The Flaming Lips – “Do You Realize??”

Released: 8.19.02

Peak: Did not chart

Oklahoma is pretty well set for state songs. In addition to its exclamatory Broadway-born Official Song, there’s also an Official State Waltz, Official Children’s Song, Official Country & Western Song (Bob Wills), and Official Folk Song (Woody Guthrie, obvs.) Then “Do You Realize??” was named Official Rock Song in 2009, one of those internet-ready “can you be-lieve it?” comment-bait stories. And of course you can, or at least you better, because the Lips, their corn as high as an elephant’s eye, ram home a sentiment from which your tough-minded little brain recoils because the truism itself is inarguable. Just as everybody hurts and everybody cries, everyone you know someday will die. So there.

Like R.E.M.’s blanket of arpeggiated empathy before it, “Do You Realize??” is where the professional weirdoes target the mainstream aorta, a move many amateur weirdoes resent because they hate the reminder that just like the rest, they like their sugar sweet. Wayne Coyne’s line has always been that of the natural-born huckster who believes his own patter, so rather than stripping down to acoustic sincerity, the Lips whip up the arranged momentousness. The acoustic guitar strum is insistent, the church bells clamorous, the drums increasingly Hal Blaine, and the works all awash in cherubic chorales–hell, they could have called this “Happy Xmas (Intergalactic War Is Over).”

Or maybe “Where Was Wayne When the World Stopped Turning?” Most any song released in 2002 that wasn’t about fucking became a post-9/11 anthem in some form or another, and “Do You Realize??” was no exception–inevitably so, since the album that launched it, Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, essentially refracted the American political spectrum through an anime lens. Coyne himself says it was written in response to bandmate Steven Drozd’s heroin withdrawal, like that proves anything. The saccharine-allergic can only be grateful there’s no version with snippets of children saying they miss their overseas moms and daddies. Bad enough that it was used in 50 First Dates.

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