Dig The Uneekness

Why do titles need to be misspelled nowadays? Arcade Fire have just released “Reflektor”, the first single from their upcoming album of the same name. The word “Reflektor” is a fairly clean, easily understandable misspelling, much better than Ne-Yo or DIIV or Anfernee Hardaway. But it still begs the question, why a K instead of a C?

Obviously a unique spelling is meant to set the word apart as a title, a proper, capital-letter noun instead of just a plain old noun. A lot of artists look for a way to stand apart and be remembered. I probably couldn’t pick Ne-Yo’s sound out of a lineup, but I know his name. It’s a guy, right?

So when Arcade Fire builds hype around their new album, the word “Reflektor” becomes a unique meme, signifying the band and its music instead of orange and yellow work site vests or bicycle safety gear. Their hype definitely worked. Media outlets have buzzed for a while now and the album doesn’t come out until October 29th.

But does the spelling have any significance beyond being recognizable? When Quentin Tarantino was asked about the awkward spelling of his movie Inglourious Basterds, he said, “I’m never going to explain that…When you do an artistic flourish like that, to describe it, to explain it, would just…invalidate the whole stroke in the first place.”

Tarantino wants us to ponder what it might mean, wants to cultivate some mystery here and get us wondering. But most importantly, he wants us to know that the spelling he chose has some artistic meaning that we may never understand. To misspell something plants the suspicion that there is at least a double meaning at work here.

Even though we might infer some added meaning from the title, the content of a song/movie/band might be completely mundane. Tarantino’s films generally leave little to the imagination. We want to believe that the artists we give our hard-earned money to are observant, with meaningful insight, have something to teach us about life, or at least some unique ability to resonate with us. But the name is not the thing named, and sometimes a title can be much more intriguing than the thing itself.

With so may artists vying for our attention, we have come to expect misspellings for no meaningful reason. Look at all the stores that use this technique when it is completely irrelevant to the content of their business. The one thing I know for sure on this score is that a unique spelling is uniquely Google-able.

Here’s the new video for “Reflektor”. Judge for yourself.

4 thoughts on “Dig The Uneekness

  1. I wondered the same thing, and came to here. After listening and reading the full lyrics – and the video, my thought is there must be a clear reference to an eastern Euro / Soviet communism or repression – the K seems to have been used that way in the past, during the cold war, etc. It seems to me the lyrics refer to social media, and the indirect, less-than-real, relationships we are now used to cultivating this way:

    “The signals we send
    Are deflected again
    We’re still connected
    But are we even friends?
    We fell in love when I was nineteen
    And I was staring at a screen”

    Perhaps the K is a way to suggest the electronic social systems we use as a matter of course now, are more distorted refleKtions of the real, and there may be more repression involved despite the illusion of convenience of the instantaneous connections. Maybe the faster you touch someone or something – or the number of touches is simultaneously huge – perhaps the less we are capable of feeling each one genuinely. So, perhaps the K here symbolizes and the ironic repression of our social media systems despite our thought they improve our lives, much like communism was borne of the idea to liberate the common person. But the reality was it became far less about the people (though it was continually sold that way for decades), and more about the communist fat cats – the same way we may have much of our daily lives now through Rogers, Bell Media, Facebook, Twitter, Google, etc.

    All of this is a reflektion – not the real, really.

    “I thought I found the connector
    It’s just a Reflektor…”

    I don’t know – I feel pretty good about this interpretation – what say you?

    • Thanks for the comment Craig. I like your interpretation of the lyrics, for sure; these social media connections are really just excuses for us to look at ourselves, and so forth. But the “K”, and the Soviet connection remain fuzzy to me. When you mentioned Europe my mind went to David Bowie and his Berlin phase. His last album cover seemed to ask, “Heroes?”, and the first single asked, “Where Are We Now?” His inclusion on the single, Reflektor, might be an indication of some common theme, or it might just be that Arcade Fire are borrowing a page from the Bowie book by releasing a dance track and they wanted his voice in the mix.

      Good food for thought.

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