Elliott’s Smith song collection has got a whole lot of heartbreak to pine along to. Folk style storytelling with John Keats-like kind of emotions–he was a fantastic songwriter.
You don’t deserve to be lonely
But those drugs you got won’t make you feel better
Pretty soon you’ll find it’s the only
Little part of your life you’re keeping together
I’m nice to you
I could make it through
That you’re already somebody’s baby
I could make you smile
If you stayed a while
But how long will you stay with me, baby?
-Elliott Smith, Twilight
From a Basement on a Hill
There’s a string break that occurs almost exactly midway in the song that makes something that was so simple seem so much more epic. It’s so satisfying, and the same phrase repeats so much it’s almost hypnotic. Hypnotized is how i want to feel when i’m listening to a singer/songwriter/acoustic guitar musician like Smith. i want it to be sad and dreamy and beautiful. Joshua Radin, The Spill Canvas-i think they’re pretty good at it too, for their respective genres, but they lack the dusty-trail sound that Smith’s got in his guitar playing.
He’s got that drug chic dripping all over his lyrics, making it a tripped-up, tragic love song for the doomed-from-the-start-everyone’s-down-chips kind of romance. He’s got in his breathy high notes, too, and in the pop-structure chords, that hypnotic thing. Oh the 90s. You had some great stuff.
i read this book from the 33 1/3 series that reminded me “My Heart Will Go On” beat “Miss Misery” for the Oscar for Best Original Song. Caused the author of a book to write a whole book about why people care about Celine Dion, if somehow a song like that mattered more to the Academy than a sing-along-to-the-sad-story kind of song like Miss Misery.
But Smith sounds a bit different to those who got into him after his death i think. He’s a learning tool for us, and while current fans may have really valued his musicianship, those listening closely might take his messages different than his fans did then. It might go for anyone whose art survives them if that’s what they were well known for when they were alive–does it resonate differently to the person depending on when they became fans?
I’m inclined to say yes. John Lennon’s fans when he was doing all his solo work for example, compared to those who listen to what he’s saying now–taken in totally different contexts. To them, he was talking about their plights, and now, we can relate them to ours. People here are still singin’ “Imagine” and “Give Peace a Chance” but it’s about different issues, with even more history piled on top of what those songs stand for.
The fact we’re still singing them? That’s a whole other show.
Twilight, from YouTube.
Sidenote: i still don’t know how i feel about people putting covers of themselves singing on YouTube. Are you trying to get discovered? Looking for advice to gauge your talent? i don’t know, and i don’t think there’s a wrong answer but, something about it is interesting. There’s fucking tons of them.