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“If I Had $1000000”

Posted by purplemary54 on March 25, 2012

The Barenaked Ladies are well-known for their somewhat silly songs.  What makes them interesting is that these are silly songs with some depth, a purpose other than just pure silliness (which is a legitimate purpose).  With BNL, there is usually an underlying sadness.  The characters they sing about use humor to defuse the loneliness of their lives.  “If I Had $1000000” is one of the silliest and one of the saddest.

The guy in the song muses about all the things he would buy for a girl if he had a million dollars.  (I’ve always found it interesting that they wrote it the way they did in the title, but I have no idea why they did it that way.)  It starts normally enough, with him buying her things like a house and furniture, “a nice Chesterfield or an ottoman.”  But this doesn’t seem to be his girlfriend he’s daydreaming about, because he states in the chorus he’d “buy your love” (cue the sadness and loneliness).  He begins thinking of really outrageous things to buy, like John Merrick’s remains, “ooh, all them crazy elephant bones”  (the debacle of Michael Jackson and The Elephant Man’s remains was still pretty fresh in the public consciousness at that point).  He’d buy her some art, “a Picasso or a Garfunkel.”  A fur coat, “but not a real fur coat, that’s cruel.”  A green dress, “but not a real green dress, that’s cruel.”

There’s a childlike quality to the ever more expensive list of things he’d buy for this girl, which contributes to the poignancy of it.  There’s the wish “to build a tree fort in our yard.  You could help, it wouldn’t be that hard.”  As if that’s the one thing that would win her over.  I keep imagining a twelve-year old with a crush on the girl who sits in front of him in math class, thinking up new ways to impress her with his fortune.  But there’s a sophistication here that a twelve-year old wouldn’t possess, even today.  He’s just a lonely guy who want to win over some girl he knows, but is just awkward enough not to know how.  He knows logically a million dollars wouldn’t buy all these things, but he knows it would change his life somehow.  Just like having her love him would change his life.

We are all always daydreaming about how our lives could be different, sometimes realistically, sometimes not.  But that’s what daydreaming is for.  These days, a million dollars wouldn’t go too far.  It would probably get you a house and some furniture, a new car and clothes.  It wouldn’t buy love.  And the guy in the song knows that.  He knows that the only thing that would happen if he had a million dollars would be “I’d be rich.”

Buy a Mega Millions ticket, if you live where they’re sold, and you can daydream about all the things you’d buy if you were rich.

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