Thursday, February 3, 2011

Guided Tour of Vitalogy: Nothingman

NOTHINGMAN


Nothingman can be seen as something of an outlier song on Vitalogy. On the surface it appears to be a simple love song, albeit a beautiful one. It is gentle, fragile, with a bittersweet melody and a wistful, regretful vocal performance. Nothingman sounds like a memory, from the opening sounds of a guitar coming into focus to the final goodbye. And it works well as a love song—the story of a man who took for granted a powerful, dynamic woman, stifling her until she finally had to emancipate herself from him. And is so often the case, he did not understand what he actually had until it was gone and it was too late to bring her back. And now he’s left with nothing but the memories of what could have been.

But Nothingman, could also be read another way—the woman as a stand in for art, music, purity, or any gift we have that we abuse and take for granted. And if that’s the case Nothingman fits perfectly into the general themes and conceptual arcs of Vitalogy. And given the fact that Nothingman was written during these sessions, when Eddie was clearly grappling with these issues, this seems plausible. The tone of the song, the sense of regret and loss, need not change under this interpretation. In fact the song is still trying to accomplish the same thing—it is only the object that is different.

So under this read Nothingman picks up right after Tremor Christ—in some ways it reflects the failure of Tremor Christ—the ship was turned around too late for redemption. And now the passion that the subject had, for art, for music, for life, has been permanently tainted by the commodification and objectification of art and artist. The music is lost to him, existing mostly as mockery rather than a source of hope, escape, and transcendence. He is no longer able to call on it, and it refuses to take him anywhere. He no longer deserves the gifts, and the muse has moved on to someone who will (hopefully) not make the same mistakes. There is clearly a sense of guilt animating Nothingman, but this isn’t surprising. Eddie has always (and especially in this period) struggled with a sense of his own worth—wondering why he received the attention, the money, and the fame when there were so many other artists (in his opinion) far more deserving than him.

So where does this leave the subject? Under this interpretation the outro lines make a great deal more sense, especially read as foreshadowing immortality. There is the reference to the sun, to fame, celebrity, inauthenticity, and the false light that it provides under which nothing can really grow. He’s stuck there, blinded and trapped while slowly burning away into nothingness, and we’re left only with the memory of what could have been, and a warning not to make the same mistakes.




OTHER SONGS IN THIS SERIES


OTHER GUIDED TOUR SERIES:
Binaural 
Backspacer

25 comments:

  1. I hope someone can help me with a question regarding this song.
    I've loved this song since I heard it the first time on Vitalogy but there's always been something that, lyrically, didn't quite fit in with my sense of Eddie's lyrics. I can't really put my finger on what it is but still, it's there.
    Last year at Hard Rock Calling, in London, Eddie said Jeff had been the one to write it. Jeff writing it makes sense to me, it fits well into songs like Other Side, Nothing As It Seems and Low Light. I am however unable to find anything else that proves this theory besides what Eddie said that night.
    Anyone out there who knows?

    ReplyDelete
  2. On the album it's credited to Ament and Vedder.

    http://pearljam.com/song/nothingman

    ReplyDelete
  3. Offering English speaking private and group tours in Rome, Italy. Italy tours

    ReplyDelete
  4. I recently came across your article and have been reading along. I want to express my admiration of your writing skill and ability to make readers read from the beginning to the end. rio las vegas

    ReplyDelete
  5. Hire private car and limo service in Montreux, Switzerland on Limos.com. Compare car service & limousine rental prices, and book your ride online. concierge switzerland Limousine geneva

    ReplyDelete
  6. The tone of the song, the sense of regret and loss, need not change under this interpretation. In fact the song is still trying to accomplish the same thing—it is only the object that is different. charter flights

    ReplyDelete
  7. could also be read another way—the woman as a stand in for art, music, purity, or any gift we have that we abuse and take for granted. And if that’s the case Nothingman fits perfectly into the general themes and conceptual arcs of Vitalogy. puertoricotips.com

    ReplyDelete
  8. Nothingman can be seen as something of an outlier song on Vitalogy. On the surface it appears to be a simple love song, albeit a beautiful one. hotel booking sites

    ReplyDelete
  9. This abandoned building seemed particularly photogenic. Advantage Grand Canyon

    ReplyDelete
  10. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  11. An great organization to operate with!! Quite pleasant support and knowledgeable about the canyon. They took the annoyance of vacation designs off our arms and produced it effortless for us to simply love our vacation. From starting to finish the services was Fantastic! Initially it absolutely was too much to handle to contemplate all our distinct solutions about the grand canyon..we realized we desired to visit but which was about all we understood about Arizona.Advantage Grand Canyon

    ReplyDelete
  12. Multi-day road bike adventure tours throughout California: Wine Country, Pacific Coast, Redwoods, Desert. Myanmar biking tours

    ReplyDelete
  13. The Gold Coast is bursting with entertainment and things to do, from ... Visit our partner, Gold Coast Tourism, Gold Coast Attractions

    ReplyDelete
  14. Thanks so much for sharing your love with all of us!! I too, will return again and again. arriendo de camionetas

    ReplyDelete
  15. Our guided tours are designed to get you as close to the cranes as possible without disturbing them. london tourist attractions

    ReplyDelete
  16. Finding the time and actual effort to make a top notch article… but what can I say… I procrastinate a whole lot and never seem to get anything done. limousine kaanapali

    ReplyDelete
  17. I love all the songs in this series. They're all chocolates to my ears. Jacob Carlson

    ReplyDelete
  18. This is an informative website for me. Thanks for making it... lapartybuslimorental.com

    ReplyDelete
  19. until it was gone and it was too late to bring her back. And now he’s left with nothing but the memories of what could have been.
    RV hire New Zealand

    ReplyDelete
  20. I just got to this amazing site not long ago. I was actually captured with the piece of resources you have got here. Big thumbs up for making such wonderful blog page! hotel reservation

    ReplyDelete
  21. We are offering for Royal Ride car for Rental service in affordable price.Now its easy to hire Royal Ride Car's in affordable price.Pick and drop service is available.
    annapolis limousine service

    ReplyDelete
  22. Contact us to hire a sydney airport limousines for your Picnics and parties........

    ReplyDelete
  23. This is really a nice and informative, containing all information and also has a great impact on the new technology. Thanks for sharing it, limousine maui

    ReplyDelete
  24. Very interesting Article. Hiring the hummer is the best option to make the special occasion more delightful. By hiring professional service, you can enjoy the trip fully. Hummer Hire Melbourne | Limo Hire Melbourne

    ReplyDelete