I thought this track was the best track on an amazing album, so I thought I’d pull a genius and see what musical references Lana makes in the song, and see if that’s what makes the song sound so sad.
Speaking of genius, here’s the link. I didn’t catch everything, and so I looked over there for some help – it’s very clear in the article which references I only found because of genius.
First, before the chorus, we have the line “lay, lady lay, on this side of paradise/ in the tropic of cancer.” The line references the Bob Dylan Song Lay Lady Lay. The song is referenced again in Sean Lennon’s line “stay, baby stay” which sounds like “stay, lady stay” in the Bob Dylan song. The references to this love song show that, in this song about a crumbling relationship, the relationship failed even when both characters didn’t want it to – it makes the song even sadder.
When I first listened to this song, I thought that it sounded like the Beatles song “Something,” but I also thought that the Beatles vibe might just have been because Sean Lennon sounds exactly like his legendary father. On genius, it says that the chord progression in that “stay, baby stay” part is the same as “Something.” Part of that song is about George’s inability to commit, so I guess there’s a connection between the meanings of those songs as well.
The song references yet another famous love song in the chorus’ reference to Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer.” The song represents the idealistic love the characters in Lana’s song wanted for themselves, and referring to the tiny dancer idea hypothetically adds to the sadness of wanting something and not being able to have it. It’s this idea of an inability to reach a goal, I think, that makes the song so beautifully deep.
The line about how “everyday felt like Sunday” is a reference to a Morrissey song that I definitely didn’t catch even though I probably should have – I rarely listen to his music; ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. The Morrissey song is about waiting for a bomb to hit. The point is that the characters are really enjoying themselves, but it can’t last because they both know it’ll all fall apart at some point. Real sad, right?
For the same reason Lana references “Tiny Dancer,” she mentions the famous love between Yoko Ono and John Lennon. (And, to answer the question in the following line: “isn’t life crazy now that I’m singin’ with Sean?” Yes, because I didn’t know that he could sound nearly identical to his father until I heard this song.)
So, the answer is yes, those musical references are part of what makes the song so sad.