Picture this.

“Running her finger through the paper fold of the envelope, she tears it open, hurriedly unfolding the letter inside. Her eyes blur as they well up with tears upon reading the first line. It had been, what, three months since she had last heard from him?

She began to paint a mental picture of him as she read. Broad shoulders, windswept hair, a goofy smile. And of course, that ratty white t-shirt he loved to wear. His rustic, wooden guitar slung around his back, fingers strumming away as he crafted beautiful melodies with his crooning voice.

A smile spread across her face, brighter than the entirety of Times Square at night.”

Does this story introduction sound vaguely familiar? Think back to 2006 (yes, it’s been 12 years). You’re sitting in the car, driving home at night, whether it be coasting down an empty country road or sitting in the heat of city traffic. The radio is on, and acoustic guitar starts emitting from your speakers. You instantly recognize the chords as Tom Higgenson’s heartwarming voice fills your car with the rest of the Plain White T’s backing him up on their instruments.

“Hey there Delilah, what’s it like in New York City / I’m a thousand miles away but girl tonight you look so pretty, yes you do / Times Square can’t shine as bright as you, I swear it’s true.”

The tune “Hey there Delilah” by the Plain White T’s has never failed to hit fans in the heart and invites everyone to nostalgically think about a loved one who lives far away. The song became so popular that its legacy extended beyond the year 2006, transforming it into a mid-2000s classic that all millennials know the words to.

And now, its lyrics are going to be transposed onto the screen.

The Plain White T’s just announced that they are going to be creating a television series based off of the hit song. This new television show is envisioned to be a fairy tale set in the modern day, which fits perfectly with the song’s hopelessly romantic nature.

You might be confused, wondering how a four-minute song is going to be lengthened into a full television show storyline. That seems like a job for books, right?

Maybe not. Songs are just poetic fragments of a story set to tune, inspired by the writer’s experiences. You could think of it as a sort of “musical trailer” to build off of, and crafting a plot and characters just takes a bit more imagination.

Even though I love a good book to screen project, I am really enthused about the idea of going from song to the screen instead. Movies and television shows based off of beloved books only thrive when the scriptwriters and directors adhere closely to the storyline penned by the author. Yes, occasionally a slight change in plot or character personality is accepted, but the large majority of the time, fans resist change in screen portrayals of stories they have grown to love.

Readers’ hatred to see their favorite book modified for TV or movie adaption is largely based on the nature of books in general. Novels rely on heavy detail and depth to get their messages across, and fans have to be able to explicitly read and uncover inferences within the narrative to fully experience a book.

Songs are different. The factors are more diverse when creating a tune. Of course, the lyrics matter, as they carry the story. But the instrumentation, style, voice of the singer and level of emotion displayed in the song also carry weight in how the listener experiences the tune, and all of these elements allows individuals to make their own interpretation about the song.

Watching how someone else derives meaning from “Hey There Delilah” on screen could be seen as more of a creative portrayal of a different perspective rather than a distortion of a cherished storyline.

I’m ready to hear the story of Delilah through another medium.

Hopefully the Plain White T’s start a trend.

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Maya Ramani

University of Virginia

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