Like most people in the UK, I didn’t know this song at all until it featured in a Vodafone ad in the early 2000s.
I’ve always said my dream job was working at an ad agency with the job of picking all the great music to accompany some iconic advertising. My life would have been complete if I’d picked Ellie Goulding’s cover of “Your Song” for John Lewis, for example…or Jet’s “Are You Gonna Be My Girl” for Apple…or the grand-daddy of them all, Marvin Gaye’s “Heard It Through The Grapevine” for Levi’s.
Or, indeed, “Bohemian Like You” for Vodafone.
Despite all the great music that’s been memorably paired-up with TV commercials, I’ve always felt “Bohemian Like You” was something of a peak achievement for the “picking music to go with the commercial” people (not even sure what you call that job…)
That’s because I’ve always imagined their the ad agency were playing a bit of a joke on Vodafone by choosing this song.
Whilst it’s true that the commercial mainly loops the “I like you, I like you, I like you” segment in what some might consider a rather-too-obvious attempt to implant a subliminal message of some sort, the rest of the song is rather more edgy. Not to mention the video which is edgy enough to require a fair bit of pixellation before it could be broadcast (readers of a sensitive nature can safely read on as I’ve linked to a different video below…).
I don’t know how much time you’ve spent around major multinational companies. I’ve spent a fair bit of my life doing exactly that and one thing I can assure you is that, outside Silicon Valley perhaps, huge multinational companies are anything but bohemian in how they operate.
Everything is tied down tight, everyone has their targets and objectives and they know they’re out the door if they don’t meet them, the place runs on internal politics and the word of the chief executive is treated like the word of God, even if what they say is manifestly bonkers.
So I’ve always liked to imagine that choosing “Bohemian Like You” was a bit of an in-joke by someone at Vodafone’s ad agency who got tired of navigating their way through the corporate committee structure before they could get the OK to shoot a 30-second TV commercial…
“Bohemian Like You” was written by Dandy Warhols frontman Courtney Taylor-Taylor. He was supposedly inspired by a girl who pulled up in a car at the traffic lights outside his apartment…she was clearly cultivating a free spirit vibe…
I always wondered if the girl fitted the car…was this bohemian goddess driving a retro Beetle convertible, a Citroen 2CV or a Fiat 500 with the roof rolled back? I certainly hope so…it would puncture my mental image if she’d been driving a Mini Metro or an Austin Allegro instead…
The Dandy Warhols are an indie band, so they’re off to a good start, but I’ve always thought they captured the essence of Bohemia in their song, as well as in the lyrics.
It’s a very free-spirited track and it sounds like it could have been recorded in someone’s bedroom or inside their parents’ garage.
The air of insouciance is palpable in the music and lyrics, which make this an interesting song. It’s not trying too hard and it’s not too bothered if you don’t dig it. It’s just trying to be what it is and convey a slightly different take on a well-worn story.
At its heart, “Bohemian Like You” is a boy-meets-girl song. And let’s face it, there have been plenty of pop songs written on that subject.
Normally they are heart-rending displays of emotion, based on someone doing their very best to win you over. “Bohemian Like You” isn’t all that bothered one way or the other.
At least that’s what they want you to believe.
“Bohemian Like You” always feels to me like a song that’s trying rather too hard not to come across like it’s trying rather too hard. It’s the semi-cool kid who’s trying to go out with the coolest girl in school. It’s the guy trying to impress with his knowledge of obscure tequila brands when the object of his affection can drink supermarket-brand tequila and somehow still make it seem like the coolest thing in the world. It’s maybe even someone who spends their leisure hours writing about great songs, but who’s never been in a band in his life…
Well, maybe not the last one, but the others…they’re what comes to mind every time I hear this great song…
You got a great car
Yeah, what’s wrong with it today?
I used to have one too
Maybe I’ll come and have a look
I really love
Your hairdo, yeah
I’m glad you like mine too
See what looking pretty cool will get ya?
I’m pretty sure the term “hipster” hadn’t been invented when “Bohemian Like You” first came out in mid-2000, but this is a very hipster-ish verse. It’s studiously casual.
I particularly like the use of the word “maybe” when he’s talking about taking a look at her car. He’s too cool to come straight out and offer and too chilled to be tying himself into any commitments one way or the other…at least that’s the vibe he’s aiming for…
But he’s working just a little too hard to really be as casual as he’s making out…
So what do you do?
Oh yeah, I wait tables too
No I haven’t heard your band
’Cause you guys are pretty new
But if you dig on vegan food
Well come over to my work
I’ll have them cook you
Something that you really love
We’ve moved beyond the studiously casual undertaking to “maybe” come and fix her car. Now we’re out to impress…this is the whole “see I’m just as cool as you” spiel coming across.
But he can’t keep a lid on it forever. A studiously casual and indifferent vibe is hard to keep up when you’re with someone you’re strongly attracted to. Eventually, he can’t keep a lid on it any more…
’Cause I like you
Yeah, I like you
And I’m feeling so bohemian like you
Yeah I like you, yeah I like you
And I feel whoa ho woo!
Yep, any pretence of cool has slipped by this stage. He wants his girl to think he’s a free-spirit and the epitome of cool, just like her. By the time we get to the chorus and hear how much he likes her, he’s just like every other guy who’s trying too hard and wondering why women don’t feel anything for him.
I’ve always believed basic human emotions flow through us all. Some are better than others at controlling their emotions or at hiding them behind a carefully-constructed “devil may care” external persona.
But get any of us in the right situation with the right person and all that goes out the window. We’re just a quivering bundle of hopes, emotions and feelings that we can’t control, just like the rest of humanity.
Until that moment, though, some of us work hard at trying to appear cool.
And there aren’t many cooler songs than “Bohemian Like You” by The Dandy Warhols. It works brilliantly as either a “cool boy meets even cooler girl” love story or as a post-modernist critique of the fallacy of self in an over-connected world. Take your pick…
In the meantime, just enjoy this great song. Well done to Vodafone for allowing your slightly subversive ad agency talk you into using this track for your TV commercials…it’s “Bohemian Like You” by The Dandy Warhols…(video suitable for family viewing…)
PS — just before we get to the video, if you enjoyed this article, please give it a “clap”. You can also follow me on Medium (here) or Twitter (here) to get new articles as soon as they’re published. And why not check out my book “No Words, No Song”, where I write about more great songs like this one, available in the Kindle Bookstore (here).