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Well there is this new Lana's song and I can't understand the grammar of the title at all. What does the title mean in whole and what does the last "to" mean?

Thanks in advance.

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    Music to dance to: music used for people to dance while that music is playing. So extrapolate. Sep 11 '15 at 14:44
  • Yeah that makes it clear! Thank you Peter! However the last "to" is something from the verb "watch" or to the noun "music"?
    – Johnny
    Sep 11 '15 at 14:47
  • @Johnny: Compare I like to dance to music and I like dancing to music. Sep 11 '15 at 15:02
  • @Johnny: the last "to" is from the phrase dance to [some kind of music or rhythm], and doesn't really belong with "watch" at all. Sep 11 '15 at 20:12
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It means "music to listen to while watching boys," that is, a musical accompaniment to the activity of watching boys. You wouldn't use it in formal writing (at least I wouldn't), but it's a kind of cutesy way to describe the mood of the music.

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  • So the last "to" is from the verb "listen"?
    – Johnny
    Sep 11 '15 at 14:48
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    That's a good question . . . .Others may have a better technical answer but it seems to me that in the original title, "listening" is implied by "music," because we know that's what we do to music. Similarly, you could say "she went to sleep to the sound of rain on the roof," which means "she went to sleep (listening to) the sound of rain on the roof"; we know that "listen" is what we do to sound. Without that triggering word ("music" or "sound") it doesn't work . . . we would not say "she went to sleep to the rain on the roof." Hope that helps.
    – vstrong
    Sep 11 '15 at 15:05
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The particular wording of the title suggests that Lana may be acquainted with a 1967 song called "Music to Watch Girls By" by Bob Crewe Generation (1966). Andy Williams released a version of the song with lyrics in 1967.

In any event, idiomatic English allows you to watch boys (or girls) to music, just as as it allows you to do chores to music: the music plays, and you watch (or work).

Whether you can watch girls (or boys) by music—analogously to the way you can color a picture by number, for example—is more problematic. But in this case Bob Crew's song title might have been echoing an even earlier song—"Standing on the Corner (Watching All the Girls Go By)"—a show tune by Frank Loesser from The Most Happy Fella, released as a 45-rpm single that same year by the Four Lads.

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  • I was thinking that Lana could have used by just as easily as to. I'm glad you added this reference.
    – J.R.
    Sep 12 '15 at 9:40
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It's an odd grammatical structure, in the form of:

PLURAL NOUN to VERB PREPOSITION

which means, essentially,

This noun is good to use when doing this verb

So, for example, if we make a play list with a lot of upbeat songs, we might entitle it:

Music to Exercise To

Or, we could burn our favorite dance songs onto a CD, and write on the jewel case:

Songs to Dance To

If we made a list of self-help books that offered good time management tips, we might entitle the list:

Books to Manage Your Time With

A rather common one of these is:

Words to Live By

which refers to maxims and proverbs promoting a safe or healthy lifestyle (this one even gets its own entry in The Free Dictionary).

So, in the song title, Lana is referring to music she likes to hear while she is watching boys.

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As vstrong has suggested, it means the music to enjoy while watching boys.

To me the title has a hint of a slightly lewd meaning as in "a photo to masturbate to".

But it is still catchy, which will do as a song's title.

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    The lewdness is certainly not going to be a universal reaction to the title. A lot of women spend a lot of time watching or gossiping about guys, and vice versa, and when my friends talk about watching men, they usually mean it quite literally.
    – Karen
    Sep 11 '15 at 18:12
  • yeah, of course, but listen to music while watching them? that's a bit "not too common" I guess... Sep 11 '15 at 18:16
  • I'm with @Karen. It's susceptible to the lewd interpretation, I guess, but I don't think the title itself suggests it. As in, music to listen to at the beach while you watch boys/girls, or if you're in high school, maybe peeking at some sports practice. See also, the O'Kaysions "I'm a Girl-Watcher."
    – vstrong
    Sep 11 '15 at 19:20
  • @vstrong thanks for the sports practice example. I got what you mean. Sep 11 '15 at 19:22
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As the lyrics says, "Putting on my music while I’m watching the boys", so the meaning of the title is quite clear. As to the question 'what does the last "to" mean?', well, if you can "dance to the music" (that is while the music is being played), so you can "watch boys to the music" (though it sounds somehow weird). Of course, you can put it as "watch boys (while listening) to the music", but in fact that is not necessary.

P.S. By the way, Lana herself used to babysit, even after she got famous:

"... during a 2012 interview with the Huffington Post, Del Rey admitted she still babysat just as she had before the release of "Video Games" and the successes that followed. Lana discussed the gig as an example of the quiet life she prefers to lead."

http://pigeonsandplanes.com/2015/08/lana-del-rey-trivia/s/lana-babysitting-after-video-games/

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  • Well, looks like the song is not about babysitting, but rather about "watching boys leave", so the title should read "Music to watch boys leave to", that is music a girl puts on when she watch her boy(s) leave her. Sep 12 '15 at 7:30

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