After Kendrick Lamar dropped his powerful new single “The Blacker the Berry,” it was revealed that Pulitzer Prize-winning author Michael Chabon had annotated Lamar’s latest on the lyrics site Genius. A deeper look at Chabon’s Genius profile, where he posts using the name @Vanzorn – the pseudonym August Van Zorn is frequently employed by Chabon – finds that the novelist has also written plenty of annotations for the lyrics he penned for Mark Ronson‘s Uptown Special. Chabon’s notes give further insight into his foray into songwriting.
On the Uptown Special track “Summer Breaking,” which features Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker, Chabon reveals that the song features multiple references to Oakland, California, where his most recent novel Telegraph Avenue is based. “Driving through Ghosttown / Metal horses a thousand feet high,” refers to the nickname for a section of West Oakland, while the “metal horses” allude to the giant Equus-shaped container cranes that emerge out of Oakland’s active shipping ports. There’s even a reference to “ghost-riding,” which was borne out of the East Bay’s infamous sideshows.
Most of Chabon’s annotations go towards breaking down “Daffodils,” a “psychotropic” Ronson track that features Parker. The author notes that the song’s opening lyric “Run your fingers down the cool Underbelly of the blue evening” is inspired by the first lines of T.S. Eliot’s The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock. In another instance, Chabon questions if the term “daffodils” is a “Possible allusion to 20/20’s classic ‘Yellow Pills,’” although as the songwriter, you’d think he’d know whether it was an allusion or not.
Chabon also makes quick notes on Uptown Special‘s “Uptown’s First Finale” and “Leaving Los Feliz,” which includes an explanation why Ronson oddly visits New York City nightspot Paul’s Baby Grand in a song about Los Angeles.