This is Success?
The elevator’s upward ascent has been used as an illustration for success. Not everyone can fit on the elevator at once. If you do happen to be on it, and if the elevator goes fast, it can be a heady experience. You step off a little dizzy; you’re alone, and your friends are at the bottom. Eminem, Group 1 Crew and Outkast have done this well. In 1996, Outkast gave voice to the alienation from old acquaintances that success brings in Elevators (Me and You): “We moving on up in the world like elevators.” They can’t help it. Group 1 Crew also feel this guilt in a recent song, Elevator Doors. The elevator doors open to another level for him, but they seem to close in on his heart.
“There once was a saying that I used to sayBack in the day when I met DreI used to sit and goof on the phone with, my friend ProofThat if I went gold, I’d go right through the roofHe said what If you went platinum, I’d just laugh at himThat’s not happening, that I can’t fathomEighty something million records worldwide later,
I’m living in a house with a f***in’ elevator.”
All his dreams came true. His past self would have told him that he should be happy at this point, but he isn’t. He even thinks “about an escalator now, steps I hate ’em,” but it probably won’t help much either. His residential elevator is there as a symbol of his wealth yes, but more poignantly, as a silent reminder of his unhappiness.
You and Me: Relationships
Elevators feature most predominantly in love songs. These songs use them as images for sex, insecurity, loneliness and comforting anonymity.
“Love in an elevatorLivin’ it up when I’m goin’ downLove in an elevator
Lovin’ it up till I hit the ground.”
Flo Rida’s 2008 Elevator is even more explicit. On www.songmeanings.com, one commentator argues that it is all about “the tragic state of disrepair that the elevator industry finds itself in at the turn of the century.” They argue that the line, “One night, one time broke her off 10 grand/Project all the way gutta all day” refers to an elevator that broke down in Flo Rida’s building. It cost him US$10,000 to fix, and it was a challenge, because, “seeing as the elevator repair union was on strike and in order to fix the elevator, they had to get volunteers from Flo’s building to get it going again. Flo borrowed the 10 grand from his big-faced gold digger honey (“My first flo step want a gold digging woman”) who also lives in his building.” Perhaps in that case, he is using the repair analogy to illustrate the cost or toll that this is all taking on him.
Ups and Downs of Love
“The doors they finally shut and I was there, somewhereAlone in my reality inside an empty boxThat’s filled with air
But I don’t care, no.”
He resolves to try again tomorrow and “just go with the flow/Until your feet are back on the ground,” while acknowledging that “it’s the butterflies/That keep you feeling so alive, so alive/You gotta get back that high.”
“Like an elevator, we go up, and we go downDown, down, like an elevatorWe touch the sky and touch the groundGround, ground like an elevatorYou’re stuck on one while I’m pressing threeThen we end up on the fourth floorAnd then we disagree
Then you keep on blamin’ me.”
“But I wish that you would see thatI’m just trying to elevate you
Like an elevator.”
While Western culture is very open in the media, social or otherwise, modern Western people are more reserved in public. The elevator imposes a kind of social awkwardness that people must endure for the few seconds or minutes they are alone together in a confined space. While most Western people appreciate this, it drives the lover in Incubus’ 2010 Crowded Elevator crazy. He desperately wants to tell his significant other how he feels, but it would be taboo to express his feelings in an elevator, let alone talk. He has weighty, passionate things on his mind while the people on the elevator are simply occupied with “the little red numbers passing by.”
While Incubus’ lover sees the elevator as a place to escape, Stars and P!nk’s lovers see it as a place of refuge. Stars’ 2006 Elevator Love Letter is a song about two office workers in love with each other, neither of whom “know how to love.” The woman is working hard but is beginning to feel more lonely and withdrawn as a result. She says that “My office glows all night long/It’s a nuclear show and the stars are gone.” Her obsession with work has polluted the air around her and she can’t see her dreams anymore. The man is insecure and unable to commit to a loving, steady relationship. Working in a tall office building and probably living in a tall residential building, they ride up and down elevators every day. Their lives are so impersonal and withdrawn from meaningful relationships that the elevator becomes a friend. As if they were addressing a cab driver, they say, “Elevator, elevator, take me home.”
“Make the elevator come a little fasterI’m pushing all the buttons but nothing’s happeningPlease God don’t let anybody see mePlease God, I’ll do anything you ask of meI promise no more walks of shame,
So walk this way!”
The anti-social nature of elevators takes an extreme in Kool Keith’s 1999 Get off My Elevator. The elevator is going up and down between his heart and mind. His lover is trying to find out the real him but he just warns her that “security will escort you out my building.”
“The elevator, in the hotel lobby has a lazy doorThe man inside is going to a hotel roomHe jumped out right after seeing just the very sight of me
Decided he better hike it to the second floor.”
“The man inside” is the singer. He sees his reflection in door or wall of the car, and, feeling shame at his appearance, decides to take the stairs. He can’t even look at himself, because he is struggling in his hotel room with a broken relationship and the resulting loneliness.
Similar anxiety is beautifully portrayed in Keaton Henson’s 2014 Elevator Song. Last year, Henson told The Independent that he wrote this song “while daydreaming and thinking about a breakdown I had in an elevator in Glasgow.” This soul-stirring dramatic piece of music is brought down to earth at the open and close with an automated voice saying, “Please mind the doors. The doors are closing.”
Top 10 Elevator Songs,” ElevatorRater, May 26, 2013, http://elevatorrater.com/content/top-10-elevator-songs
David Owen, “The Soundtrack of Your Life,” The New Yorker, April 10, 2006, http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2006/04/10/the-soundtrack-of-your-life