You walked into the party
Like you were walking on a yacht
Your hat strategically dipped below one eye
Your scarf, it was apricot
You had one eye on the mirror
And watched yourself gavotte
And all the girls dreamed that they'd be your partner
They'd be your partner, and
You're so vain
You probably think this song is about you
You're so vain,
I'll bet you think this song is about you
Don't you? Don't you?
As we conclude a minor cycle of narcissistic songs, what better way than to turn it back to the third person with this 1972 classic? But who is today’s self-loving object of ridicule, but also love? Even though Simon has admitted that it is partly about the womanising Hollywood heartthrob Warren Beatty, who once dated her, she has only identified the second verse as him:
Oh, you had me several years ago
When I was still naive
Well, you said that we made such a pretty pair
And that you would never leave
But you gave away the things you loved
And one of them was me
I had some dreams, they were clouds in my coffee
Clouds in my coffee …
In any extra twist, she has also remarked about how Beatty thinks the whole song is about him, yet that isn’t the case. So who else? She also confirmed that is is not about her husband at the time, the singer-songwriter James Taylor, so there are a number of other candidates among men in her life – Mick Jagger, Jack Nicholson, and other theories include Cat Stevens, David Bowie, David Cassidy and, unsurprisingly the shock jock Howard Stern has made a claim (denied by Simon). But the strength of it all is that the vanity could be applied to anyone displaying a preening self-regard, famous or not. Wives and girlfriends can project it at their husbands or boyfriends, or vice versa.
But let us not disregard the sheer power of the music itself – the strange, rumbling guitar opening, and the perfect balance of acoustic guitar, piano, a country and rock fusion that was always going to be a huge hit, and the buildup to one of the catchiest choruses of all time. And with such wonderfully painted lyrics and images, filled with emotions of love and hatred, admiration and annoyance, irony and humour, who wouldn’t want a song written about them, especially one this good?
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