"La Cienega Just Smiled" as written by and R Adams....
Oh the night, here it comes again
It's on with the jeans, the jacket and a shirt
How'd I end up feeling so bad
For such a little girl

And I hold you close in the back of my mind
Feels so good but damn it makes me hurt
And I'm too scared to know how I feel about you now
La Cienega just smiled, "see you around"

And I hold you close in the back of my mind
Raise my glass 'cause either way I'm dead
Neither of you really help me to sleep anymore
One breaks my body and the other breaks my soul
La Cienega just smiles, waves goodbye

Oh the night, here it comes again
It's off with the jeans, the jacket and the shirt
How'd I end up feeling so bad
For such a little girl

And I hold you close in the back of my mind
Feels so good but damn it makes me hurt
I'm too scared to know how I feel about you now
How I feel about you now
La Cienega just smiles and says, "I'll see you around"


Lyrics submitted by ang, edited by atrium13

"La Cienega Just Smiled" as written by Ryan Adams

Lyrics © BMG RIGHTS MANAGEMENT US, LLC

Lyrics powered by LyricFind

La Cienega Just Smiled song meanings
Add your thoughts

53 Comments

sort form View by:
  • +4
    My InterpretationMy all-time favorite Ryan Adams song. I've listened to this so many times. I feel the song is about a girl he has fallen in love with who lives in an area off of La Cienaga Blvd in LA. He's fallen completely in love with her but she doesn't feel the same way. He's a mess because of it. The nights are the most difficult (as they always seem to be after break-ups).

    "Feels so good but damn it makes me hurt" I think refers to how great the memories are but it hurts so bad because it's all over.

    She doesn't want to see him anymore so he know he's not going to be in her neighborhood again - "La Cienega waves goodbye." This hits home to me as it's always sad when you realize you're no longer going to be going to your girlfriend's/boyfriend's house.

    I love the line about "one breaks my body and the other breaks my soul." Basically, he thinks about her all the time. The only way out is to drink, and drink. Drinking breaks his body but continually thinking about her breaks his soul.

    Amazing song all around.
    wombats3on January 27, 2012   Link
  • +3
    Song MeaningI always thought it was about a girl he was sleeping with, but not committed to. She was in it for the fun of it too, but he's beginning to fall for her. He's afraid to admit to himself how he feels about her, but one way or another he's screwed... if he falls for her she will break his heart when she stops sleeping with him. If he doesn't fall for her, his heart will still be broken when she stops sleeping with him because he will feel rejected.

    But now I have a little different opinion. I think it's about a girl he let go of, and he's afraid to admit to himself that he has feelings for her and screwed up. La cienaga literally means marsh... perhaps everytime he gets drunk she fills his head and heart again, and he's stuck. If you look for la cienega long enough online, you'll also come across "knot." So la cienega is the marsh (alcohol and heartbreak) that he will be stuck in again tomorrow night, as he tries to drink away the girl that he is slowly admitting to himself that he should not have let go.
    burningphotographson May 29, 2009   Link
  • +2
    General CommentMaybe, but I feel like it can be expressive of any moment in which you realize the girl you care about doesn't care about you anymore (and maybe never did). The "I'll see you around" is that key phrase that lets you know.

    There's also the monotony of "jeans, jacket, and shirt". He goes out every weekend night, looking for love, developing relationships, and all to no avail.

    This song is about that moment: just when you think you've got it, and she don't give a shit...
    davidecoyoteon November 11, 2004   Link
  • +2
    General Commenti think this song is about ryan, who is in a very serious relationship with some girl, who he's been with for awhile, and naturally, lately its been growing a little stale. That's when he meets the new girl, who is cute and innocent and new, and who he really begins to like and want, but can't, because he feels restrained down by his other "love".
    blind_gunmanon March 21, 2005   Link
  • +2
    General Commentthere is a guy who loves a girl who is possibly a bit younger than him and who he is better off with because the love seems pure yet tainted. it is tainted with the other woman who he finds himself with too but is there more to bide his time with and fill the void, because he finds himself somehow going back to the younger girl despite the fact it is by now it is too worn out.bascially i am rambling, for the simpple fact that this song, when i first heard it and read the lyrics, it got me..its amazing how a complete stranger can word things so right to fit exactly what you are feeling..i guess we are all human and share alot of the same emotions.
    Konstantine_18on May 31, 2007   Link
  • +2
    General CommentThis has always been one of my favorite songs. Lately, it means something more to me. Me and a friend started sleeping with each other and naturally I ended up getting hurt because I began to get attached. When we talked about what was going on, the guy teared up and said "You have no idea how hard it is to try to tell someone that you care so much about as a friend that you don't love them"... I feel this song is exactly what the guy was going through. Sure, the act of having sex feels good but once you realize what you're doing to the other person, it hurts.
    "la cienega just smiles and says, 'i'll see you around' "-- I feel like I was that girl... I kinda knew what was going, there was no attachment on his side but I wanted to stay positive.
    I do think you could take this song any way you want to... that's just my interpretation
    jessmecaon September 02, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General CommentLa Cienega is the girl... the one he loves even though it hurts him. He keeps going back to this girl and hurting her and she tries to stay brave "La Cienega just smiled...see you around". He feels the guilt but yet can't help how he feels so tries to forget but can't "I hold you close in the back of my mind."

    Beautiful song
    maroonsaltireon September 21, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General CommentThe part that strikes me is the third verse "oh the night, here it comes again it's off with the jeans, the jacket and the shirt." In the first verse he put them on when the night came, but the second time he took them off. This makes me think drugs are at work more than a prostitute. Out all night and day binging, then you come down and go back home beat. I think that he's addicted and in love, but he can't kick the addiction and he knows its gonna ruin his relationship. When he mentions La cienega I think he's talking about his source. "just smiles and says I'll see you around" - always knowing he'll be back for more.

    Just my opinion. I could see it going in a lot of different directions on this one.
    mr_head86on November 28, 2008   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI don't think this song is about him being torn between two women.. I tried to reread the lyrics a few times to see it from that point of view but to me... It's about one girl. by "little" she may be younger, or petite, or just fragile..i agree that the "on with the jeans, the jacket and the shirt" is him going through the everyday motions.. i don't know what la cienega means.. but i think maybe it's the girl and how she can say the smallest thing "see ya around" like it's nothing, but he feels so intensely for her.

    i think the song is about alcohol also, when he says:

    "and raise my glass 'cause either way i'm dead
    neither of you really help me to sleep anymore
    one breaks my body and the other breaks my soul
    la cienega just smiles as it waves goodbye"

    he'll drink because either way he's in pain. "neither one of you really help me to sleep anymore" to me means, that the drinking doesn't make him sleep better either. nothing really numbs it. the "one breaks my body and the other breaks my soul", the alcohol being what breaks his body (bad for him physically), and "the other breaks my soul"... SHE breaks his soul.

    :/i don't know. just my two cents.
    BrookieCookieon April 09, 2009   Link
  • +1
    My InterpretationI think the song is about him having an affair with a younger girl, who ends up being his true love. I think he is battling with the fact she is younger, he fears this is just infatuation for her and not really true love and so daren’t risk what he has in fear the young girl will grow tiresome and leave him eventually anyway. However, I don’t think he leaves her, I think she leaves him, despite her love for him, knowing he will never believe her and has to be cruel to be kind and set him free in the misguided knowledge he will one day get over her. I think this is an incredibly sad and romantic song about two people who love each other so much they believe that by being apart, no matter how much it hurts, it is the right thing to do for the sake of the other person. It is out of pure love they have to break away from each other. I think he is trying to justify the split, with excuses such as her age and her faked nonchalance.

    "Ah the night...here it comes again
    It's on with the jeans, the jacket and the shirt"

    - I think this is him remembering the begin of the affair, the little extra effort he made with his appearance, the excitement of this new relationship, the night that he has been looking forward to all day when he gets to see her.

    "How'd I end up feeling so bad
    For such a little girl"

    - This is confession at falling for the girl when he obviously didn’t think he would. It emphasises how incredible he sees this girl to be, she won him over when he obviously sees this is as a near impossible thing to do, and he’s asking how she managed to make him fall so deep. It’s also a hint at her being younger than him, he’s saying he should have known better, i.e. an older woman might have been able to trick him, but how could a young innocent girl have such an effect on his emotions, he should have been more in control.

    "And I hold you close in the back of my mind"

    - This could be a hint that the end of this relationship has come, but that he will never forget her. In his mind they will always be with each other, he will always really belong to her and vice versa. This is also a hint that their relationship/affair will always remain secret, he cannot tell anyone, just bury his memories and his love for her in a place where no one can take it away from him.

    "Feels so good but damn it makes me hurt
    And I'm too scared to know to how I feel about you now"

    - I think these lines signify that he never intended to fall so deep. Perhaps it is forbidden, he is trying to deny the feelings he has for her. It is him reminding himself that no matter how much he loves her, it is because of these very feelings that it had to end.

    "La Cienega just smiles..."see ya around"

    - His view of her reaction is one of acceptance but it’s a forced acceptance. They both knew from the start they could never be together exclusively. She is putting on a brave face for him.

    "And raise my glass 'cause either way I'm dead
    Neither of you really help me to sleep anymore
    One breaks my body and the other breaks my soul"

    - He knows that he must get out of this self pity; even if he had left his woman/wife/long term partner and risked everything for this girl, there would still be no perfect ending as it would cause so much pain. Whatever he does there will be heartache, it’s a lose-lose situation anyway. He realises the amount of heartache this girl and the affair they’ve been having has already caused him as it is. These are almost fake feelings though as it because he loves her so much he has to try and justify the split with whatever reason he can think of to stop himself returning to her. The raising his glass is the realisation that he has to keep smiling and carry on, he has to hide his heartache and carry on as normal, perhaps to his family, wife or friends he could never tell of his affair to.

    "La Cienega just smiles as it waves goodbye"

    - I think this part is the study of her goodbye, deep down he is searching for something to change this goodbye, he doesn’t want it to be happening. He hates how clinical and matter of fact it is. He hates how she is being the mature one, when he, the older one should be taking that role when instead he is breaking inside. He hates the weakness he feels about himself for having to let her be the one to make the cut, to put on the brave face for him.

    "Ah the night...here it comes again
    It's off with the jeans, the jacket and the shirt"

    - This time when he remarks about the night coming again, it is said in a feeling of monotony, back to the dull nights again. The taking off of the clothes is a metaphor for the lies coming off, a sense of relief almost though there are also stronger connotations of a feeling of sadness at not having this little girl to impress anymore. He no longer cares, the happy, vibrant person he was with the girl has been left behind, he back to his quiet, boring, usual self. It is ‘off’ with the lies, the deceit and the facade but even more so it is off with the contentment, the happiness, the love and the feeling of inner peace this girl brought him.

    I think that he calls this girl 'La Cienega' is perhaps that if is a girl he's had an affair with he has been used to having a fake name for her, perhaps on his phone/email/hotels etc. As 'La Ceinega' is spanish for 'marsh' or 'swamp' it could also connate that she is foreign to him and his world yet an exotic and welcome intrusion on his once boring exsistance, however, the translation of 'marsh' suggests this once foreign girl has become his one familiarity. The choice of 'marsh/swamp' could also be a metaphor for her completely consuming him and sucking him into her.
    sarabbbon July 08, 2010   Link

Add your thoughts

Log in now to tell us what you think this song means.

Don’t have an account? Create an account with SongMeanings to post comments, submit lyrics, and more. It’s super easy, we promise!

Back to top
explain