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Suzanne Vega – Luka – Lyrics, analysis, meaning

Songwriting

Luka by Suzanne Vega is one of the song analyses presented in the PDF Songwriting.

 Music video

Lyrics, story analysis, meaning

Verse 1

My name is Luka
I live on the second floor
I live upstairs from you
Yes I think you’ve seen me before

Bridge + Chorus 1

If you hear something late at night
Some kind of trouble, some kind of fight
Just don’t ask me what it was
Just don’t ask me what it was
Just don’t ask me what it was

Verse 2

I think it’s because I’m clumsy
I try not to talk too loud
Maybe it’s because I’m crazy
I try not to act too proud

Bridge + Chorus 2

They only hit until you cry
After that you don’t ask why
You just don’t argue anymore
You just don’t argue anymore
You just don’t argue anymore

Verse 3

Yes I think I’m okay
I walked into the door again
Well, if you ask that’s what I’ll say
And it’s not your business anyway

Bridge + Chorus 3

I guess I’d like to be alone
With nothing broken, nothing thrown
Just don’t ask me how I am
Just don’t ask me how I am
Just don’t ask me how I am

Verse 1 + Bridge + Chorus 1 + Bridge + Chorus 2

Suzanne Vega – Luka – Lyrics, analysis, meaning

Her name is Suzanne Vega and she sings:

“Luka”

The title puts the focus on a name, indicating the song will probably be centered on a character named Luka.

Verse 1

My name is Luka

This confirms our first guess and establishes the genre very clearly: a character-narrator named Luka is telling his own autobiography.

The situation naturally involves another character in the action, a yet invisible character that Luka addresses himself to. Suspense about the identity of this character.

I live on the second floor
I live upstairs from you

“You”: this is now clear, the person Luka is speaking to, is “you” – not us in the audience, but the neighbors of Luka. But since it says “you”, we are still much tempted to take it as said for us as potential neighbors of Luka.

Yes I think you’ve seen me before

This last line that does not add much information and sounds naive, finishes making the exposition of the plot: it’s about Luka who is presenting himself to one of his neighbors. Luka is nothing but a name and his relationship with the neighbor is only based on a space proximity.

Bridge + Chorus 1

If you hear something late at night
Some kind of trouble, some kind of fight
Just don’t ask me what it was
Just don’t ask me what it was
Just don’t ask me what it was

This gives us the catalyst of the plot: the Hero is Luka, his goal is to ask the neighbor not to ask in case there is ” some kind of trouble, some kind of fight” “late at night”.

This goal sounds very surprising. We do not see how not asking can help if there is a kind of trouble or fight at night. From there, we can start guessing that there is something wrong, something untold. Which makes us pay more attention!

Verse 2

I think it’s because I’m clumsy

Paradox: Luka just asked the neighbor not to ask for the reason, and then he gives by his own initiative a weak explanation in which he takes the fault and the guilt…

I try not to talk too loud

That sounds kind and humble, not like someone who would really be a source of discomfort for his neighbors.

Maybe it’s because I’m crazy
I try not to act too proud

This confirms the humility of the Hero. “Crazy”? This lets us understand the Hero does not estimate the situation an appropriate way, he sounds confused, or disturbed, not crazy.

Once we understand that this boy is beaten, then we can also suppose that he would judge that asking for help and denouncing the people who beat him would be “acting too proud”.

This Verse 2 was the beginning of an Act II – development of the plot. It describes the Hero as someone unusually self-critical for a child, but innocent.

Bridge + Chorus 2

They only hit until you cry
After that you don’t ask why

Now we necessarily understand what is going on: “they only hit until you cry”, that is to say: the boy is beaten at home.

And “After that you don’t ask why” makes a surprising connection with the previous “Just don’t ask me what it was”: at first the boy asked for confidentiality, and now he gives the reason why: when you are beaten because you asked questions or started to talk, you don’t want to talk or answer questions any more.

The way the boy expresses the situation is special: he says “you” instead of “I” – denying his own position as a victim – , and does not give any detail about “they” – probably to protect them and himself from revelations that could break their home balance.

You just don’t argue anymore
You just don’t argue anymore
You just don’t argue anymore

The simplicity and the despair involved in this repeated line sounds heart-breaking. Violence has lead to total resignation.

This chorus 2 can be seen as an included plot (a backstory) that intensifies the drama by presenting us some elements of the most dramatic content: the violence scenes, when the boy gets beaten.

Verse 3

Yes I think I’m okay

This “Yes I think” sounds like a reply in an on-going dialogue – to a line that is not told to us.

I walked into the door again
Well, if you ask that’s what I’ll say

We understand better now: the neighbor asked about a visible bruise and the boy replied that he’s OK, he just walked into the door – that is typically the kind of things beaten child and women pretend so as not to be seen as victims.

And it’s not your business anyway

A proof of ambivalence from the boy – he has a reflex of rejection when his secret is about to be discovered.

This can be interpreted as the crisis: the Hero rejects his only possible help and chooses to cancel his unconscious goals: talk with someone and be rescued.

Bridge + Chorus 3

I guess I’d like to be alone

Such a desire is not frequent in children, except when they feel bad.

With nothing broken, nothing thrown

This lets us imagine the violent domestic scenes the boy is involved in during the backstory: things get broken and thrown.

Just don’t ask me how I am
Just don’t ask me how I am
Just don’t ask me how I am

That makes the dialogue situation clear: the neighbor asked Luka “how are you?” and in reaction Luka feels in danger and asks the neighbor not to care about him.

So actually, the last line of the song confirms that the boy forbids his neighbor to ask questions about him: climax – from that point the goal is out of reach.

The song then repeats Verse 1 then Bridge + Chorus 1 then Bridge + Chorus 2.

Commentary

Luka is another strange case of storytelling, half-standard, half-atypical.

Some elements are conventional and make it a normal story:

  • It’s based on a central character.
  • It starts with an initial situation.

Some other elements are special and make it a non-conform story:

  • No meeting with the side of the Antagonist. We can not even tell the identity of the people who beat Luka: parents? family? adoptive family? step-family members? brothers and sisters?
  • The Hero has a negative goal: make the neighbors not to ask questions, or in other terms, not to be helped. This goal is upsetting and as such, it works very well. But it’s not a very narrative kind of goal – compared to more normal/standard goals like: obtain love, conquer something, win, save one’s life, etc – because it is not active, it rely on the behavior of someone else. Of course, all the sadness of the song is in the fact that the Hero has no other goal than imposing silence to himself and the others.

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