Dan Wilson’s Favorite Lyrics of 2016 So Far Are…

The Semisonic front man sees America in this Paul Simon track.

As the seasons change and the end of the year creeps near, we’ve asked our contributors to pick their favorite lyrics of 2016 — so far. First up, we have Dan Wilson of Semisonic.
— Brenna Ehrlich, Talkhouse Music Editor-in-Chief

“The riots started slowly with the homeless and the lowly/Then they spread into the heartland towns that never get a wristband/Kids that can’t afford the cool brand whose anger is a short-hand/For you’ll never get a wristband and if you don’t have a wristband then you can’t get through the door.”
— Paul Simon, “Wristband,” Stranger to Stranger

Paul Simon’s single “Wristband” from his album Stranger to Stranger starts out as the lighthearted tale of a simple rock star mishap: the narrator slips out a backstage door to have a smoke, and finds himself locked out of his own gig. The lyrics follow him around the block to the front door of the club, where the big bouncer tells him, “If you don’t have a wristband, my man, you don’t get through the door.”

It’s funny and fun and Simon plays up his familiar small-man comic persona, thwarted once again by life’s many unmovable bouncers.

But, of course, this is a Paul Simon song, where even the small details are windows into universal mysteries. And so the singer’s missing wristband is merely the set-up for a breathtaking metaphor, a sucker punch we never saw coming. By the last verse we are in a very different landscape, that of an America where hardly anybody has a fucking wristband, and almost everyone is left standing outside the club — the club of the good old U.S.A.

Weren’t we the people supposed to be the performers at the vast gig in question? If enough of us can’t get into the club, will we burn it down instead? Simon leaves these and similar devastating implications floating, casually asked, never answered, in his deceptively gentle and conversational tone.

(Art credit: Dan Wilson)

Dan Wilson is an artist, songwriter, producer, and multi-instrumentalist based in Los Angeles who is best known as the lead singer of the band Semisonic, for which he wrote the Grammy-nominated smash “Closing Time” as well as other international hits. Since Semisonic, Dan has released two solo albums and has become a highly sought-after songwriting collaborator due to his songwriting, performing and production skills. He has written with and produced a diverse group of artists including  Adele, Dixie Chicks, Chris Stapleton, John Legend, The Head & The Heart, Dierks Bentley, Florence Welch, Jim James, Keith Urban, Carol King, Spoon, Pink, Taylor Swift, and many others. Dan contributed three songs to Adele’s album, 21, including the hit “Someone Like You,” which he also produced, thus earning himself a Grammy for Album of the Year.  A few years earlier, Wilson took home a Song of the Year Grammy for “Not Ready to Make Nice,” one of six songs he co-wrote for the Dixie Chicks’ award-winning album Taking the Long Way. Wilson’s third solo album, Love Without Fear, was released in 2014. Recently, Dan co-wrote nine songs on Phantogram’s new album Three, including their single “You Don’t Get Me High Anymore” (which he also co-produced). You can follow him on Twitter and Facebook and his website is here.