"O Valencia!" is a heartbreaking tale of undying love, enduring enmity, and untimely death... and that may sound more like Shakespearean tragedy or daytime soap opera than a pop song, but epic themes and literary songwriting are what Decemberists fans have come to expect from songwriter Colin Meloy and company. These fans also know that even after just one listen, the band's severely infectious melodies and hooks get in their heads and keep them humming, no matter what unexpected twists and turns the lyrics take. "O Valencia!" is a great example of these qualities, so it's a perfect specimen to examine to help us learn more about this indie rock powerhouse.
About the Song
Colin Meloy (rhythm guitar, lead vocals), Chris Funk (lead guitar), Jenny Conlee (piano, background vocals, glockenspiel), Nate Query (bass), John Moen (drums)
Explore the ways this song connects with the world and with other topics on Shmoop
"O Valencia!" is based on a storyline you've probably come across before: two people fall in love, powerful forces make it difficult for them to be together, and their romance comes to a tragic end.
This type of story is used so much it even has a name: "star-crossed lovers." We get that from a line in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, which is the gold standard for tales like it. Romeo and Juliet has remained popular for more than four hundred years, so it's not surprising that other authors have tried their hands at revamping its ideas (you should also know that Shakespeare's play was itself a re-imagining of a Greek tale). Books like Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights, Leo Tolstoy's Anna Karenina, and F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsbyall deal with difficult loves ending very badly for at least one person involved. Edgar Allen Poe even gets in on the action with his poem "Annabel Lee," in which the speaker blames angels for killing his girlfriend out of their jealousy over a perfect earthly love.
Does "O Valencia!" fall short of its timeless influences, or is it an admirable example of how contemporary culture can breathe new life into old stories? That one's for you to decide.
On the Charts
The Crane Wife peaked at #35 on the Billboard Top 200 chart, #12 on the Rock Album chart, #117 on the Digital Album chart, and #5 on the Tastemaker Album chart (comprised of sales info from independent record stores).
Despite being released as a single, "O Valencia!" never charted.