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OK. I’ve got a secret. It’s a little weird, but I’ll tell you, if you promise not to tell.

I cry every time I hear the Barenaked Ladies sing “If I had $1,000,000.”

Weird, huh? It’s a catchy little tune, light-hearted and cheerful, the kind of song that you think would put a smile on the face of everyone that heard it.

The song’s about a guy, I imagine him as a simple kind of guy, who sings to us about all the things he would do to win over the woman of his dreams, if he only had a million dollars.

He’d buy her a house. He’d buy her furniture for her house, maybe a nice Chesterfield or an ottoman. He’d buy her a K car, a nice reliant automobile.

He’d build a tree fort in their yard. She could help, it wouldn’t be that hard.

If he had a million dollars, he’d buy her love.

In the live version, he talks about how he went out for the football team to prove that he was a man, but that he decided not to tell his teammates that he liked Duran, Duran. Change that for George Michael, and I understand completely. I guess grade 9 was tough for all of us.

He’d buy her a fur coat, but not a real fur coat, because that would be cruel. He’d buy her an exotic pet, like a llama, or an emu.

If he had a million dollars, he and his girl wouldn’t have to walk to the store. They’d take a limousine, ‘cause it costs more. If he had a million dollars, they wouldn’t have to eat Kraft dinners, but they would . . . they’d just eat more.

(crowd tosses Kraft dinners onto stage)

If he had a million dollars, he’d buy her a green dress, but not a real green dress, because that would be cruel. He’d buy her some art, a Picasso, or a Garfunkel.

He’d buy her a monkey. Haven’t you always wanted a monkey?

If he had a million dollars, he’d buy her love.

All well and good to this point, no? But then there’s one line at the end of the song that changes everything.

He says, “If I had $1,000,000, I’d be rich . . . ”

He knows.

He knows that he’ll never have her, no matter what he does. He knows that, even if he had $1,000,000, all he’d ever be is rich.

He knows he can’t buy her love. So when he’s singing cheerfully about building a tree fort together in their yard, when he’s singing about eating Kraft dinners, when he’s singing about green dresses and fur coats, he knows it’s never going to happen.


But he sings the song anyway. And that’s why I cry every time I hear it.