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Waitin' for a Superman was the eighth and fourteenth songs from The Flaming Lips' 1999 album The Soft Bulletin. It was also released as a single in 1999 with b-sides that are just different versions of the song. It was written and performed by The Flaming Lips. The lyrics are as follows.

I asked you a question
but I didn't need you to reply

Is it gettin' heavy?
But then I realized
Is it gettin' heavy?
Well I thought it was already as heavy as can be

Is it overwhelming
to use a crane to crush a fly?
A good time for Superman
to lift the sun into the sky

'cause it's gettin' heavy
Well I thought it was already as heavy as can be
Tell everybody waitin' for Superman
that they should try to hold on as best they can
He hasn't dropped them, forgot them, or anything
It's just too heavy for Superman to lift

This song was almost not released because DC Comics was upset with the use of the name Superman in the song, particularly with the insinuations that one might take from this song. The two parties wound up in an agreement where the actual singing of the song would remain the same, but all printed lyrics would include the word a in front of Superman to distinguish the person in this song from the Caped Crusader. The lyrics above are what is actually sung, not the official lyrics to the song.

This album is a great example of the music of The Flaming Lips, especially that of their most recent (and perhaps best) album The Soft Bulletin. It's melancholic pop-rock with a variety of instrumental parts (this particular song features piano and violin among the usual bass and drums). What sets this one apart from the rest of the pack is the unusual lyrics.

As usual for The Flaming Lips, their lyrics are clear but vague enough to make you consider a great number of interpretations of them. They leave the songs for you to draw your own conclusions from, a commendable style apart from the usual hugely obvious lyrics, especially in modern music.

So, I'm going to offer up a few interpretations that I have come up with over the hundreds of times I have listened to this song. Read through the lyrics and make up your own mind about the song; even better, find the single at your local music store, or even buy the fantastic album.

Superman is a person, too. This was my first reaction to the song, that it was about how even Superman isn't perfect and it is sometimes challenging for him to meet the huge demands placed on him, protecting Metropolis from crime, villany, and disasters. I think that in this case, the thing that is too heavy for Superman to lift is all the stress that his power has brought into his life; that no matter what he does, someone somewhere will have to be neglected.

A depressed person looks for solace in a Superman comic book. As this person reads the comic book and wonders about the moral ambiguities of Superman ("Is it overwhelming/to use a crane to crush a fly?"), the person wonders whether or not Superman could solve the problems that have brought the reader into this depressed state. After contemplating it, the reader decides that the weight of depression "is just too heavy for Superman to lift." I particularly like this one, perhaps because I can identify greatly with it; I contemplated similar things once upon a time.

Superman meets a challenge that even he cannot meet. There is actually a real weight to be lifted, and try as he might, Superman can't fix the problem. In that, it's something of a call to arms for people who have found themselves relying too much on others, and encourages them to solve problems on their own.

What does the song mean to me? I take it to be a mix of the second and third lines of thought. I think it's a song about trying to solve your own problems and not waiting around for Superman to come and save you, both emotional and tangible problems. The problems might be very hard, even for Superman, but the person involved in the problem has the best chance of solving it. I actually find it to be somewhat encouraging, despite the melancholy tone of the tune.

Regardless of how one interprets the song, it remains an excellent mellow melancholic pop-rock tune, one of the highlights of the best albums of 1999.

Well I thought it was already as heavy as can be
Tell everybody waitin' for Superman
that they should try to hold on as best they can

Wayne Coyne wrote this song about his father's battle with cancer, which took his life in 1997. It's a fantastic song, which rings especially true for me -- my mother died in 1998 from cancer. There's not much else to be said about it, I think, except that I agree that the song is good enough to draw itself out into a stronger statement than one about the terrible personal circumstances it comes from. And yet it does this without losing any of the impact of being about a definite set of happenings and feelings...

A few words from Coyne about the song:

"When these powerful things happen in your life, sometimes I think people don't want to revisit them or reflect on them too much because, I don't know, it sort of paralyzes them, or it just plain makes them sad. And it didn't for me...

"There was something that drew me to it, having this sort of philosophical, yet sort of personal, bent to the Superman -- the hero in it -- not being able to save the day, but still we're gonna have to survive and that it's gonna have to be all right anyway.

"I don't know if it was me wanting to put my life into the songs, or if these things just came along, and it seemed easy to be able to talk about things that were personal to me but really are things that are going to happen to everybody."

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