One thing I have been thinking about lately is reversal in music. Because a lot of the music I’ve been working on this summer is rooted in the juxtaposition of the beauty of love and the pain of love lost (and, often, the almost instantaneous, jarring transition from one to the other), I’ve really been overt in reversing the trajectory of my songs at times. The two saddest songs at the moment are tentatively named “Doubt” and “Darkest.” I am quite certain that everyone (myself included) will get them mixed up if I don’t change of of their names. But I digress. Both songs start out describing a love affair. “Doubt” talks about a love that takes a lot of work, but is still rooted in a deep connection. The chorus simply states “(But) I’m still in love with you/ I never loved anybody else/ Oh, I’m still in love with you.” However, the chorus changes at the end. As the song progresses, the couple find it impossible to bridge the gap that has grown between them, and in the last chorus, they sing new words to the same tune: “So what is love to you/ Oh, what is love to you?/ I doubt if I knew you/ I doubt I knew you.” And that’s how it ends. The strongest conviction of the song, that “I still love you,” is replaced with betrayal. Something about the fact that the words are sung to the same old tune make it that much more obvious that the old love has been erased, replaced with a gaping hole.
"Darkest" is even more jarring. It’s a song about learning to accept love from someone else. As the narrator comes to feel the unconditional acceptance of his lover, despite her knowledge of his deepest flaws, he asks, "how could I earn your love?" Then comes the chorus: “‘Cause you know me, and you know my darkest side/ You just hold me, and you tell me not to hide." And just when the narrator comes to understand that he has not earned her love, but that she has given it to him freely, just as he comes to accept her love and be transformed by it, the final chorus comes. "Oh, you loved me, but that never was enough/ You still left me when push had come to shove." Out of nowhere, the unconditional love that is saving him is stripped away. The song gives no explanation. All you can do is feel the jarring pain of love lost without reason, sung to the same tune as that first realization of what true love feels like.
I think it’s really powerful to be able to communicate that sort of pain. It’s not easy to sing these songs, especially because they are quite autobiographical at times. But I think that they are songs worth singing, and for that reason I can’t put them away.