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A definitive ranking of songs called 'Green Light' based on their knowledge of the highway code

Lorde might have had a triumphant 2017, but how well does she understand road safety?

A definitive ranking of songs called 'Green Light' based on their knowledge of the highway code
03 January 2018

Ella Marija Lani Yelich-O’Connor – or Lorde to her mates – returned to the pop fold in 2017 and, by all accounts, was triumphant.

Melodrama, like Pure Heroine before it, was adored by the critics and, in particular, it was lead single ‘Green Light’ which attracted the plaudits.

But the first thing that sprung to mind when we saw that title was not “what does it sound like?” or even, “is it any good?” but “God that reminds us of that absolute banger by Roll Deep”.

And the second thing that sprung to mind was, we wonder what this, and all of the many other songs that people have made called ‘Green Light’ can teach us about road safety?

This is what we discovered.

7. Sonic Youth

We’ll be honest with you: it’s a bit noisy this one.

But what’s going on in the lyrics?

“I kneel before the green light of her singing crayon eyes
And then I kiss her stomach and it's then I realise: Her light is the night
I'm not blind, I believe in you. I see a green light.”

You shouldn’t really be kissing anyone’s stomach if you’re within the vicinity of a green light. You’d be on a public highway and not fully in control of the vehicle. We expect the British Transport Police would have some harsh words to say about that.

Use of traffic light metaphor: Low

Road safety awareness: Poor

6. Lorde

It was an unexpected style of comeback track from Lorde – a sort of low-key clubby pop track – but it absolutely worked; quite a departure from her Pure Heroine sound, but it still sounded very much like her. 

But never mind that, what does it teach us about road safety?

“I do my makeup in somebody else’s car”

Fine, as long as either a) She is the passenger in that car, or b) The car is stationary. Additionally, we must be sure that she is in that car with the appropriate permission from the owner and, if driving, is fully insured to be in charge of that vehicle. That she does not reference any of the these conditions in the lyrics worries us greatly.

“But honey I’ll be seein’ you down every road
I’m waiting for it, that green light, I want it
‘Cause honey I’ll come get my things, but I can’t let go
I’m waiting for it, that green light, I want it”

If she is hallucinating and seeing the same person down every road, she shouldn’t really be driving. And if she is following someone so that, by default, she sees them down every road, she is likely crawling along and holding up traffic, also very much a no-no.

Nonetheless, she is waiting for a green light, and not travelling through on red, and amber, so at least she is aware of that. Overall, though, hugely disappointing.

Use of traffic light metaphor: Moderate

Road safety awareness: Seemingly quite poor

5. John Legend & André 3000

An absolute banger, this. Fair play John and André.

But onto the more important issue of road safety. 

Legend sings:

“We can go all night
Give me the green light
I'm ready to go right now”

This set of lyrics is very troubling. Firstly addressing “Give me the green light/I’m ready to go right now” – impatience is never a good thing when it comes to driving, John. One must remain in control of the vehicle at all times. The green light will come on when it is good and ready.

Meanwhile, “We can go all night” – can we John? Can we really? The 2008 Think! campaign encourages drivers to take a 15-minute break in every two hours of driving and one of its key messages is: “Tiredness kills. Make time for a break”. You cannot go all night, John, you can go for 105 minutes in every 120 minute period.

Use of traffic light metaphor: Extensive

Road safety awareness: Low

4. Jamie Lidell

According to Jamie Lidell:

“All you have'ta do is
Just give yourself the green light”

No Jamie. You cannot give yourself the green light, you must wait for it. Unless, of course, he is referring to the new cycle superhighways in London where, if the cyclist wants to continue along the path, they must press the button in order for the traffic light system to allow them a passage where the cycle lane green light will display. If the button is not pressed, the cyclist phase of the traffic light system is skipped, in order to achieve maximum efficiency. So, in this sense, one must ‘give themselves’ the green light.

However this song came out in 2008, before the creation of the cycle superhighway, which means that this is unlikely.

Nice tune though.

Use of traffic light metaphor: Low

Road safety awareness: Inadvertently moderately good

3. R. Kelly

First off – and hold onto your chair lest you fall off in shock – it’s a slow jam. Thematically, it describes Kelly explaining to a girl: “See I know what you need is a little stimulation, girl/Now I'm not trying to player hate/Girl I'm just tired of hearing you say/That he don't be there for you/Well I make a hell of a substitute’ and that she should ‘Give the green light, baby girl, and I'll go’” He adds, in verse three: ‘Girl I wanna ride but the light is red, yeah, I wanna satisfy your body from feet to head.’

What Mr Kelly appears to be implying here, in the most subtle of manners, using the metaphor of a traffic light and a car (perhaps he should have also mentioned something about a key in the ignition too), is that the girl in question should leave her current partner and engage in THE SEX with him. So it’s real lyrical departure from Kelly’s usual oeuvre.

While this song is, ironically, the sound of R. Kelly on autopilot, his knowledge of the traffic light system is exemplary.

Use of traffic light metaphor: Extensive

Road safety awareness: Excellent

2. Beyoncé

Seriously what a banger. The Neptunes in their imperial phase, Bey when she was still doing straight up funky pop tunes. And there’s a trombone solo.

Wikipedia informs me that lyrically, the work is “a break-up song in which the female protagonist gives her love interest the permission to move out”. Certainly, this interpretation is borne out in the words, which run thus: “Ain't no problem, you can go/I'm gon' find somebody else/So why not move along?/You got the green light, so you can go”.

Green does indeed enable you to ‘go’, while she observes, additionally, in verse two that, ‘You holdin' up traffic, green means go’. Rule 169 of the Highway Code states: “Do not hold up a long queue of traffic, especially if you are driving a large or slow-moving vehicle”, so Bey is absolutely 100% accurate with her statement. 

Use of traffic light metaphor: Extensive

Road safety awareness: Excellent

1. Roll Deep

It goes without saying that, musically, Roll Deep’s brief excursion into pop-dance back in 2010 was absolutely brilliant. There can be no doubt that it is definitely a superior song to everything else on this list.

But, even better than that, it is highly conscious of road safety.

Just check out these lyrics: “I follow the green cross code, then I cross the road/I follow the signs then I follow my nose”.

Not only are they advising drivers to use traffic lights correctly, but they’re also informing pedestrians that the Green Cross Code is still as relevant as ever.

They continue: “Stop! Take a look, left and right. Is it clear for me to go? Let me know, is it me that you've been waitin' for.”

Absolutely exemplary advice from the Roll Deep crew.

Use of traffic light metaphor: Extensive

Road safety awareness: Extensive, both on and off road