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Song Analysis: Stone Temple Pilots’ “Sour Girl” 

Stone Temple Piolets’ “Sour Girl” has probably aged better than the rest of their music. Their hooky distorted guitar driven hits are not quite as relevant as they used to be and have become closely associated with grunge, a very particular type of music of the ’90s. Yet “Sour Girl” remains distinct as a statement of artistry, showcasing the bands groove and synergy, along with Weiland’s delicate genius as a lyricist and vocalist.

A punchy baseline hits staccato 1/8 notes, transposed against an acoustic guitar as well as a clear toned electric guitar–what sounds like a Fender Stratocaster. Meanwhile, the vocal melody is complex and adroit, Weiland’s voice is clear with a little compression and reverb, giving him a vulnerable and authentic tone.

The Lyrics and Analysis

She turned away, what was she looking at?

She was a sour girl the day that she met me

Hey, what are you looking at?

She was a happy girl the day that she left me

Given that she was “a sour girl the day that she met me,” we are forewarned that this is a woman with a predisposition for depression. The speaker kind of knew that going into the relationship, so he couldn’t’ be too surprised if it didn’t work out.  

Hey, what are you looking at? 

This repeated line coyly tells the listeners to look away, while only serving to draw them in further. It also suggests a certain blamelessness. Yes, his relationship failed spectacularly, but don’t look at him for culpability or blame. 

She was a happy girl the day that she left me

This is a kind of dark humor, self-deprecating resignation.  To leave the speaker is to be happy because he’s so impossible to be with, a disaster. This line sets the tone for the song, a world-weary yet resigned attitude towards his dissolved relationship.  

What would you do?

What would you do if I follow you?

What would you do? I follow, what would you do if I followed you? 

The chorus is merely a sweet nothing, sung to a Beatlesque melody which sounds quite beautiful, as the music switches to a major key. Weiland’s voice is layered several times over, and floats nicely into falsetto. The key change is effective as the acoustic guitar returns to the groove of the verse riff.  

The girl got reasons

They all got reasons

Again, this is the resigned attitude towards his relationships, in which he feels like a failure.  All these women leave, and they all have their reasons; but what is inevitable is that they will leave.  

Don’t turn away, what are you looking at?

He was so happy on the day that he met her

Say, what are you looking at?

I was a superman but looks are deceiving

This line seems the most autobiographical; Weiland the rock star, a would-be superman, but also Weiland the addict. Yet one need not be addicted to drugs to connect with Weiland’s sense of being a relationship failure. “Sour Girl” is thought to have been penned about Weiland’s ex-wife. Indeed, according to

“Scott Weiland wrote the lyric about his first wife, Janina Castaneda. They got married in 1994, just as Stone Temple Pilots were becoming one of the biggest bands in America. Weiland admitted that he put her through hell with his capricious behavior that stemmed from his addictions.”

This confirms the impression one has without any of that context that the speaker is disappointed with himself, yet also takes an ironic attitude towards his own failure. One need not impose Weiland’s personal situation in order to extract meaning to a song which speaks to a universal self-disappointment, as “Sour Girl” does. 

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