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“Lie” — David Cook

[youtube:http://youtu.be/eJkJqT-FF5E%5D

I have a confession.

I watched seasons 2-9 of American Idol. I watch Glee, The Voice, The Sing-Off, and pretty much any other show about singing, singers, and/or performing songs. I can list a host of reasons with varying levels of acceptability—procrastination, dislike of watching sporting events, and boredom, among others—but what it boils down to is this: I miss it. I miss performing, and watching others do so helps me relive those incredible experiences.

That’s how I found David Cook, seventh-season winner of American Idol. As soon as his first post-Idol album was released, I bought it on iTunes, fully expecting to love it. I wasn’t disappointed.

I’ll save the raw, heartbreaking passion in “Permanent” for a later post, perhaps, because I’d like to focus on his song “Lie” from that self-titled album.

You whisper that you are getting tired
Got a look in your eye
Looks a lot like goodbye

I knew this would be the perfect break-up song. In an instant, this song still transports me to the exact moment I knew my ex would break up with me . . . or the moment, many years before that, when I broke up with my first high-school boyfriend. That *look* is timeless—and it’s captured perfectly in these simple words.

You’re hiding regret in your smile
There’s a storm in your eyes
I’ve seen coming for a while
Hang on to the past tense tonight
Don’t say a word
I’m okay with the quiet
The truth is gonna change everything

This part always reminds me of that deep-down, sinking, gut feeling I have when I know I’m about to hear bad news. I’ve often wondered if David Cook and the other songwriters could somehow hear my inner monologues. See, even when I know awful news, know it deep-down with a terrified certainty, I’ve always sought ways to postpone acknowledging it. I really am okay with the quiet . . . because in it, I am able to lie to myself.

So lie to me and tell me that it’s gonna be all right
So lie to me and tell me that we’ll make it through the night
I don’t mind if you wait before you tear me apart
Look me in the eye
And lie, lie, lie

Please.

I know that there’s no turning back
If we put too much light on this
We’ll see through all the cracks
Let’s stay in the dark one more night

This image is, in fact, a metaphor: their relationship is an item with a seemingly solid surface that reveals hidden flaws when illuminated. Again, he asks not to be forced to acknowledge these—he wants to stay in the dark. I can certainly appreciate that impulse.

Don’t want to believe in this ending
Let the cameras roll on
Keep pretending
Tomorrow’s all wrong
If you walk away
Just stay

To me, the significance of this song reaches far beyond the surface relationship implications. It lies instead in my own fear of the unknown. My past actions have proven that sometimes I’d rather stay with something known—even if I’m not happy—than try something new: a new city, a new job, a new apartment, a new way of life. The unknown feels “all wrong” to me . . . even when the known does, too.

So lie to me and tell me that we’re gonna be okay
So lie to me and tell me that we’ll make it through the day
I don’t mind if you wait before you tear me apart
To look me in the eye
And lie, lie, lie

Fittingly, I think, the music simply tapers off after this final plea. There’s no sweeping conclusion, no witty couplet that explains how the illusion can continue. The lies just can’t last forever; that’s the point. Sooner or later, the truth will look him (and me, and, in fact, all of us) in the eye. Despite the hauntingly beautiful pleas, it’s apparent that we all have to find a way to face that truth, live through the pain of it, and move on.


Find more artists like David Cook at Myspace Music.

“Never My Love” — The 5th Dimension

The first CD my mother ever gave me was The 5th Dimension’s Greatest Hits on Earth.  She gifted me with the album in seventh grade, circa 1992.  At the time, my nose was huge, skin was pizza-esque, ego was super fragile.  Feel-good music, though, helped me cope because I could listen in the comfort of my own home.  No one else had to know that I was more interested in oldies than the latest from Guns N’ Roses.

Mom knew my taste so well.  How could I not love this music? First off, they were totally right naming it the best on the planet and I love people who are confident.  They own their superiority and deserve it.  No auto-tune magic required.

More importantly, though, I’m a musician and wanna-be singer and The 5th Dimension produced music that is so creative, so chock full of harmony that you can’t help but sing along at the top of your lungs.  In the car. In the shower. On the streets.  Sure, you’ll get looks from the jealous passersby but it’ll be from admiration of those beautiful lyrics and envy of your singing.  Or at least that’s what I tell myself in the mirror every morning.

Currently, my favorite song on this album (which I still own in its original, scratched up form) is Never My Love.  Marilyn McCoo sings her heart out and if you’re not a little weepy by the end of it, I wonder if you were really listening.

The theme is simple: If you have doubts about my love, toss ’em out because I’m not leaving.

You ask me if there’ll come a time

When I grow tired of you

Never my love

Never my love

But it’s not just that I won’t get bored. It’s that I *need* you.

What makes you think love will end

When you know that my whole life depends

On you

As cheesy as it sounds, this is true love to me.  And listening to such glorious poetry allowed me to escape from a rather tough time in my personal life. Now the 5th Dimension helps me escape the drudgery of housework and also provides a great way to embarrass my children who rarely allow me to sing.


Find more artists like The 5th Dimension at Myspace Music.

“Spider Fingers” – Bruce Hornsby

So nice to be here
With all you good people
Is anybody listening
To what we’re doing tonight
Could you give us a chance
While you hit the sauce
Might try a little flash up here
Just to get ourselves across

So sings Bruce Hornsby in the opening track of his 1995 album Hot House. The singer and his colleagues have found themselves in a situation dreaded by all entertainers — performing for a bored and disinterested audience.

I first heard this tune in high school. At the time I had only participated in performances where each of the audiences was mostly interested in what we had to share — symphonic band and jazz band concerts for the parents, siblings and friends of my fellow musically inclined students. I won’t pretend that every audience member attending these concerts was just dying to be there but they were courteous enough to listen to what was going on. So while I enjoyed listening to “Spider Fingers” — both for its narrative and its musical quality — I was unable to relate to the story shared by the singer.

That changed in the summer of 2001. Not more than a week after being graduated from Columbus High, my high school band director invited me to play bass as part of a jazz quartet for a wedding reception in Winder, Georgia. I don’t recall my reaction but I suspect that I was both excited and a little nervous. On one hand, the opportunity to play for money and to gain some performance experience in an ”uncontrolled” environment was one I am certain I would have relished at the time. On the other, I suspect I was anxious about playing for an audience that wouldn’t have told me the performance was great even if it were lousy.

Well we better do something
Before they tell us to get lost
Sometimes you’ve just got to repeat yourself
Just to get your point across

We started playing before the majority of the audience arrived — this turned out to be fortuitous because we wouldn’t have played much at all if we had waited. After the last of the guests floated in, we managed to finish our renditions of “Maiden Voyage” and “Song For My Father” before it was clear that we may as well have engaged in Tuvan throat singing for all the attention we were paid. While it’s not clear if the singer in Hornsby’s tune managed eventually to engage the audience (a la Sussudio), our jazz quartet failed abjectly to generate so much as a spark of interest. Oddly enough, I recall not minding so much that the gig terminated rather earlier than expected — in part because I still got paid the full amount promised and in part because it meant I was able to return to Columbus at a more reasonable hour than originally anticipated.


“Spider Fingers” is a song that never leaves my otherwise dynamic “Top Five Favourite Songs List.” It’s a nickname I earned in an online Star Trek group for my quick reflexes at what we called Scrambler (where the goal was to be the fastest to decipher, for example, RMTTTAEIAN TTNMNNOECIA as ANTIMATTER CONTAINMENT). It’s a tune I heard in Safeway in 2009 (much to the consternation of my fellow shoppers when they realized someone in the store was gleefully singing the lyrics to a tune they had probably never heard). It’s a reminder that I will always be on what is generally perceived as the “wrong side” of public opinion regarding what constitutes good music.

That’s just a list of its significances to me. To Hornsby:

It’s just a little hand trick
A little prestidigitation
Better get out your Hanon
Practice and repetition


Find more artists like Bruce Hornsby at Myspace Music.