k.d. lang’s “Acquiesce”: What Immoral Questions?

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I am just an average Joanne.  Never have I met or talked to k.d. lang about her artistic oeuvre. It may be that she has given the definitive analysis of the meaning of this song in earlier interviews. But even if that is the case, what she has said at any given time is just that; what she said at that time! And I would like to set out an interpretation of these lyrics, whether or not it is what she intended originally or not.

The first issue to note is that this song appears on an album whose title is pretty clearly sexual (All You Can Eat). Sure, one can provide other interpretations, but none really seem to be able to encompass the entire motif of its collection of songs. So, “these immoral questions” undoubtedly refers to some aspect of sexuality that is arbitrarily deemed “immoral”. The first stanza seems to justify this; what makes us afraid to admit our sexuality is the same stuff that finally forces us to acknowledge it and live it. In saying this, I am not exclusively referring to sexual orientation per se, but to any expression of sexual presence that any of us may tend to hold back. This may be as simple as not wearing the clothes we like, or not experiencing an honest connection with another from a romantic standpoint. I am sure we all can recall a time when sex happened, but true intimacy (a complete giving of oneself to another) did not. In fact, sadly, I fear that this superficial exchange is commonplace and one thing that kd means by “the fuel of freedom too”.

Next, is a deeper layer of the onion which looks to move past sexuality to more existential concerns; “offer our confessions. Offer ourselves to you”. Here, the immoral questions are those asked by a soul who is out of touch with human living. By this I mean a soul who is so disconnected from its  physical body it does not even suspect an absence of anything, let alone total oblivion to their natural connection to the earth. The immoral questions are those which arise in inner souls who are so dehydrated, they have become delirious and do not know what they are asking. What does a thirsty soul ask? Perhaps superficial questions such as “Why is this happening to me?” or “Who am I?”. Such questions are ones expected from a consciousness that is unclear about the nature of the universe. Thus, we “offer our confessions”, we stand unstable in the presence  of the earth without any understanding of what is missing or needed.

The kicker comes in the line “acquiesce all in us”. In other words, misguided souls, lost souls if you will, are not a separate class of entities. They are part of all that is, part of those who may understand the world more deeply, and part of those who are yet to exist. So, the collective whole is obligated to not only acknowledge them, but to engage in actions to further their spiritual growth. These actions may include the results of Right Action or Right Understanding or any of the other constituents of the Eight-Fold Path. Souls who ask “immoral questions” are not to be condemned, but accepted and guided.

Finally, I want to make a few comments about the presentation of this song. First, it’s mellow. It does not overwhelm the listener with volume or sudden changes in style. In fact, the opening few seconds are so mild, the instinct is to turn up the volume. But to do this detracts from the song’s presentation. Next, k.d.’s vocal entrance is chant-like and amelodic. k.d. gets away with this because the depth and tone of her voice fool the listener into thinking there  is more of an elaborate musical progression than there really is. These two elements (being mellow and chant like) suspend the song in an “in between” state; in between Truth and Knowing.  Finally, as the song progresses, k.d’s phrasing takes the song’s message to the listener by Next-Day-Air; one is compelled to feel the urgency of k.d.’s call to action here. The emphasis placed on the first syllable (ACQ uiese) followed by a major decrease in volume and focus on the phrase “all in us”, forces us to pay attention to what and why we are acquiescing.

k.d., we will likely never know if you are aware of all of these subtle intricacies to your performances, or if they simply “happen”. But whatever the case, we thank you for your depth and “multi-media-esque” attributes of your songs. Brava.

Acquiesce (Album “All You Can Eat”)

These immoral questions
This trial of faith
That we go through
The fuel of our oppressions
Is the fuel of freedom too

Ooh, ooh, ooh
These immoral questions
What on earth are we to do
Offer our confessions
Offer ourselves to you

Ooh, ooh, ooh
Acquiesce, acquiesce
Acquiesce, acquiesce, all in us

These immoral questions
What on earth are we to do

Ooh, ooh, ooh
Acquiesce, acquiesce
Acquiesce, acquiesce, all in us

Songwriters
LANG, K. D. / MINK, BEN

Published by
Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

Read more: K. D. Lang – Acquiesce Lyrics | MetroLyrics

Image of k.d. lang purchased from Shutterstock and used with editorial permission.

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