“The Whole Of The Moon” – The Waterboys – Song Discussion

For this post, we’re going to be talking about mid 80’s folk rock. Now, I usually try not to discuss hit singles on here because normally there are more worthwhile songs to talk about. But this one wasn’t necessarily popular upon it’s initial release, so I guess that’s an exception to that rule. Besides that, “The Whole Of The Moon” by The Waterboys is it’s a genuinely timeless, impeccably produced track that remains one of the best songs ever made even after over thirty years. It’s a lyrical and musical gold mine, a ridiculously upbeat song that never fails to amaze me listen after listen.

Now, 80’s music has a specific feel to it, just as certain parts of the 90’s and 2000’s do. Popular songs from this era include mega hits like “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” by Whitney Houston, “Sweet Child O’ Mine” by Guns N’ Roses, “Sweet Dreams’ by Eurythmics and “Hungry Like The Wolf” by Duran Duran, just to name a few. The sub categories of 80’s pop is rather extensive, featuring synth laden dance bops to guitar heavy rock tracks to pop/rock and saxophone jams. But the few things I’ve noticed about music from this time is the blunt sounding drumming paired with synthesizer and clear vocals, creating a bright effect to every song. This one is no exception.

One of the best things about this song is how many layers it has to it but how it stays consistent and entertaining throughout the entire five minute duration. It opens up with a repetitive drum beat that keeps it all contained paired with a piano and keyboard tune to fill the background noise. As the song builds upon itself, we’re offered constant new fragments from a trumpet tune between verses to added background vocals and a saxophone to close it out. In terms of instrumental, the project is unpredictable but entirely non scattered, where every part has its own time to shine. The horns soar throughout while the rest is kept very down to earth and there isn’t one part that appears to derail the tune. It feels almost romantic in a way without being overtly gushy, while being danceable and dreamy to fit the tone of the lyrics.

“Bright” is a good word to describe the meaning of this song but that’s not enough to suffice. It radiates such extraordinary liveliness and encompasses so much positivity that it’s difficult to feel any sort of resentment while listening to it. Basically, what I understand the song to be about it seeing the bigger picture in any scenario but there’s also the idea of if we’re taking things too fast and truly feeling fulfilled. “I had flashes/ But you saw the plan/ I wandered out in the world for years/ While you just stayed in your room/ I saw the crescent/ You saw the whole of the moon” is an interesting way to begin. It seems like the narrator is saying how he got out into the world but still hasn’t found what he was looking for, whereas this other person stayed reserved to themselves and found everything they needed. It’s a a compelling idea that I feel is applicable especially to this day where it’s expected to want to travel the world and experience all that you can. However, sometimes you can find more meaning and enjoyment by staying exactly where you are and making the most of what you already have. The rest of the song also flows along with that concept by describing this person as somebody who “filled the skies” while the narrator was “grounded” and “cut through the lies” while they were “dumbfounded by truths”. The narrator is describing himself as one sided but this remarkable person sees beyond just what’s on the surface. They’re able to remember that even when the moon isn’t entirely visible, all the parts are still there, proving an insight to look past what’s on the surface.

All the bits and pieces that made 80’s music astounding are present in this track but the folk approach and down to earth vibe make it even more so unforgettable. This song sounds like a supportive friend or just a warm blanket on a rainy day, as corny as that may sound. It’s not easy to find something this dynamic without being messy beyond belief; to say the least, this song is perfect in every way. I truly believe that some of the absolute most impressive music comes from this decade with this song being a prime example.



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