I first heard “You’re So Vain” when I was a young kid. I remember liking it because it was very visual and I could almost see the characters in my mind. I remember my mom getting a spring in her step when the song would come on– like maybe it meant something to her that was just between her and Carly Simon. I didn’t really understand what “vain” meant, but I had a pretty good idea that the song was written about a dude who was kind of a jerk. I couldn’t fathom the tension between a guy behaving like an ass and girls wanting to be with him. Why would a woman put up with an idiot like this guy?
“I had some dreams, they were clouds in my coffee”. The coffee mention in the song is a vivid image– one of the best in the entire tune. The line took on a different meaning after I finally figured out that Carly was saying “clouds” and not “clowns” (clowns in her coffee sounded straight-up terrifying). When I hear the lines now I think of someone coming down to earth and watching their image of this person settle into stark reality. The coffee in this picture feels like the maintenance of a habit needed to wake up and to become aware.
“You’re So Vain” shows a woman who is no longer awestruck by the handsomeness and swagger of the man in question and who now sees through him and is done with him. Listening to it today, I think about the accepted historical mode of operation by men with a little power and privilege and I reflect on times in my life that I have behaved like a jerk to good women around me. I also think of my mom rocking out when I was young, secretly celebrating this song when my dad was acting like a clown in her coffee. <
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