“When he knocked on my door and entered the room, my trembling subsided in his sure embrace, he would be my first man, and with a careful hand, he wiped the tears that ran down my face.” The Wild Rose by Nick cave featuring Kylie Minogue is love story following two’s young people and their story of falling in love and the murder of the women the man ‘loved’. The song explores all the elements of romance such as love and happiness that comes with attraction to someone but is only then mixed with dark and gruesome visualisation of murder of that loved one that could never remain pure and refreshing.
The story follows the man and how he met Elisa Day also referred to as the “Wild Rose”. The man describes her as a beautiful women and that it was love at first sight. Elisa then says that they slept with each other on the first day. The man knowing the greatness of her beauty also describes it was her first time laying with a man. Knowing that the first day could not be beaten and realising that their love would become stale and eventually they would fight he knew it wouldn’t work in the long term. On the second day he invited her to “where the wild roses grow” near the river. On the third day he set her down next to the river bed and knowing that she would never be as pure and savoured than on the first day he wished to preserve what was left of that purity by killing her. Elisa never suspected that the man was murderous only up until the last moment when he raised a rock above his head and struck her with it.
The combination of romance and horror truly make this song gothic themed. The clash of opposites only seems to make the story so much more tragic. The use of the up beat lyricism and romantic wording to describe each other at the beginning of the song add to the suspense that is hinted from the minor key the song is performed in. “From the first day I saw her I knew she was the one, she stared in my eyes and smiled, for her lips were the colour of the roses, that grew down the river, all bloody and wild”. This is a quote from the man describing Elisa. This is what we can call a turning point in the lyrics. He describes all the great things about her that was beautiful and caught his attention although it’s the way that he describes her lips that contradicts the seemingly nice thoughts he had about her. “Her lips were the colour of the roses, that grew down the river, all bloody and wild”. He describes her lips as being the colour of roses that grew wild. The roses are untamed. The colour of the roses weren’t simply that but the the colour of blood. Here we can see the two conflicting thought running through out the man’s mind. He loves her but he has death and darkness on his mind. The mind of a killer.
The way the song is performed sets the tone and mood of a gothic sound and deliverance. With Elisa explaining her thoughts throughout the days in an innocent manner and the man slowly altering his voice to become more edgy and raw, intending something violent. The switch between Elisa and the man verse by verse shows the build up of emotions of both romantic and murderous intention. The way the song is written is at a slow tempo and has a soft tone to it. Truly sets the tone and gives the listener a feel of sorrow not romance. Again this also an be seen as foreshadowing when analyzing the lyrics. The tone and the meaning can be seen as polar opposites at the beginning but towards the end become one in the same.
There are only two characters within this story so really you can only assign the villain and protagonist role to one or the other. It’s hard to assign them at first but after listening you know that it’s the man that’s the villain for murdering Elisa. Elisa is more of main character protagonist rather than a hero protagonist. She faces her fate as she was lied to rest on the edge of the river as the man she thought she loved killed her on the third day of their relationship.
Where the wild roses grow is definitely a departure from traditional songs where the narrative is loss or love for someone. It truly breaks what the normal storytelling side of songwriting is and evolves the possibilities of what can be commercially distributed through the music industry. Definitely not the song you want to blast at your 18th birthday party.