Pop Song from my Youth: Delerium’s Euphoria

When I was a teenager, I remember being somewhat entranced by Delerium’s “Euphoria,” a song that was often played on the radio back when I worked at McDonald’s as a cook. It’s one of a relatively small number of pop songs that I quite liked. On a whim, I decided to give it a listen just now, and of course, the easiest way to do that was to watch it on Youtube. I’m mulling over the video, and whether there is any significant meaning to get out of it. For now, I’ll just note the lyrics:

And how I’ve loved
And I have served
And I have sinned
But I have learnt
As long as you are true to the life that you live
It is the time to feel love
I feel a stirring deep within
Slowly picking up momentum
Like the tide coming in to shore
Over and under in its course
This feeling emblazed inside
Every nerve like a firefly
Hovering above me
Glowing, glow, glowing, glowing divine
Every nerve like a firefly
Every nerve like a firefly
This feeling emblazed inside
Every nerve like a firefly
I never want to lose what I have finally found
There’s a requiem, a new congregation
And it’s telling me go forward and walk under a brighter sky
Every nerve glowing like a firefly
Glowing, glow, glowing glowing divine
Every nerve like a firefly

(For the authoritative lyrics, please see Delerium’s site here)

When I was young, I remember being struck by individual words just as much as the beautiful rhythms and harmonies. Words like “requiem,” “new congregation,” “glow divine,” and “brighter sky” found their way somehow into my mind. Then, too, there were enchanting phrases like “like a tide coming into to shore / over and under in its course,” “glowing like a firefly,” and “a stirring deep within.” I never tried to analyze the lyrics because I really couldn’t make out the whole song.

I must admit that I have never really thought pop music worth much thought at all. Stravinsky spoiled classical with his Rock-spawning Rite of Spring, a composition so controversial for its discordances that it created riots in Paris. As I have gotten older, though, I have finally felt freer to say that I actually quite like the odd pop song. And I like this one.

The song is a tribute to the soul-transforming power of love. I’ve often said that most pop songs can be summed up in four words: “make out” and “break up,” but it would be a mistake to see “love” in this song as simply adolescent attraction. That said, what could be more beautiful or enchanting than the first stirrings of love, the first nerves that glow like fireflies? These are the experiences that are the patrimony of each human life. But it’s the words “requiem” and “new congregation” that make for interesting reading–or, in this case, listening in the context of pop-cliches. They speak to a sense of connection, of immanence, in theological terms. Then, too, “requiem” implies a sense of rest, and–again, in theological terms–transcendence.

There are biblical echoes that are worth mentioning. “Hovering above me” reminds me of Gen. 1:2: “And the spirit of God hovered on the face of the waters.” There’s a sense of pregnancy, of something momentous coming to pass. “In its course” recalls the repeated phrase “in its time,” the words of Qoheleth from Ecclesiastes. The business about “sinning” is really regrettable, though, and is a testament to the puritanical power of our Puritan-derived culture.

There’s one other note that I’d like to hit: the phrase “but I have learned.” Learning isn’t something one hears sung of often, much less celebrated in song. It’s because of the sense of learning, even echoes of learnedness, that, in conjunction with the music, make this song a memorable one.