Wait, What? @kdlang and Miss Chatelaine

The “Problem”

More than a few k.d. lang fans have likely asked themselves, “What is going on with  the song Miss Chatelaine“? For one, it really leaps out of Ingenue as a song that “does not belong with the others”. From songs of questioning life’s biggest flaws to suddenly a quip about  qualms “bursting into sunshine”, it just really seems like either Sire Records made her lay down this track, or it was “filler” because k.d. had no other songs to add to the album. The latter seems unlikely and the former seems incorrect because it comes up third in the order. Further, what is k.d. doing all dolled up like that? If you have not seen the video, here it is.  Say what? Truly not her usual “look” to say the least, and one that does not support the idea of the “androgynous phenom” of the early 1990s. So, WTF Miss Chatelaine?

Preliminaries

Before I start to give an idea of what I think is going on in this song, I want to make some preliminary comments. First, it seems to me that k.d. has a bit of a rebel rouser streak in her, at least in a very subtle way (if it is possible to be both subdued and conspicuous). I think that the first glimpse of this side of k.d. is provided in Miss Chatelaine. If we look at this track in this way, then other times k.d. pushes the envelope make more sense too. For example, take the albums All You Can Eat and Drag. Both of these are provocative on the surface (namely the album title or cover), but the meat of these oeuvres  is not at all provocative; sexy? yes. provocative? no. Secondly, k.d. is fond of singing about common existential situations. I think this is why she and Roy Orbison got on so well. So, keeping these two things in mind, I think we can provide some context for what is going on with Miss Chatelaine.

Miss Chatelaine Revealed

As it turns out, this track fits in perfectly with the rest of Ingenue because it is indeed about matters of authenticity and meaning. The reason why it is prima facie out of the ordinary is because it is somewhat tongue-and-cheek. k.d.’s outrageous side emerges here. k.d. is making fun of herself a bit as she realizes that she has become someone other than who she wants to be or is. Clearly on one level, this is a love song. But I argue that this is an elaborate metaphor for the inner awakening that most of us have about the kind and style of life we are living.

Just a kiss: This line is referring to the basic experience of human living. In sexual terms, a kiss is the basic expression of affection. But she is saying that she has lived “just for this”. In other words, she has been searching for that sense of understanding herself in the face of others. The classic “who am I” quest.

I Can’t Explain Why I’ve Become Miss Chatelaine: k.d. wonders how it is she has managed to become someone so different, so misguided in her search for personal truth and authenticity. She understands that she cannot find what she wants as Miss Chatelaine and is confused about her motivations and the logistics about how Miss Chatelaine, an ultimately inauthentic personality, as managed to appear on the scene.

Just a smile:  On one level, a smile is a way to flirt with a possible mate. But on another level, a smile symbolizes acceptance. She wants to find a place where her true identity can flourish; can be held “captive” even if this personality is impermanent.

Every time your eyes meet mine… Again, there is the sexual or “in-love” interpretation. But the true meaning I am arguing for entails that k.d. is talking about being understood; both understanding herself as well as the “universal identity” of which we are all a part. Here eyes meeting is about Truth understanding itself. When Truth is understood in this way, “sunshine” or personal enlightenment obtains.

Just a sigh… Here, k.d. is asking for reassurance that the identity she wants to be is in fact the “right” one; at least for now. She is asking for a “reply” from the inner guide that leads each of our personal quests.

This is one interpretation about what is truly happening in this somewhat odd song. It seems to make sense not only given the context of Ingenue, but of k.d.’s overall work as well.

“Miss Chatelaine”

Just a kiss, just a kiss
I have lived just for this
I can’t explain why I’ve become
Miss ChatelaineJust a smile, just a smile
Hold me captive just a while
I can’t explain why I’ve become
Miss ChatelaineEvery time your eyes meet mine
Clouds of qualm
Burst into sunshineJust a sigh just a sigh
Words my love, just reply
I can’t explain why I’ve become
Miss Chatelaine
Miss Chatelaine

Zing!!!

Just a smile just a smile
Hold me captive just a while
I can’t explain why I’ve become
Miss Chatelaine

Every time your eyes meet mine
Clouds of qualm
Burst into sunshine

Just a kiss just a kiss
I have lived just for this
I can’t explain why I’ve become
Miss Chatelaine

Miss Chatelaine
Miss Chatelaine
Miss Chatelaine
Miss Chatelaine

Photo by TimeLife and used with editorial permission

4 Comments

  1. hi again kk,
    your thoughts are so well put together. thanks so much for taking the time. to me, chatelaine is merely a part of that cassowary bird that no one can categorize. i adore that possibility. the platypus has those same features that makes it a thorn in any evolutionist’s side, as research indicates, by contradicting the conceptual system of science and dovetailing directly into what you wrote about – identity – the idea of which is only possible by removing contradictions. good for you, kdl, for presenting a heterogenous self, one that cannot be organized into a coherent unified system. the remaining paradox remains open – hence the observer is forced, if you will, to look at the artistry of it all rather than the portrayer herself. kd vanishes in this production and instead is replaced by the beauty of the art itself. keep ’em all coming – best, virginia

    this is one of kd’s most appealing characteristics to me –

    Like

  2. Aside from the fact that k.d. manages to be sexy, gorgeous and stunning no matter how she’s dressed or what she’s doing, it did take me a bit to adjust to this one when I saw it first. Now, I just think she does what she does when she feels like it, and let the chips fall where they may. I love that. Rarely do you see anyone who can pull that off and do it every time, at that! I get a huge kick out of where k.d. goes and how she does it, no matter what it is. Just another reason she’s important to me. :-))

    Liked by 1 person

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