The blues song, Bright Lights, by Gary Clark Jr., released in 2011 is about the singer waking up in New York City, how the city influences him and the events that take place from there on. There are several active, syntagmatic events such as “taking shots, waiting for tomorrow”, but towards the end of the song Clark seems to have a realisation and reflects on the lifestyle he has been living. In my opinion the main idea of this song is to highlight the effect of consumerism and fame. The ‘big city’, firstly, makes him live this consumerist lifestyle, which explains his involvement with alcohol and one night stands that he conveys as trivial. Thus, the goal of this blog is to analyse how Clark emphasises the horrors of consumerism through negative underlying actions and messages.
First and foremost the lyrics “bright lights, big city going to my head” clearly explain Clark being blinded and corrupted by New York and it’s fast paced way of life. The fame he receives from the big city, and his actions influenced by the music business feed into his satisfaction, leading to more temptations. Moreover, Clark sings “I don’t care no, no; You don’t care” implying that he’s so accustomed to the consumerist life that it really doesn’t have any effect on him anymore, and his attitude is reinforced by the people around him.
His carefree approach is further emphasised through his, what appears to be, addiction to drugs and alcohol. He sings “Start up with the bottle; End it up with the bottle; Taking shots, waiting for tomorrow”. On the surface Clark seems to suggest that drinking all day, every day is normal, but at the same time he underlines and implies that it really is NOT normal! He goes on to sing “trying to fill up, whats hollow” suggesting that alcohol and drugs satisfy his needs and release his depression. Through this line, Clark stresses that even in the ‘big city’ with all the fame in the world and nothing to be depressed about, the consumerism has such a large and addictive influence on you that somehow you still have that “hollow”-ness and so you just keep feeding on it.
Moreover, the line “you gonna know my name by the end of the night” not only insinuates his scandalous way of life and having a one night stand but also accentuates his strive for fame and making sure he gets it. This is evident as he repeats the line “you gonna know my name” several times throughout the song. Again, he’s being consumed by the rock-star way of life – ‘sex, drugs and rock & roll’.
However, it’s clear towards the end of the song Clark expresses a consciousness of his careless, carefree rock-star lifestyle in a fast paced world that he has been consumed by – “Wow I’m surprised that, I’m still alive I should breathe in”. He infers he knows what he’s doing is wrong and is glad to still be alive after everything. Therefore, through his negative actions, he raises awareness to consumerism and how you can become addicted to a lifestyle that is so easy to consume and want but in the end it leaves a terrible influence and scar on you. Nevertheless the song ends with him repeating “you gonna know my name by the end of the night” essentially indicating that he’s too deep in and so caught up with it that he can’t leave or else he loses the opportunity to become famous and successful.