Hey Jude, who does Flo think you are?
March 29, 2015 8:34 AM   Subscribe

Asking for a young Florence and the Machine fan in my household: In the song "St Jude," is Florence Welch treating St Jude as a female saint?

For example, in these stanzas:

St Jude, patron saint of the lost causes
St Jude, we were lost before she started
St Jude, we lay in bed as she whipped around us
St Jude, maybe I'll always be more comfortable in chaos

And I was on the island and you were there too
But somehow through the storm I forget to you,
Oh St Jude, somehow she knew
And she came to give her blessing while causing devastation

How do you read the syntax of these lyrics to suggest that the "she" in these lines is not referring to St. Jude -- in, for example, the line "she came to give her blessing while causing devastation?" Who is "she" who came to give her blessing if not St. Jude?

This is bothering my Florence fankid who is bewildered to think the brilliant and erudite Florence might mistake St. Jude for a woman, as if Jude means judith or something like that.

The reading of "Jude" as a woman will be a blessing causing devastation around these parts; we appreciate other potential readings.
posted by third rail to Media & Arts (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Well, there's one interpretation based on the video that suggests it's about the St Jude storm in Europe, as well as the saint. It's still questionable whether the gender switch makes sense there.

The thing about song lyrics is that they're often not meant to be taken too literally and they can reflect multiple sources. It's possible that Florence doesn't realize St. Jude was a man. Or maybe she knows that, but she has a female Jude in her life that is also reflected in the lyrics. Or maybe she's being self-reflective and see aspects of St. Jude in herself so using 'she' is self-referential.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:48 AM on March 29, 2015 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Finally a use for genius.com and they come through!

The song indeed appears to refer to the 2013 St. Jude storm as "she."
posted by spitbull at 8:58 AM on March 29, 2015 [1 favorite]

Yes, any of those interpretations will work. If your child isn't ready to hear about the ways people fight back against gender essentialism, which I suspect is at least part of what's in play here, you can let them know that several other countries (who name storms by their own internal systems) gave the storm a feminine name (plus a long tradition of sea-related namings tending to the feminine as well), and that it's totally fine to call them either he or she as one wishes because the storm can't state a preference.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:59 AM on March 29, 2015 [3 favorites]

As the daughter of a Harvard educated professor of Rennaissance Studies at Kings College, London, and given all the intricate references to Dante on the same record (and other historically and culturally literate elements in her music) I'm guessing Florence Welch knows St. Jude is figured as male historically, just to add context.
posted by spitbull at 9:06 AM on March 29, 2015 [6 favorites]

Even without knowing that St. Jude was an actual storm, I would still say she was referring to a storm and not to the saint. This is because being able to comfort internal turmoil with comforting, familiar, overpowering external chaos is a common theme in her lyrics (Hurricane Drunk, Falling, Drumming Song, Never Let Me Go, etc.).
posted by bleep at 9:43 AM on March 29, 2015 [1 favorite]

Sounds like people are probably correct with the storm interpretation, but it could also be interpreted as a woman who causes devastation and causes the singer to pray to St. Jude.
posted by MsMolly at 9:46 AM on March 29, 2015 [2 favorites]

And speaking of gender essentialism, I wanted to make sure it was clear that the professor parent I mentioned is Florence's mom.
posted by spitbull at 10:48 AM on March 29, 2015 [1 favorite]

She actually discusses the song right before performing its premiere, here. She says "during that year [in reference to her previous story], a lot of storms followed me around, real ones and . . . emotional ones. And this is a song, well, I think about both of those two things. I just fell down a little hole instead . . . It's not a metaphor." As the video begins, before that introduction of the song, she has just finished thanking someone who was a father figure to her and who "looked after her" during "that year." It's not entirely clear from context whether the song follows from that, but if so maybe the "St. Jude" figure is meant to refer to him. (It's also not clear if the year she is talking about is 2013, and thus the song is literally about the St. Jude Storm, or whether that's a cross-reference, as the story she tells about "that year" refers to the man in question "buying her a lot of jumpers and changing her bicycle headlights," implying it was earlier in life than just a couple of years back.
posted by spitbull at 12:19 PM on March 29, 2015 [3 favorites]

jacquilynne: It's possible that Florence doesn't realize St. Jude was a man.
No, it's really not. This isn't Taylor Swift we're talking about.
posted by IAmBroom at 7:51 AM on March 30, 2015

It was just a rhetorical device leading to the alternative explanations, I wasn't really impugning Florence's knowledge of the saints.
posted by jacquilynne at 11:26 AM on March 30, 2015 [3 favorites]

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