Saturday, February 4, 2012

Song Sung Blues

So, I was messing around on the computer the other day and got a lesson in YouTube Videos NOT To Click On Before Work.

I was reading some Jezebel post or other and the commenters were talking about Adele's song Someone Like You, and how it was the perfect sad song--not the perfect song ever forever, but the perfect sad song, in that no matter where you were or what you were doing, if you heard Someone Like You, you were garuanteed to burst into tears. Many agreements were on the thread, mentioning unfortunate encounters with "Adele bombs" at the grocery store, gym, random ipod selection on the bus, etc.

Well, I had to hunt down this song, naturally. I'd heard of Adele and been "eh, not bad, she's got some lungs on her" about her big hit Rolling in the Deep, but hadn't listened to her whole album or anything.

Luckily I was on the mighty interweb, so hunting down the tune was as easy as going to YouTube, typing Adele Someo... and suffering through a brief commercial for some detergent I made a mental note to never buy. And then the song came on.

Well, slap my rump and call me Rosie, but this is definitely was, if not the perfect sad song, the strongest contender I'd come across in many a long year.

It's very well performed and performed in the correct manner: i.e., Adele wrote this song herself, and wrote it to her strengths as a vocalist: strong belting but not too polished, not too rich. And not too much in the other direction, that of "bare stage and no sound system"; the Emo Saddies, you know the ones. It's a duo consisting of a boy and girl in matching cardigans and annoying bangs and you're not sure whether they're brother/sister or husband/wife but both options are, frankly, equally offputting, and they call themselves something like The Dormouse and the Chickadee and they're self-promoting their self-produced album Tiny Songs of Hibernation, and they have matching guitars and just stand there staring at their Converses while they chirp and peep their endless string of "we know one cord but that didn't stop us" tunes into a cheap, feedbacking microphone. Yes, you are so deep, little children. Don't forget to stop by the Goodwill on the way home for more ugly corduroy pants.

Nope, this was totally different. And the biggest yanker of the heartstrings, besides the performance values, was the lyrics. More to the point, the specificity of the lyrics.

Adele the writer understood that the way to really, really sink your claws into a listener's heart and turn it slowly to blue was to make the song being performed as specific, as accurate, as possible. It has to be a rendition of the worst moment of your life, your personal, individual existence. This has to be about the moment when you heard about the other person in your first really important relationship--the first person you thought about marrying, about actually desiring a enduring bond--that they have a new life, one containing a happy marriage and two kids and everything is apparently peachy. And it's not like you wanted him back, or anything, you're not jealous. And you truly do want nothing but the best for him. And hell you've moved on too, shit, yes, you have; so why does it feel like an arrow has been thrust through your back and between your ribs and is just nudging the anterior of your heart?

By making the song so pointed, so individual, Adele triggers the long (or short) dormant heartbreak in everybody's psyche. Because everybody has one. The relationships were all different, the endings were all different, the fights or civil discussions were all different. But the moment you heard

I heard
that you've
settled down
that you've
met a girl
and you're
married now

BAM you were right back to that moment when you heard the same. The moment that's the same for every listener.

And you hold it together at first, but then you hear the line

Don't forget me, I beg

And *sniffle*snurfle*whaaaaAAAAAAHHHHH.... you're off because when was the last time someone understood that what you're mourning is not the loss of a physical, real world relationship but the loss of being special in someone's heart? If that someone forgets, do you exist a little less? That particular best version of you that could only exist between you and that person and suddenly you're just a little bit more of a ghost? Don't forget me, I beg. I don't begrudge moving out of your heart but just keep me somewhere in your mind? Please?

Hell, I'm getting all lumpy throated just thinking about it, and I've only listened to the damn song a couple of times. I only remember one or two lines, for God's sake, and look at me. Sorry, I didn't mean to get all poetry notebook on everyone, so we'll leave the subject here for now. I was going to talk about Death Cab For Cutie's I Will Follow You Into the Dark next, but enough with the puffy face and smeary eyes for one post.To make up for it, here's the Saturday Night Live sketch about Someone Like You:

And whatever you do, don't go listening to the real thing:


  1. AWWWW!


    My poor little blueberry!

  2. Saddest song I can think of is 'Cold,Cold Heart', by Hank Williams. But NOT performed by Ol' Hank! Elvis? Noop.

    Barbara Pittman.

    It sounds SO hollow and cold and alone and sad where she is, like she's all alone on stage in a big, dark, empty amphitheater. Haunting, it be.

    . . .

    Of course, the song that gets the most emotional response out of me that I can think of is White Lion's 'Wait'.

    *freezes--darts eyes around--slowly crawls under couch*

  3. Okay, we've been together for a decade and I'm just now hearing this...

    *Heads off to YouTube for Pittman and White Lion listening*

  4. I think I'll wait to look up these songs till I'm at home...and my bed is handy...on my day off...