I am an artist interested in ambiguity and irony. One day I had a brainwave: if I could just establish the answer to a seemingly simple question, then the way would be clear to develop a geometry of irony and several questions that really bug me would never need answering again.
The question relates to Carly Simon's song 'You're So Vain' and, simply put is: How true is it that the song is about you?
The implied statement in the chorus -"You probably think this song is about you"- is that 'You think this song is about you because you're vain, but in actual fact the song is not about you'. This is a strong reading of the implied statement and there is another, that 'You think this song is about you because you're vain, and you are right'. We should also consider whether or not it is consistent with the lyrics to state the the song is, indeed, about 'you'. This case would invalidate the statement "You're so vain" and leave "I bet you think this song is about you" hanging.
The most interesting case for me is the one where the verses are not about 'you', but about the vanity attributed to 'you', which may be seen in the first sentence of the first verse:
"You walked into the party like you were walking onto a yacht"
where the second 'you' is not purely referential for the sake of the simile - so that we know it is not possible that 'you' were both walking into the party and walking onto a yacht, so that:
'You walked into the party and walked onto the yacht'
is not a correct way to paraphrase. Instead, I would be inclined to paraphrase:
'The way you walked into the party was the same way someone would walk onto a yacht'
which makes the subject 'the way you walked into the party', and which I believe agrees with Carly Simon's intentions. In this way, the rest of verse 1 that references 'you', is actually referencing 'the way you walked into the party'.
If the verse is not about 'you', the chorus may or may not be about the vanity attributed to 'you'. So how true is it that the song is about you?
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