Written by Alyssa Buchanan. 31 October 2015.
Released in 2011, “You Lie” was The Band Perry’s third most popular single off their self-titled album, and second consecutive release to reach the top ten on the Hot Country Songs Chart. It is a song about a love that has been lost. The Band Perry’s lead vocalist, Kimberly Perry, sings a cutthroat monologue to her cheating husband, repeatedly de-humanizing him for his unforgivable lies. Those in a monogamous or marital relationship largely supported the catchy tune’s straightforward message, along with the younger audience who have newly experienced the possible brutality of a real relationship. The song is sung through the perspective of a deceived woman who villainizes her husband for his unforgivable actions against her.
The three Perry siblings, Kimberly (32), Neil (25), and Reid (26) became the Band Perry in 2009 when they signed with Republic Nashville. “Their debut single, ‘Hip to My Heart,’ reached the Top 20, but it was their second single, ‘If I Die Young,’ that really launched their career, reaching number 1 in the country charts and crossing over to hit number 14 in Billboard’s Hot 100.” The Perry siblings were born in Jackson, Mississippi, but their music career began in Mobile, Alabama, so the band affiliates with multiple places as ”home.” They currently live in East Tennessee. “We’ve got three hometowns,” says Kimberly Perry.
From one family trio to another, it was Aaron, Brian, and Clara Henningsen who wrote the Perry trio’s smash-hit “You Lie.” This father, son, and daughter group began writing in the 1990’s and went on to release their debut single “American beautiful” in 2012. The Henningsens have penned and co-penned a few other tracks on The Band Perry, and co-wrote half of The Band Perry’s new album Pioneer. The Henningsen trio and The Band Perry have developed a close relationship after sharing song notes and ideas, now going back and forth in helping write for each other’s albums. “…We (the Henningsens) were fortunate to be included in their (the Band Perry’s) group of people they liked working with,” says Brian Henningsen.
Their blooming relationship began from the initial face-to-face meeting, where the first song that the Henningsen’s shared, and the song that immediately caught the eye of The Band Perry was, “You Lie.” The familial ties of the song are clearly seen through the line, “My daddy’s gonna straighten you out like a piece of wire, like a piece of wire.” These lyrics play into ideals from traditional family values, which inevitably crossed over to this song from the father/daughter writing of the Henningsons. Lines from the song even come directly from the Henningson family’s own experiences. The fact that the family written song is sung by another family helps keep those ideals relevant.
Much like the basis of the song “You Lie”, life is centered on relationships and making them work to your benefit. Whether business or casual, friends or a lover, any type of relationship is bound to hit a low point. “You Lie” plays on this insecurity, but through a stance of empowerment. By asserting such strong allegations and harsh words upon the cheater, the audience is lead to believe that the man is a dirt bag. The song attempts to make the audience have negative feelings towards cheating, and believe that they don’t deserve to be lied to. This is achieved through the strength of the chorus of the song, where all three Perry voices are present instead of just Kimberly’s vocals.
The focus of the song is more about eliciting a feeling of hatred toward the cheater rather than empathy to the cheated. Lines like, “It ain’t complicated,” and, “they tried to warn me” talk about how the wife took a chance on this marriage, thinking that love would be enough even though her family and friends tried to tell her otherwise, and in the end she realized her mistake. Songs from Carrie Underwood and Miranda Lambert have ranted about this same issue and because of the strong, unyielding lead vocals from Kimberly Perry, it is noted that a similar main audience of young, independent women can also be attributed to the Band Perry. Assuming that this audience of independent, strong willed women would agree that women would agree that women should not be mistreated, the song harps about the deception for three minutes and forty-two seconds.
Literary devices are used in many songs as rhetoric strategies. “You Lie” is chock-full of these devices which aid in painting an ugly picture of a cheating husband. In the opening verse the line, “I’ve never liked the taste of crow but baby I ate it” is sung directly to the offender, and sets the bitter tone of the rest of the song. The saying, “eating crow” is a colloquial idiom that was used in early America, meaning humiliation by admitting you are wrong or have been proven wrong after taking a strong position. Crow was thought of as tasting bad in the same way that one would swallow the fact that they were wrong or made a mistake. In the case of this song, marrying a cheating husband (crow) her big mistake that she had to deal with (she “ate it”). Not everyone may know this expression as it is used few and far between nowadays, and is normally passed down from one generation to the next, like this instance the Henningsen family. “My dad blurted out, ‘I never liked the taste of crow, but baby I ate it, and both Aaron and I were like ‘Huh?’” Clara Henningsen reveals in an interview.
The chorus of the song is line after line of similes. The lyric “You lie like the man with the slick back hair who sold me that Ford” describes how the husband was untruthful about his actions. However the line “you lie like a penny in the parking lot of the grocery store” talks about how the husband has alienated himself from the wife, and she is leaving him and not thinking twice about it. Both of these similes use comparisons to everyday things, and lies many people may experience in their own lives. The repetition of “You lie like a…” nine times over represents the songs position. This point is important because it elicits an emotion from the audience that expresses disdain for the husband.
At first glance one might think “Is this song reasonable? Is there logic behind all of the hating?” The answer is yes. There are little clues throughout the song that express facts about the situation. If the song were based on a big misunderstanding, the story would fall through, so the storyline that is expressed helps to dismiss this potential problem. The line “that aint my perfume” catches the husband after the act of cheating. It establishes that the wife recognizes a foreign smell on her husband and it makes her suspicious. She poses the question “why ya lookin’ so nervous?” after sarcastically saying, “you told me you were out with the boys” so he should really have no reason to be nervous. Posing questions and stating facts clears up any idea that the song was untruthful, and gives credit to the wife, especially when she reveals that the husband tried to apologize and “bring [her] those big brown eyes and [her] that [he’s] sorry.”
It is evident that “You Lie” is not a hollow song, but one with real background and depth. The success of the song can be credited not only to the Band Perry’s popularity, but also to the concise and thoughtful rhetorical strategies used to catch the attention of the audience. The effective use of literary devices, emotional appeal, and logic was able to ensure message quality. There is no doubt that the Henningsen and Perry trios’ preparation and delivery of the song were exceedingly well received.
|0:00||Intro||Violin string||Violin string instrumental, slow melody, rhythm drops off to begin lyrics|
|0:10||Verse 1||“It aint complicated..”||Slow tempo build, violin strings only|
|0:21||Verse 2||“They tried to warn me…”||Add drums, tempo picks up near the end, lyrics are telling a story “Li-iiiii-ieeee” is drawn out, providing emphasis on the word|
|0:39||Chorus||“The way you lie…”||Enter the rest of the band singing along, drawn out lyrics, singing louder, drums, guitars, banjo present, main gist part of the song|
|1:12||Verse 3||“That ain’t my perfume…”||Tempo slows back to intro/verse 1, all instruments present, one voice singing, lyrics add to the story. Emphasis on “nervous” and “deserve this” to dramatize the confrontation|
|1:41||Chorus||“The way you lie…”||Enter the rest of the band singing along, drawn out lyrics, singing louder, drums, guitars, banjo present, main gist part of the song|
|2:15||Verse 4||“I’m gonna drive…”||Add piano, solo vocals, lyrics continue story, violin comes back subtly then falls in tune with the regular beat|
|2:49||Chorus||“Because you lie…”||Enter the rest of the band singing along, drawn out lyrics, singing louder, drums, guitars, banjo present, main gist part of the song|
|3:19||Outro||“Well its what you do…”||Fall off of all instruments, left with ending vocals|
“The Band Perry – You Lie.” YouTube. YouTube, Web. 29 Oct. 2015. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pCwLsXZnFl4>.
Conaway, Alanna. “The Band Perry, ‘You Lie’ – Lyrics Uncovered.” Taste of Country., 18 May 2011. Web. 27 Oct. 2015. <http://tasteofcountry.com/the-band-perry-you-lie-lyrics/>.
“The Henningsens.” The Henningsens. Web. 27 Oct. 2015. <http://www.thehenningsens.com/>.
Hudak, Joseph. “In the Writing Room With The Henningsens and The Band Perry.” Nash Country Weekly, 2 Apr. 2013. Web. 27 Oct. 2015. <http://www.countryweekly.com/news/writing-room-henningsens-and-band-perry>.
“Song Analysis (You Lie – the Band Perry).” Song Analysis (You Lie – the Band Perry). Web. 27 Oct. 2015. <http://modual6songanalysis.weebly.com/>.
“Welcome to the Purdue OWL.” Purdue OWL: Establishing Arguments., 11 Mar. 2013. Web. 27 Oct. 2015. <https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/588/04/>.