Audiomorph: “Nature Boy” – Lyrical Analysis in Relation to Alien Covenant

Introduction & Background

“Nature Boy” is a partly-autobiographical song first recorded by Nat King Cole in 1948. It was written by George Aberle, better known as Eden Ahbez, and was re-recorded by the Norwegian singer-songwriter Aurora. The song relates to Aberle’s mentor Bill Pestor, who introduced the artist to the Naturmenschand and Lebensreform (“life reform”) philosophies.

  • Naturmenschand: German for “Natural Person”
  • Lebensreform: German for “Life Reform”

These philosophies are known for their “return to nature” viewpoint, suggesting humanity live as they had hundreds of thousands of years ago. A “back-to-nature” lifestyle.

Aurora’s version of the song was used in the first trailer released for Alien: Covenant (2017):

Alien: Covenant Official Teaser Trailer

The lyrics (and even the story behind the song) are a perfect fit for the main character of the film – the android David. Well before the movie released, we were treated to a glimpse of what the film’s focus would be on through this particular song. Alien: Covenant would turn out to be very much focused on David over most of he characters introduced in the film, for better or for worse.

The use of “Nature Boy”, alongside “Take Me Home Country Roads” by John Denver, explores the use of music and lyrical meaning in the Alien universe (specifically Alien: Covenant). Let’s explore “Nature Boy” in this iteration of Audiomorph.


The Lyrics

There was a boy
A very strange enchanted boy
They say he wandered very far, very far
Over land and sea
A little shy and sad of eye
But very wise was he
And then one day
A magic day he passed my way
And while we spoke of many things
Fools and kings
This he said to me
“The greatest thing you’ll ever learn
Is just to love and be loved in return”
“The greatest thing you’ll ever learn
Is just to love and be loved in return”


Analysis

  1. There was a boy
    A very strange enchanted boy
David plays “The Entry of the Gods into Valhalla”, the song of his birth and triumph.

This, right away, references David most clearly. Not only is this played while David awakes and speaks to his creator Peter Weyland during the trailer, but it also references David as a boy. While boy could easily be a reference to Holloway’s sharp command to David in Prometheus (“You, boy! You’re coming with us” and “I almost forgot. You’re not a real boy.”), it also references David’s comparison to Pinocchio – a man-like construct that develops a soul over time. David, like Pinocchio, has no strings to tie him down anymore either during and after the events of Alien Covenant.

2. They say he wandered very far, very far
Over land and sea

Daniels uncovers the remains of the Prometheus expedition.

I take this as David’s journey aboard a Juggernaut trying to scope out the Engineer home world with Shaw. The Prometheus’ disappearance was a well-known event, according to dialogue between Walter and Daniels – so rumors of what happened to the rest of the crew, if there were any left, circulated once the mission became known. David is the classic Romantic poet, or hero. They travel far, appreciate nature and the grandeur/splendor of life. David walks barefoot, sheds all clothes save for his skin-tight blue suit. Leaves his hair unkempt and lives in a cave-like structure. His wanderings have changed him and he allowed them to do so. He has learned more than ever dared imagined before arriving on Planet 4, and now he has created something in honor of all he has learned – something very terrible indeed.

3. A little shy and sad of eye
But very wise was he

David prepares to commit creative genocide.

David presents himself as the antithesis of humanity and the preserver of the meaning of life. David alone decides that Shaw cannot decide her fate and uses her to create the Xenomorph. He decides the Engineers must be destroyed because they are no different than their creation. Ultimately, his own creators are flawed and are in need of destruction. They are dying anyways; they colonize the universe, they flee their home, and the grow more arrogant the more they believe that humanity is special. David’s true delusion lies in his own belief; he is as deluded as his creators, and as much as the Engineers were when they seeded the universe of life “because they could.”

David’s own hubris is mistaken (in his eyes) for earned wisdom. He hates his father, Peter Weyland, and orchestrated a meeting between he and the Last Engineer knowing full well what would happen. David would be free to be who he wants, unknowingly carrying that same arrogance and disdain for those around him. It is David who knows the Engineer language, David who does not need to sleep, David who can live forever, and David who can create life… just like those who came before him. He is falling down into the same trap that Engineer and Human fell into – something Walter sharply reminds him when David misattributes a quote to Byron.

Picking apart the song, we immediately recognize the correlation with whoever the narrator is talking about with David. But who could the narrator be?

My interpretation is the narrator is Walter, David’s more subservient counterpart brought by the Covenant mission.

4. And then one day
A magic day he passed my way
And while we spoke of many things
Fools and kings
This he said to me

David teaching Walter how to create. (screen capture from the scene located here).

This set of lyrics exemplifies my theory that the narrator is Walter. The Covenant android meets David in the fields of Planet 4, and goes on to explore who David is through dialogue – critical in the film to understand David’s motives and character development (as well as Walter’s own disposition and nature).

“Fools and kings” should be obvious – Peter Weyland fits the title of fool and, maybe more broadly, human beings in general. Weyland was a fool because he thought he could harness life for his own purposes and extend his own in the vain belief he was worthy of Godhood. Humans are fools, according to David, because they are already a species heading for extinction and do not deserve to begin again.

Kings could be a reference to the Engineers – the great Life Givers of the universe, the ones who decide what lives and what dies, what is created and what is destroyed. Notice though how they are mentioned alongside fools – not an accident, I assume, as David believes them to be as fallible and unworthy of creation as human beings.

5. This he said to me
“The greatest thing you’ll ever learn
Is just to love and be loved in return”
“The greatest thing you’ll ever learn
Is just to love and be loved in return”

“Walter” comes to collect Daniels. (from Alien: Covenant.)

This last section of lyrics reminds me of how David seemed to want to be loved – whether it was from Shaw, Walter or Daniels. His dabble into creation allowed David to explore his more sexually frustrated side- the side he was not allowed to have. This manifests itself in his obsession with Shaw, his attempt to persuade Walter, and his infatuation of Daniels for his next creative project.


Iterations

If you would like to experience different versions of “Nature Boy”, we have collected a series of versions together here for your listening pleasure. May they inspire thoughts of creation, destruction, and beauty in you!

Nat King Cole, 1948
David Bowie, 2001
Aurora, 2016

References

  • “Hippie Roots & The Perennial Subculture”. Hippy.com. Archived from the original on August 30, 2007.
  • “Little Known Brooklyn Residents: eden ahbez”. Brooklyn Public Library. July 22, 2010. Archived from the original on March 10, 2013.
  • Warner, Sam (December 25, 2016). “Alien: Covenant’s first trailer is finally here, and it’s seriously chilling”. Digital Spy.