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Lyrics and Life

By Caitlin Ward

08/02/2017

Cake by the Ocean
By DNCE

No, no
See you walking ’round like it’s a funeral
Not so serious, girl, why those feet cold?
We just getting started, don’t you tiptoe, tiptoe,

PRECHORUS
Waste time with a masterpiece, don’t waste time with a masterpiece
You should be rolling with me, you should be rolling with me, ah
You’re a real-life fantasy, you’re a real-life fantasy
But you’re moving so carefully, let’s start living dangerously

CHORUS
Talk to me, baby
I’m going blind from this sweet-sweet craving, whoa-oh
Let’s lose our minds and go f-ing crazy
Ah ya ya ya ya I keep on hoping we’ll eat cake by the ocean
Walk for me, baby
I’ll be Diddy, you’ll be Naomi, whoa-oh
Let’s lose our minds and go f-ing crazy
Ah ya ya ya ya I keep on hoping we’ll eat cake by the ocean

Goddamn, see you licking frosting from your own hands
Want another taste, I’m begging, yes ma’am
I’m tired of all this candy on the dry land, dry land, oh

PRECHORUS

CHORUS

Red velvet, vanilla, chocolate in my life
Confetti, I’m ready, I need it every night
Red velvet, vanilla, chocolate in my life (ah ya ya ya ya I keep on hoping we’ll eat cake by the ocean)

I’ve been getting songs stuck in my head lately. That’s not unusual, I suppose, but what’s stuck out to me this time is just how long they stay there. Once upon a time I’d get a song in my head for a few hours, or at most a day or two. In the last few months, though, I’ve had songs in my head for weeks. Perhaps it’s a sign of aging — I am in my 30s now, after all — or perhaps it’s the resurgence of music that sounds like it’s from the 1970s. Those bass lines are catchy, darn it.

Or more recently, perhaps it’s because I’ve been helping one of my best friends from high school put together the playlist for her wedding dance, so I’ve been listening to a lot of music that is, by definition, catchy. A song doesn’t become a mainstay at wedding dances if it’s not, for good or for ill.

The last time I wrote about wedding dances was two years ago, around the time my sister got married. She opted not to have a DJ or a band, partially because it seemed too small a wedding to bother having a proper dance. Though her wedding constituted one of the biggest ones in our family’s living memory, there were still fewer than 50 people in attendance. My parents had no one but the priest and two witnesses there when they got married. One of our cousins got married this past Canada Day weekend. It seems to have been a surprise to everyone there, except perhaps the couple themselves, and there were fewer than 10 people in attendance.

The other reason my sister and her husband opted not to have a DJ, though, is for fear that they’d play “Old Time Rock and Roll” by Bob Seger or “Jessie’s Girl” by Rick Springfield. My sister hates those songs with a passion they may or may not deserve, and I don’t like them, either. I mentioned to my high school friend who is getting married this week that I didn’t think these should be on the playlist, but apparently other people close to the wedding party love these songs for some sick unknown reason, so they’re going to be played despite her and my better judgement.

The song that’s been stuck in my head for the last two weeks, though, is not old enough to be a standard for wedding dances, if it is even ever to become one. It’s “Cake by the Ocean” by DNCE, which came out only two years ago, and for some reason took up residence in my thoughts after I heard it in a movie. I suggested the song as an option for my friend’s dance, but I’m not sure it’ll end up on the playlist, as I don’t think even the “clean” lyrics initially come off as particularly family wedding-friendly.

But that may not be fair to the song. On the one hand, the original version has a fair number of swears in it, but on the other, the subject matter is open to interpretation. It’s suggestive, certainly, but not explicit. If you think about it for a few minutes, it’s pretty obvious that “cake” is a metaphor — frankly, a rather clumsy one, but a metaphor nevertheless. On the surface, though, it could very well just be about eating cake by the ocean. And literally, I have eaten cake by the ocean on a number of occasions: on a sunny day on the Isle of Wight as the tide went out; near a mangrove in the ruins of Panama Viejo in Panama City on one of our few days off; in a rainstorm in Swansea before my sister and I jumped into the Atlantic Ocean fully clothed. Eating cake by the ocean is a magical experience and I highly recommend doing it. That’s neither here nor there, though, as few people are willing to suspend their disbelief and decide that the song is literally just about cake, so I’m guessing it’s not going to end up on the final wedding playlist. Instead, we will have Rick Springfield and Bob Seger.

I suppose what all of this comes down to, though, more than what bits of songs stick in your head, how much your friend from high school hates Rick Springfield, or how awesome it is to eat cake by an ocean, is what a wedding means to a couple and their community.

In mainstream culture, weddings seem to be about putting on massive events that cause no end of stress and family fights, and run the risk of bankrupting the couple. In Catholic culture, though, weddings are about celebrating a sacrament: a covenantal relationship between two people witnessed by their community and by God. It’s the thing that kept my sister sane through her wedding preparations, and it seems to be the thing that’s kept my friend and her fiancé calm through theirs: the particular songs, the particular food, the particular venue — none of them are as important as the particular people. Even if they want you to play “Jessie’s Girl.”

Ward is a Saskatoon-based freelance writer who spends her days (and most nights) working at a small Catholic college. Her less eloquent thoughts can be found at www.twitter.com/newsetofstrings