Love Songs: “Water Sign”


On Music

Mosaic in Maltezana. Wikimedia Commons, licensed under CCO 3.0.

This week, the Review is publishing a series of short reflections on love songs, broadly defined. 

Parliament’s “(You’re a Fish and I’m a) Water Sign” is an unabashed ode to passion, to the base and the sensual, to the possibilities of love in the juiciest ways it can exist between people. The song moans into being, a beseeching follows, then there’s a bass so low you can’t possibly get under it, and finally the central question is posed: “Can we get down?” In true Parliament fashion, the tune doesn’t follow a traditional verse-chorus-bridge structure; it consists of an ever-evolving chorus that departs from the lines “I want to be / on the seaside of love with you / let’s go swimming / the water’s fine.” The arrangement is magnificent and the execution velvety, and the soulful, overlapping ad-libs of George Clinton, Walter “Junie” Morrison, and Ron Ford are just romantic lagniappe. Add the production of the track itself, with its big band-y rise of horns and whimsical flourishes atop the funky bassline, and the song is a liquid love affair that pulls you under and takes you there. It’s orgasmic.“Water Sign” is the B side to the much more well-known “Aqua Boogie (A Psychoalphadiscobetabioaquadoloop),” from Parliament’s 1978 hit album Motor Booty Affair. While “Aqua Boogie” is told from the point of view of a person who is afraid of water, having never learned to swim, “Water Sign” shows us how beautiful and liberating it can be to get swept away.

Addie E. Citchens is the author of “A Good Samaritan,” out in the Reviews Winter Issue.