Complicated Girl

Complicated Girl (M.Steele/D.White)

Year: 1988
Band: Bangles
Album: Everything
First Live Performance: 7/23/88
Last Live Performance: 9/13/89


Tabs
Guitar
Bass


Lyrics:

Valerie is beautiful
But she seems a little bit confused
The life you offer her
She says she cannot use

You live in another world
She thinks she won’t fit in and oh
What about her plans for him?
She bends to his will

Hey, you better listen
Cause, I’m warning you
Love is never simple
With a complicated girl

You call her on the phone
She’s got the other guy on hold
You see the scene unfold
You know it very well

Stay inside your room all day
When she doesn’t call you pull the shades
Never seen you act this way
The girl has hit you hard

You call her on the phone
She’s got the other guy on hold
You see the scene unfold
You know it very well

Why bother making rules
You know she will not follow?
Some day she’ll find a way to remedy
This lovely mess she’s made of you

Hey, you better listen
Cause, I’m warning you
Love is never simple
With a complicated girl

Analysis:

On the surface, Complicated Girl is a fairly direct song. As mentioned in introductions to the song when it was performed on the Everything tour, the song was indirectly written about David White’s then-girlfriend, a woman ‘he loved and I hated’. This viewpoint is seen in the lyrics by their message that Valerie is manipulative and feigns weakness (“she bends to his will”) in order to gain total control of their relationship. While chiefly about this relationship, the song’s chorus also makes its message more general in stating that love is a complex thing.

Beyond this basic level however, the song works on more levels. For instance, it is relatively unusual for being written in a strictly second-person perspective of a concerned friend. That is to say that although the narrator warns about what will happen in the protagonist’s relationship with Valerie, at no point does she suggest that he would be happier with her as a girlfriend instead. Although a minor point, this stance differs to other Bangles songs such as Make A Play For Her Now in which the romance message is made more explicit.

The song also is more complex than it may first appear musically, with a sophisticated use of 7th chords that is unusual for Bangles songs. As with other Michael songs such as Nickel Romeo and Song For A Good Son, the song also contains background details that are easy to miss when not listening closely. A small detail worth listening for is in the 2nd verse and the bridge, where a noise guitar comes into the background at the end of each line. Its effect is to serve as a counterpoint to the pop melody, on another level also hinting at the song’s theme of a woman with something ugly beneath her external beauty.

Quotes:
Ahhh. I like this! Some people say that we’re a pretty weird band, you know everybody sings, everybody writes, everybody plays. Gets a little confusing sometimes.  But when we do write, which is most of the time we tend to write about subjects that are very personal to us.  This next song is about my best friend – he was dating a girl at the time and he loved her.  And I hated her!  And I couldn’t,…I couldn’t think of a way to say this to the guy so our first song we wrote together turned out to be about it, and its called “Complicated Girl”. Bangles – Live from Santa Clara CA 9/2/89.

Reviews:

“[…] There’s a promising band in the Bangles, one that packs a punch, knows how to stack vocal parts, can write classic guitar riffs and doesn’t subscribe to romantic cliches. Those Bangles peek out in songs like ”Glitter Years,” ”Hero Takes a Fall” and ”Complicated Girl,” and they make better music than the Bangles who play it safe. ” Jon Pareles, ‘Guitar and Harmony by the Bangles’,  New York Times 26 March 1989.

“[…]The Bangles proved that male groups aren’t the only ones that do stupid things on stage: Vicki Peterson and Hoffs seemed to relish tossing their hair, duck-walking and striking corny poses that even heavy metal artists would cringe at.

Steele, on the other hand, exuded a dignified, rock ‘n’ roll cool that would have made David Bowie proud. Known as the quiet Bangle, Steele displayed some tongue-in-cheek humor when she dedicated “Complicated Girl” to Rob Lowe and his video gal pal. ” Jae Hi-Kim, ‘Popular crowds thrill to Bangles and Diana Ross’, Chicago Sun-Times, 21 August 1989 p.23.

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