You probably think this blog is about you

I was flipping through radio stations the other day when Carly Simon’s early 1970s hit “You’re So Vain” came on. It’s the song that propelled her to superstardom. And it’s a song I’ve heard millions of times, but not for a long time, and on this day, for some reason — maybe because I was by myself and driving a familiar route, so my mind was reasonably undistracted — I paid more attention to it than I normally would.

It amused me to listen to it. Carly Simon’s vocals are so heartfelt, but her delivery and the lyrics come across as somehow more mean-spirited today than I remembered it. Her words and delivery are vitriolic and essentially spewed out in a controlled seethe, directed at this unnamed perpetrator of vanity, who we all know by now was probably Warren Beatty, or possibly Mick Jagger, David Bowie or Cat Stevens, but definitely not James Taylor, who was her husband at the time. She’s clearly angry about this Lear jet-flying, apricot-tie-wearing offender.

Later on, as I reflected on my reaction to “You’re So Vain,” I thought about a track from the latest album by the Avett Brothers (The Magpie and the Dandelion) that deals with the same subject: vanity. In fact, that’s the name of the song: “Vanity.”

Despite the common connection of theme, these two tunes are as different from each other as the era in which they were born.

Carly Simon’s song came out in 1972, an era when obsession with celebrity and fame was still more or less mediated by the entertainment media of that time and The National Enquirer. And she sat in judgment of another person’s vanity.

The Avetts wrote their song in the era of the selfie. The vanity they write about is their own, not another person’s.

I’ve got something to say

But it’s all vanity, it’s all vanity

I found a tune I could play

But it’s all vanity, it’s all vanity

The Avetts aren’t directing any anger outwardly. They’re reflecting on their world and singing introspectively, while echoing the ancient opening words of the Book of Ecclesiastes.

The vanity they sing about is that of the Internet age. It is theirs, and ours, and maybe even Carly Simon’s. We’re all so vain. Especially those of us who post and blog day in and day out. Look what I wrote! Look what I’m sharing! Check out this video I found!

But at least we’re not angry about it.

You probably think this blog is about you. But, really, it’s all about me.


Author: andrewcareaga

Higher ed PR and marketing guy. Communications director for Missouri University of Science and Technology (Missouri S&T) in Rolla, Missouri, USA. Slow runner, mediocre guitarist, lover of music and puns, and an avid St. Louis Cardinals fan. I blog and Tweet about #highered, #music, #gocards and #random stuff.

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