Elton John had it wrong – or rather Bernie Taupin if you prefer. Sad songs are not the ones that say so much – it’s only a special type of sad song; where there’s hope peeking through, where there’s an attempt at stoicism – the head being held high, an aim to move on, an attempt at rebirth or a new direction. The song can convey the struggle but there needs to be a hope for resolution, a hint of a revelation.
I’m not usually a guy to play the same song over and again – I still work through albums (occupational hazard) and I move on to the next in the pile before returning. Usually. It’s rare that I instantly repeat-play an album. But it does happen. That’s part of the (reviewing) process too sometimes. Eventually.
But I’ll always remember being entranced by the magic of one song in particular. It sold me. It was a new one by Natalie Merchant. She’d just released her new album, self-titled, her first of original material in 13 years. And the whole album is a joy. There’s more than one amazing song on it – but the song Giving Up Everything just had me. From first listen. And then again. And again. You’d call it a career highlight – but Merchant has offered several on every album she’s released. Hers is an immaculate solo career. The only thing you could ever ask for is one or two further albums – but actually she’s got it spot on I think. The timing is always right. She’s delivering the right amount. There’s always a wait, there’s always the weight of expectation.
I love the self-titled album.
But the song Giving Up Everything is what sold me. Check out the lyrics – it speaks to exactly what I was aiming to explain in that opening paragraph. A sad song, but there’s a freedom found. There’s something very special in this song.
Perhaps I’m at an age and stage too where I can happily admit to being a Natalie Merchant fan – though I think I’ve always sung her praises, at least whenever I’ve reviewed her albums.
I gave up any notion of being cool before I ever aimed for it – and of all the stupid lines and lazy taunts I receive daily, weekly, weakly, the dumbest – ever – is when someone tells me I “no longer have any credibility”. I’ve never had any. Never aimed for any. Never wanted anything resembling that sort of arbitrarily assigned version of responsibility.
So there I am one night in the car and though silence might have been the best accompaniment to the very short drive home I can’t help myself. Most waking hours have some sort of soundtrack, a podcast, an album, a movie or TV show…that’s just how you fit it in…
With a few minutes in the car only I chose Giving Up and it is the perfect reflection.
Natalie Merchant’s song feels like a perfect song. I couldn’t imagine what went into the creation of it. Couldn’t imagine any suggestion that could make it better. You’d wonder if it arrived fully formed. An outpouring of an idea based – so clearly, so obviously – on the experience of a life. A huge life lesson.
It’s kept me sane. But more than that it feels like the greatest inspiration.
And in those words, and in the way they are framed, I heard and saw some beauty in this world.
So thanks Natalie Merchant. For Giving Up Everything
Some 13 years between albums. But writing that song is a task that could take a lifetime, that requires all the living up to that point to exist, to be created. And then it’s passed on into this world. And my world sure feels a little better for hearing it, for knowing it.
You can support Off The Tracks via PressPatron