made so much sense.

To understand this, please watch the video and listen to the song.

Yes, the video, specifically the cinematography, is rather beautiful. But you’ll note the video matches the song’s haunting melancholy, regardless of the use of rich colors.

The song starts off with what sounds like Gregorian chants, but through humming. Yet, when the lyrics begin, I first realized how simple and mundane they were in the beginning:

I came home
In the morning
Just a little bit ago

You lie asleep
In our bed
All twisted in your clothes

At first, I thought, “Oh, he’s talking about someone lying in his bed after he gets home. They’re still asleep, and he’s observing them in slumber.” Which is beautiful and a bit creepy, but there’s not yet any kind of relationship established in those first few lines.

Then these lines come about:

And the rain came down
On our rooftop
With a rhythm like this

Which tells me two things: one being he and the person in bed live together. Roommates, close friends. Second thing, he notes the rain hitting the rooftop is going along with the symbol/drum beat playing during the verse, which is clever of him to insert. The beat is also possibly going along to his heartbeats as he watches this person sleeping.

And then THIS part:

Let the hair stand up
On my shoulders
When you open your mouth

You say aaooh
Say aaooh

Now, this is beautiful because not only is he singing about the person in bed yawning, but he’s singing it as a harmonic chant, his hair standing on end as his body’s reaction to what he’d heard.

He goes on:

So I wrote you a letter
Wedged into my forearm
With the pen that you gave me

‘Cause if there’s one thing that I mustn’t face
This is happening
This is happening

He’s written a letter to this person, having used the pen they’d given to him previously, though it’s not immediately known what he’s written. I guess the pen is some kind of connection, to help him write the words he probably cannot say to this person. However, he cannot face the fact that this person, tangled up in his bed, and beautiful to him someway, somehow, “is happening”; this is all some kind of dream to him, and he doesn’t want to wake up.

There’s a symphonic interlude, followed by:

Wish that I was strong enough
Wish that I could give it all
Wish that I could change enough
To be yours

Wish that I could give it all
Wish that I was strong enough
Wish that I could change enough
To be yours

Wish that I was strong enough
Wish that I could give it all
Wish that I could change enough
To be yours

Wish that I could give it all
Wish that I could change enough
Wish that I was strong enough
To be yours

The lines in these last four verses vary, but they could either be the contents of the letter, or something the singer tells himself internally (or out loud) as he watches his friend sleep. He doesn’t think it’s possible to be this person’s lover, nor does he think himself capable or worthy of this person’s love beyond friendship. Yet he can’t help but drink in the sight before him, something he’ll probably never see/experience again with them or experience in the same way with anyone else.

I also noticed that, although he’s exhibiting limerence through his words, the gender of the person lying in his bed isn’t clear. Which isn’t a bad thing, just something I noticed. And the lyrics aren’t about what he’d do to the person if they were in bed together; he just thinks of all the things he wants to say to them, but may be too shy or afraid to do so, and may fear the friendship/roommate situation could fracture as a result.

Anyway, this is just a really great, beautiful song, and I wish everyone would listen to and enjoy it, but I understand if it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. I would, however, ask that folks give this song a chance, at least. Read the lyrics along with the song, because it reads as audible, poetic art, or whatever one wants to call it.

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