Music / The Magnetic Fields

The Magnetic Fields is an indie pop band fronted by Stephin Merritt. Their best known work is the 1999 triple Concept Album 69 Love Songs. Merritt's lyrics are often sarcastic, bitter, and humorous.

The Magnetic Fields provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Anchored Ship: Played for Laughs in the song "The One You Really Love":
    I gaze into your eyes of blue
    But their beauty is not for me
    You're thinking of someone who's gone
    You're dreaming of the one you really love
    You're dreaming of...the corpse you really love!
  • Anti-Love Song: Over two-thirds of 69 Love Songs falls into this trope, with titles like "How Fucking Romantic," "Let's Pretend We're Bunny Rabbits," "A Chicken With Its Head Cut Off," and "The Cactus Where Your Heart Should Be." And that's just the first disc!
    • Hell, most of Merritt's entire discography falls into this.
    • Also occasionally subverted into actual love songs, as with "Papa Was A Rodeo."
    • Their debut single, "100,000 Fireflies" is a weird kind of subversion of this trope, being at once an earnest expression of love and something much darker:
    You won't be happy with me,
    But give me one more chance.
    You won't be happy anyway.
  • Ax-Crazy: Merritt seems to be fond of this. Such characters appear in Yeah! Oh Yeah, Your Girlfriend's Face and California Girls (the latter with an actual ax).
  • Attractive Bent-Gender: The entire point of the song "Andrew In Drag".
  • Busby Berkeley Number: "Busby Berkeley Dreams"
  • Being Good Sucks: The reasoning behind I Wish I Had An Evil Twin. Having an evil twin would allow the singer to have bad deeds done for him without feeling guilty about it.
  • Common Meter: Most of "Wi' Nae Wee Bairn Ye'll Me Beget" and "Two Kinds Of People" are in common meter.
  • Concept Album: 69 Love Songs is Exactly What It Says on the Tin; all the songs on i start with "I."
    • Distortion is, well, distorted, and Realism uses real acoustic instruments. Apparently he named the albums after the thing people were most likely to complain about.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Hooooooo boy.
  • Drunken Song: "Too Drunk to Dream"
  • Evil Twin: "I Wish I Had an Evil Twin"
  • The Eeyore: Stephen Meritt comes across this way with his baritone vocals and self-effacing demeanor.
  • Gayngst: In an interview, Merritt lamented that most of the gay men his age he knew had died of AIDS.
  • Gender-Blender Name: "Mike" in "Papa Was A Rodeo" is a woman.
    • Not necessarily Stephin Merritt has a habit of having female singers sing from a male point of view ("Candy") and vice versa ("Sunset City") so the fact that Shirley Simms sings the final chorus has no bearing on the gender of the character in the song.
  • Genre Roulette: 69 Love Songs contains nearly every genre of love song you can care to name.
  • God Is Love Song: "Kiss Me Like You Mean It," though it's somewhat of a subversion in having God return the affection physically.
  • Gratuitous French: Fully half of the rather short "Underwear" is this.
  • I Am the Band: Stephin Merritt. Although there are other recurring members, such as Daniel Handler, the real life identity of Lemony Snicket. Merritt's other band, The Gothic Archies, released an album of songs about A Series Of Unfortunate Events. Drummer/vocalist/business manager Claudia Gonson is the non-Merritt musician who's had the most staying power.
    • The band is indeed dominated by Merritt's personality, and they've recorded barely any songs not authored by him. However, Merritt doesn't sing a word on the first two albums and only does about a third of the vocals in concert these days, the rest alternating between Claudia Gonson and Shirley Simms.
      • Specifically, Susan Anway is the singer on the first two albums, while on 69 Love Songs vocals alternate between Merritt, Gonson, Simms, Dudley Klute and L.D. Beghtol.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: All the tracks on i all begin with the letter "I".
  • I Love the Dead: Zombie Boy
  • Instructional Title: How to Say Goodbye
  • Intercourse with You: "Let's Pretend We're Bunny Rabbits" and "Three-Way" are less that subtle examples.
  • Last-Second Word Swap: Two from "Fido, Your Leash Is Too Long": "you scare me out of my wits when you do that shiht-zu" and "I don't care what you fock-shounds do."
  • Long Title: "The Flowers She Sent and the Flowers She Said She Sent".
  • The Lost Lenore: The narrator's crush from "The One You Really Love" has a serious case of this.
  • Love at First Sight: "Don't Look Away" gives this a creepy twist by being a melodramatic ode to someone Merritt's narrator merely held eye contact with for a few seconds in a crowd.
  • Love Is A Drug: The entirety of the lyrics of "Love Is Like A Bottle Of Gin".
  • Lyrical Dissonance: A staple of much of Merritt's songwriting. He's even said he does this on purpose so the songs can fit whatever what mood you're in, depending on whether you listen to the tune or the lyrics.
  • Metaphorgotten: "A Pretty Girl Is Like..." keeps getting its similes mixed up until it finally concludes that a pretty girl is like... a pretty girl.
  • New Sound Album: The albums following 69 Love Songs did away with signature synthesizers and ventured into various new styles, with mixed approval.
  • The Original Changes The Gender: Merritt frequently writes from both male, female, gay and straight perspectives, and with both male and female singers in the band happy to sing from either perspective... let's just say it never gets boring.
  • Rhetorical Question Blunder: "Yeah! Oh, Yeah!"
  • Rich Bitch: The narrator in "Zebra," big time.
    We've got so many tchotchkes, we've practically emptied the Louvre
    In most of our palaces, there's hardly room to maneuver
    Now I shan't go to Bali today, I must stay home and Hoover up the gold dust...
    But that doesn't mean we're in love.
  • Royal "We": Played for Laughs in "For We Are The King Of The Boudoir."
  • Shout-Out:
    • "Suddenly There Is A Tidal Wave" says, "We must have been the butt of all the jokes in the world/For trying to live like Pippi Longstocking."
    • "The Death Of Ferdinand De Saussure" shouts out not only the titular linguist, but justifies his death by saying "This is for Holland/Dozier/Holland!"
  • Skeletal Musician: Referenced in "Xylophone Track": "I can play my ribcage like a xylophone."
  • Stalking Is Love: "The Night You Can't Remember" is arguably a case of this.
  • Straight Gay: Stephin Merritt again.
  • Title Only Chorus: "Three-Way" is a title only song.
  • Triang Relations: Love triangles are a common feature, but I'd Go Anywhere With Hugh is a rare type two song.
  • Uncommon Time: Most notably "Love Is Like A Bottle Of Gin," written in 21/8
  • Wham Line: Not uncommon in Merritt's songbook but perhaps the most dramatic case is "Yeah! Oh, Yeah!" which starts out as an Anti-Love Song but then dives straight into Wham Territory by the end.
    What a dark and dreary life! Are you reaching for a knife? Could you really kill your wife? Yeah, oh yeah!